Beyond the Hallmark Cards

LGBT Resource Center’s campaign offers t-shirts and a new perspective


Do you hear that? That’s the sound of credit cards being swiped. That’s the sound of flowers, jewelry and chocolates being bought in excess. Valentine’s Day is here, or as the bitter among us call it, “Singles Awareness Day.”

But along with this Hallmark holiday comes another type of annual awareness effort: the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center’s “Love is Love” campaign. The mission is to promote the idea that love is universal, and couples of all kinds should be able to celebrate committed relationships without discrimination this Valentine’s Day. And the message is spread by the one thing college students love most: free t-shirts, bearing the pithy “Love is Love.”

“Sometimes the LGBT community can be completely overlooked on Valentine’s Day, and this campaign really helps bring that [issue] to the forefront,” LGBT Resource Center director Scott Rheinheimer said.

The t-shirts, which have been distributed on Grounds for the last five years, have since been slightly modified as the center hopes to expand its campaign. Still including the classic “Love is Love” slogan, this year’s shirts also promote equality based on varying gender identity. The symbols for pansexuality and polyamory have also been added to the design, Rheinheimer said.

And though the LGBT community is at the center of the campaign, Rheinheimer said the campaign also has a broader focus on equality across age, gender, race and class.

Some LGBT students, however, think the focus of the campaign is still too narrow.

“To me, ‘Love is Love’ is kind of limiting,” fourth-year College student Hallie Clark said. “I don’t think the LGBT experience is about love. It definitely has aspects of love [in it], but in my experience … it’s more about the power to live and identify and breathe in your body. [It’s more about] how you want to be presented.”

Clark said the campaign holds LGBT individuals to a higher moral standard than the rest of society, and she wants to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the same way as the rest of the heterosexual community — not conform to the notion that LGBT relationships are exclusively about love.

But the campaign may be part of a broader movement toward a more complete acceptance of LGBT relationships and lifestyles. “As states in the Northwest, upper Midwest and West Coast continue to introduce marriage equality, as certainly will be the trend, the marketing of Valentine’s Day will follow suit,” said English Prof. Marlon Ross, who specializes in gender and sexuality studies.

This year, Gays, Lesbians and Allies at Darden, the graduate business school’s sexuality support group, have bolstered the Resource Center’s efforts. After winning grant money in a Johnson & Johnson diversity competition, GLAD has been able to expand their Love is Love t-shirt campaign, adding weeklong programming to supplement their effort.

“We’re able to make sure the entire school is benefitting from what we’re doing this year,” said GLAD president Ori Dekel, a second-year Darden student. “In the past, we’ve just taken the iconic photo of everyone [in their shirts] on the Darden steps, but this year it’s been really important to us to reach out to the entire U.Va. community.”

This year, GLAD is offering space training, movie screenings and numerous panels to all who want to attend.

The LGBT Resource Center plans to continue handing out free Love is Love t-shirts in Newcomb 435 through Feb. 14 and encourages students to wear them on Valentine’s Day to heighten awareness and show support.

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