Whether you date one, many, or go it alone, it’s impossible to ignore this heart-shaped holiday. FIVE PORTLANDERS SHARE THEIR PERSPECTIVES. Each are different, but all remind us that love can be funny, sometimes cruel, and ultimately bittersweet for some.
My name is ERIN WISER. I’m trans. I’m a 34-year-old average Portlander. I work in customer service, and nurse a wounded artistic impulse.
JO: WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON THE HOLIDAY OF LOVE?
I’m actually surprised it isn’t an enormous queer holiday. There’s a theme of illegitimate marriage. It’s the triumph of love over a political take on marriage.
JO: DO YOU ADHERE TO A TRADITIONAL MONOGAMOUS RELATIONSHIP STRUCTURE?
I do not. The shorthand is that I’m polyamorous. The longhand is that I’m a lot more intentional with how I structure relationships. I rarely have anything to do with sexual exclusivity.
PEOPLE USED TO MONOGAMY MAY HAVE TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING HOW VALENTINE’S DAY WORKS FOR POLY PEOPLE. DO YOU THINK IT’S BECAUSE THEY’RE STUCK IN THEIR PERSONAL IDEA OF ROMANCE?
It’s preciousness. How can something be precious if it’s not a commodity, if it’s not singular? That can be hard.
HOW DOES THAT WORK FOR YOU?
It’s always circumstantial. One of the worst Valentine’s I’ve ever spent would probably not sell people on polyamory.
JO: THAT’S OKAY. FRANKLY, I’M SURPRISED WE EVEN TRY TO HAVE RELATIONSHIPS AT ALL.
(Laughter) It’s not that monogamy is easier. It’s just that we’re used to it. We don’t attribute all of the pain, discomfort, and fear to monogamy. We attribute it to love. When it’s polyamory, it’s polyamory’s fault.
JO: WELL PUT. ARE YOU SEEING ANYONE RIGHT NOW?
I am. It’s totally apropos that I’m being interviewed for this, because I am probably in the most poly situation of my life. I’m dating a couple, and they’ve been together for about four years.
JO: DO YOU FIND YOURSELF EVER PLAYING A ROLE?
As a trans guy I’m sometimes put into the role of proto-man. It’s like I’m bionic man! I’m a man, but better than men. And that’s just not true. I mean, I know where a clit and a g-spot are, and I have non-penile sex. I’m not sexually demanding in the same way, and I have a lot more endurance. (Laughter)
JO: (Laughter) WHAT IS YOUR IDEA OF THE PERFECT ROMANTIC DATE?
I think the perfect romantic date is pretty incredibly poly, in that I’m not going to say that I have date in mind without having a person in mind.
JO: RIGHT, BECAUSE ACTIVITIES SHOULD BE TAILORED TO THE PERSON YOU’RE WITH.
Yeah, I’m not looking for someone to show up to a predetermined date. I’m looking for someone I can forge that date with.
JO: YOU’RE AWESOME.
My name is CHRISTINE and I am a Scorpio. I am trying to be the best queer woman I can be.
JO: GENERALLY, HOW DOES VALENTINE’S DAY MAKE YOU FEEL?
Valentine’s Day makes me sad. I was the “choo choo choose you” kid, only getting cards from pretty girls out of sympathy. I had a sympathy girlfriend in 5th grade after a Valentine’s Day gift exchange — just like Ralph Wiggum. Suffice it to say that luck has not been a lady for me.
JO: YOU AREN’T ALONE IN YOUR SENTIMENTS.
I guess it’s more appropriate to say that on Valentine’s Day I feel like the idiot in the schoolyard again. Sometimes a girl never gets out of there.
JO: YOU RUN A DJ AND DANCE NIGHT AT THE LOCAL. HOW IS THAT SHAPING UP?
So, yeah, I have a night at Local Lounge called Transit. I really wanted it to be a queer night, but the local press consistently billed it as a trans night. I suppose under the assumption that because I am a DJ that happens to be trans, I must be interested in creating a trans space.
JO: BUT, YOU DIDN’T.
I didn’t. But, I went along thinking it wasn’t that bad to create a space for trans people. Then some trans folk started having trouble with the name of my night because it had the word “it” in it.
They wanted me to change the name, but I’d had enough at that point and decided to discontinue. I don’t want to be the trans DJ any more than a person of color would want to be the black DJ, or a person of size the fat DJ. So I guess I should also say I am retiring from DJing, in addition. All this stuff has choked the heart out of it for me.
JO: IT’S IMPORTANT TO REALIZE THAT THERE ARE BIGGER ISSUES FOR SOME OF US THAN CHOCOLATES AND DINNER RESERVATIONS.
February 14th will be just another day, most likely. I thought maybe once I started expressing my true self in the world that maybe I would fit, that maybe I would be chosen.
JO: IF ONE THING COULD HAPPEN TO YOU THIS V-DAY, AND IT COULD JUST BE ABOUT LOVING YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD YOU WANT?
I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that changing my shell doesn’t change who I am. I’ve been trying to go on dates with myself. You know? I’ve been trying to get to know myself better, maybe even love myself. I guess it’s more to the point to say I will be on a date with myself on Valentine’s Day.
I’m JONATHON STARTIN. I was born in Misawa, Japan, which is where my father was stationed when my mother and father had me.
JO: YOUR FAMILY IS NATIVE TO PORTLAND, RIGHT?
When I was two, my mother and my father flew home to Portland and bought my great grandmother’s house in Southeast on Belmont and 33rd. I was raised in the same house my mother was raised in. So, I’m a true native.
JO: DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST ROMANCE?
I have to admit that I was quasi sexually active at the age of 7, but it wasn’t a case of molestation. It was somebody that was a peer. I remember the neighborhood kids around our four-block radius all got together in the summer time, and one of them was this kid that loved cars, bikes, and video games. He had this hot black Huffy.
I remember the first time he was riding in front of me with his shirt off, and his hair was blowing in the wind, and I’m like, “that’s it, he’s hot.” So, we became great friends. He lived around the corner from me, and we would play Nintendo games, but after that we would also play… what do you call it?
Well, we would practice what we were going to do on girls in the future with each other.
JO: THAT’S REALLY SWEET, ACTUALLY. I’M STILL PRACTICING.
Aren’t we all? For us it was an excuse to be affectionate, and we were.
JO: ARE YOU CURRENTLY SINGLE?
No, I’ve been with someone for about 8 months.
JO: THAT CAN BE A LIFETIME.
With him, every day is like the first day. It’s really wonderful. I’ve finally found someone who will put up with all of my shit.
JO: WHAT DO YOU DO?
I’m GM of Eagle Portland, for now. I plan to return to emergency medicine via EMT training this year.
JO: IS THAT GOING TO BE A FUN PLACE ON VALENTINE’S DAY?
Okay, so Feb 14th is a Thursday, and Thursday means free pool… clothing optional…
JO: OH, AS IN BILLIARDS?
Yes, as in billiards, not swimming. Every second and fourth Thursday we have a DJ, and he plays some music while the guys play pool with or without clothing. Now THAT’S romantic.
JO: WHAT WOULD YOU TELL OUR QUEER COMMUNITY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT VALENTINE’S DAY?
I would say that what we all want is love, and we should feel proud and fortunate to be in a city that is so forgiving of our differences in how we embrace its definition. Valentine’s Day is that yearly reminder to love yourself and those around you, and that, I believe, is the most important thing about this holiday.
I’m SCOTT BRAUCHT. I’m 32 years old and an Oregonian. I’m an office coordinator, filmmaker, and I work in the art department for a lot of other peoples’ films and projects. (You can check out his work on Vimeo.com.)
JO: ARE YOU SINGLE?
I am. I still have some time before Valentine’s Day, but I’ll probably be single.
JO: WHAT DO YOU THINK OF VALENTINE’S DAY?
It’s a day to be infatuated with someone. It’s a day pretty much devoted to couples.
JO: THAT’S SOMETIMES WHY IT CAN BE FUN, OR GIANT BUMMER.
Yeah. Most of the time I’m stuck working. I really don’t pay attention to it, but sometimes you’re out at a restaurant, and you notice.
Why are all these couples here? Oh, wait a second; it’s Valentine’s Day, now I feel depressed.
JO: WHAT IS THE WORST DATE YOU’VE BEEN ON?
I met someone, and he seemed really cool, but he had this fetish for men burping. He kept trying to get me to burp in front of him. I burp, but not on command. Later on, I find out that he’s into farts too, and then I decided it wasn’t going anywhere.
JO: HE REALLY LIKED VARIATIONS OF GAS.
Ha! Now I really want the cover to be someone farting a heart.
JO: WE CAN PHOTOSHOP YOU.
No! Don’t make me fart a heart.
JO: ENOUGH. SO WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT QUALITY IN A POTENTIAL OTHER?
Not too ugly, but first is sense of humor, and being into the arts. I want to be introduced to new things. Also, being open-minded and fun. Oh, and not too ugly, did I say that?
I’m SUMMER. I’m queer. I’m a nanny by day, and a DJ by night.
JO:WHEN I SAY VALENTINE’S DAY, WHAT DO YOU IMMEDIATELY THINK OF?
My immediate thoughts about Valentine’s Day always center on the traditional. I always have this fantasy about a dream date with a candlelit fancy dinner, flowers, and romance. However, that type of Valentine’s seems so phony and silly. Valentine’s Day should be just another day to express love to others.
JO: YOU PROMOTE A DANCE NIGHT. IT’S ALREADY VERY SUCCESSFUL. TELL ME ABOUT YOUR NIGHT.
I started TWERK, along with Summer Russell, in August because I wanted Portland to have a queer dance party that focused on hip-hop. Hip-hop is my favorite music to dance to. There has been a wonderful response to TWERK since it started and I’m so excited about that! We take over the Local Lounge every 4th Friday.
JO: WHAT WOULD YOUR PERFECT VALENTINE’S DATE BE LIKE?
A perfect Valentine’s date would be the same as any other perfect date. I’d want good food with good conversation, some type of activity, like Ground Kontrol, bar games, hot tub times, a movie, museum, or dancing. I’d also like a spontaneous drive to the coast or nature, and if we’re going for the perfect date there would, of course, be sexy times.
JO: ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO ADD? ANY DOS OR DON’TS FOR THE REST OF US?
Always be honest, open, and yourself. Do ask for what you need and want. Don’t stay in situations that make you unhappy. Don’t settle for less than what you deserve.
About Lyska Mondor
Lyska Mondor writes regularly for Just Out. She is a published poet and aspiring sci-fi author.