For much of history, Valentine’s Day remained off-limits to all but heterosexual lovebirds. Indeed, most societies excluded romantics of diverse genders and orientations from the public celebration of their love. But times have changed in much of the world. So here are some LGBTIQ+ Valentine’s Day love quotes for all the lovers, however, and with whoever, you chose to celebrate your grand amour.
Who knows what complicated formula causes a person to fall for another? Throughout the ages, philosophers, poets, painters and psychiatrists devoted their energies to unravelling the mysteries of the heart. While increased scientific knowledge did solve many enigmas of the universe, the riddles of human emotion bewilder us still.
Once I had a secret love
The legendary Cnut the Great, King of Denmark, England and Norway, once famously demonstrated the limits of his royal powers. He set his throne on the shore and commanded the tide to respect his royal person and leave him dry. The tide of course ignored him. But that never stopped other earthly authorities from believing they could curb the tide of human emotion.
Good luck with that.
Despite the risk of prosecution, social opprobrium and even death, people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity followed their hearts throughout history.
Here are a few LGBTIQ+ Valentine’s Day quotes either from or about members of our communities and the subject of L.O.V.E. — love.
For all the lovers: Sappho
It is deliciously ironic in light of historically pervasive proscriptions that some of the most celebrated words about love were written by a lesbian. And not just any lesbian but THE LESBIAN, Sappho of Lesbos. The renowned Tenth Muse of antiquity gave her name to the term ‘sapphic love’ while the word lesbian derives from the name of her island home.
Only fragments survive now of the approximately 10,000 lines of verse The Poetess composed. However, her words continue to inspire, millennia after her death.
Weeping many tears, she left me and said,
“Alas, how terribly we suffer, Sappho.
I really leave you against my will.”
And I answered: “Farewell, go and remember me.
You know how we cared for you.
If not, I would remind you
…of our wonderful times.
For by my side you put on
many wreaths of roses
and garlands of flowers
around your soft neck.
And with precious and royal perfume
you anointed yourself.
On soft beds, you satisfied your passion.
And there was no dance,
no holy place
from which we were absent.”
Scholars disagree on the subject of the great Greek philosopher’s sexuality. It is, of course, a great historical tradition to take heterosexuality as a given. Mainstream historians need no evidence at all to declare famous people straight. Any evidence of divergence from heteronormativity by the historically heroic is disputed ad infinitum. Indeed if video existed of Caesar riding Mark Anthony in the Roman Forum, some historians would insist he merely fell clunibus first onto Anthony’s mentula magna and was manfully bouncing up and down trying to get off.
It doesn’t make things easier that the expression ‘platonic love’ taken from his name refers to non-sexual passion. But, whatever Plato’s orientation, in his Symposium, he wrote one of the world’s most celebrated accounts of homosexual love.
As perhaps the most influential thinker known to western civilisation, Plato believed love would keep us together. (I’m sure someone else said the same thing.)
“Love is born into every human being; it calls back the halves of our original nature together;
it tries to make one out of two and heal the wound of human nature.”
LGBTIQ+ Valentine’s Day love quotes: Janis Ian
Janis Ian wrote in ‘At Seventeen’, her iconic anthem for the unloved, of the ‘Valentines I never knew’. The next year she received 461 Valentine’s Day cards. More than four decades later, she receives so many annually, she asks that fans donate money to charity instead.
No other lyricist ever came close to Janis Ian’s ability to convey the angst of the isolated and outcast.
“I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear-skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth.”
The author of Go Tell It on the Mountain and Giovanni’s Room died in 1987, but his thinking is timeless. His words on sexuality, race and class could have been written yesterday. The kid whose stepfather constantly mistreated him, retreated to libraries to escape the abuse. He consequently became one of Americas’ greatest thinkers and writers.
“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”
Conflicted about his sexuality, Yukio Mishima married and fathered two children but remained openly gay. Regarded as one of the foremost Japanese authors of the twentieth century, the radical rightwing nationalist also aspired to see Emperor Hirohito restored to his pre-war political eminence.
Following a failed coup attempt, the author committed suicide by seppuku — ritual disembowelment. He staged his death carefully. The bodybuilder wore a uniform of his own design including a headband incorporating a bleached rising sun. He was surrounded by twenty handsome young men from his small private army. His friend, American author Gore Vidal, said of Mishima, “Flesh is all for him.”
In the early stages of his career, before politics became all-consuming, Yukio Mishima wrote about homosexuality and about love.
“It is a rather risky matter to discuss a happiness that has no need of words.”
In her 2,000 word essay Miss Furr and Miss Skeene, published in Vanity Fair in 1923, Gertrude Stein used the word gay over 100 times. For anyone who missed the reference, ten years later she published The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. The book affected to be an autobiography by her life partner, Alice B. Toklas.
As the woman who wrote the line ‘Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose’, Gertrude Stein could distil the very essence of complex ideas into a few words. Her thoughts on dance apply equally to life and love.
“You look ridiculous if you dance
You look ridiculous if you don’t dance
So you might as well dance.”
LGBTIQ+ Valentine’s Day quotes: Yet each man kills the thing he loves
What is there left to be said about Oscar Wilde? His novel The Picture of Dorian Gray continues to influence books and films to this day. Plays like The Importance of Being Earnest remain in production more than a century after his death. We still quote his poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol. “Yet each man kills the thing he loves.”
Known for his wit and sometimes bitchy aphorisms, Wilde could also express a simple truth in plain words, bereft of adornment.
“Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.”
For all the Lovers: Sylvester
Described as a person for whom ‘gender was an everyday choice’, Sylvester was undoubtedly the ‘Queen of Disco’.
The singer/songwriter began singing in church before joining a group called the Disquotays comprising crossdressers and trans women. Later, he joined San Francisco’s infamous drag troupe The Cockettes.
After working with bands, Sylvester found his greatest success with a new music genre known as disco. As one of the few out music stars of his era, Sylvester became a spokesperson for the gay community. Unlike most celebrities of the time, he spoke openly about being diagnosed HIV positive. He bequeathed royalties from future sales to two HIV/AIDS charities and his music continues to benefit those charities today.
Perhaps better than anyone else Sylvester was able to clearly state what love is.
“You make me feel mighty real.”
In 1970, The Kinks kick-started a public conversation that continues to this day. The song ‘Lola’, written from real-life experience, introduced the subject of gender diversity to mainstream pop culture discussion. Previously something only talked about in the gay community, crime reports and cult movies like those of Andy Warhol, suddenly yobos in beer gardens worldwide were singing along to jukebox recordings of the hit.
The song tells the story of a young male virgin meeting a drag queen as his first sexual experience. Ray Davies as the lyricist wrote Lola as the hero of the song. The hit caused immediate controversy. Some Australian radio stations banned it. Others faded the track out before the revelation of Lola’s gender.
The song gave the general public permission to talk about gender issues and other musicians followed suit. The years after Lola’s release saw David Bowie’s ‘Rebel Rebel’ and Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’.
Later, singers like Divine, Amanda Lear and Boy George achieved stardom.
Lola is most definitely a love song. It’s an anthem to the grand passion of the one night stand – a romantic interlude too little celebrated in a world of commercialised romance.
As for the controversy of Lola’s gender, Ray Davies says, “It really doesn’t matter what sex Lola is, I think she’s alright.”
“Well, I left home just a week before
And I’d never ever kissed a woman before
But Lola smiled and took me by the hand
And said ‘Dear boy, I’m gonna make you a man'”
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.