Valentine's Day is many things to many people -- a designated day to pay tribute to your loved ones; a time to celebrate your freedom as a single person; a moment of denouncement for all things commercial, chocolate or roses.
Marriage equality continues to be recognized in more states and countries and increased visibility of the unique disparities that the LGBT community faces contrasts with recent devolution in places like Russia, India, Nigeria and Uganda that passed laws to criminalize our lives and experiences. The patchwork landscape certainly makes for a bittersweet year of gains and losses for the LGBT community as we approach Valentine's Day 2014.
Our best defense for all the hate we continue to see across the globe is love. Love for one another, for our LGBT community members -- as well as love for those who allow ignorance and judgment to guide their behaviors -- is our greatest defense against homophobia and transphobia.
How many times have we seen conservatives step forward in support of LGBT equality because they learned their loved one is gay? How many times have we heard stories about someone who was closed-minded and hateful until they learned to love someone who wasn't like them and embraced diversity? How many times has our community put aside our differences to come together to love someone we've lost, or love a cause we all support, and seen real change as a result? Love is the guiding principle of the fight for marriage equality, for family protections and for equal rights for all LGBT people. Love can shift public opinion, melt hate and discrimination and change the landscape for future generations.
Love means compassion and kindness towards our fellow humankind. Love means we believe everyone should have an equal opportunity to access an education and a job based on their qualifications and commitment, not on their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Love means supporting the rights of all families, not just those who look like they stepped out of a Leave it to Beaver episode. Love means protecting our youth and celebrating their LGBT identities, not trying to change who they are. Love means ensuring we have all access to the care we need to be healthy and happy. Love means no more bullying or teasing or attacking people just because of who they are or appear to be.
Just as important as loving one another, is learning to love ourselves. When we love who we are, in our own unique and individual way, and for all our flaws and idiosyncrasies, we exude confidence and send a message to the outside world that we are powerful and deserve a seat at the table.
Tolerance gets us very little. Respect is a good start. Love opens doors. Love transcends identity. When we can learn to truly love one another, not in spite of, but because of all of our differences, we will truly be on our way towards full equality.
A very Happy Valentine's Day! Here's to the ultimate and unparalleled success of love!