By Bryan Garcia
As February gets off to a start and Valentine’s Day approaches, we tend to get divided (willingly and sometimes unwillingly) into a couple of different groups. The first may be especially excited to get together with their significant other(s) and bask in the love they have for one another with a thoughtfully planned evening (Cute!). We also have those who simply see it as any other day and go about their daily routine (You don’t have time for this. You have stuff to do). The last group is composed of the ones that hide under their blankets scrolling through images of the first group on social media until the sun comes up the next day (Hey! What’s wrong with that?). So we either enjoy it, don’t care, or secretly dread it.
This may be a result of this month commonly being linked to love and intimate partner relationships. So it is either the absolute best time or a lonely, anxious and possibly depressing time for many. This day is known by many as “Día del Amor y la Amistad” or “Day of Love and Friendship” in Latinx culture and carries a deeper meaning that values platonic love and intimacy with friends.
So let’s break that down a bit:
Intimacy is “closeness between people in personal relationships. It’s what builds over time as you connect with someone, grow to care about each other, and feel more and more comfortable during your time together. It can include physical or emotional closeness, or even a mix of the two.”
and Platonic intimacy is defined as “the act of making yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically vulnerable to your friends.”
This other, less revered or fully experienced, but equally important kind of intimacy with friends can be a powerful social connection with a wide range of health benefits.
These benefits include how having social connections can be a form of preventative health care and increase your longevity by 50%, improve your immune system, help you recover from disease faster and improve your overall mental health by reducing levels of depression and anxiety.
On top of all that, social connectedness generates significant increases in social, emotional, and physical well being that can bring about so much community love and healing.
This is important because of the many barriers that queer people of color face when trying to access quality health care. A study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and NPR confirmed this, specifically the disparities in fairness, discrimination and substandard care for QPOC.
As a result, this leaves many of us to fend for ourselves, but no one should have to go through this alone and “health” may not and doesn’t have to look the same for queer people of color (QPOC) as it does for everyone else.
Some ways you can begin to increase and strengthen social connections with people you are already friends with is by simply engaging in conversation and then revealing something about yourself that you have not shared before, or giving yourself the luxury of really listening to them without commenting on what they are saying, so that you can really see them and get to know them in a more meaningful way.
Non-romantic physical affection can include mindful hugs, longer embraces, holding hands or even a kiss on the cheek. While this can deepen your platonic bond, consent and open communication are key here since not everyone may feel comfortable with nor should they be expected to feel comfortable with touch.
I have also seen success in using the tradition of Valentine’s Day cards to show admiration and recognition for coworkers and cultivate connections with each other in the workplace. A decorated brown paper lunch bag here and a thoughtful note with some candy over there and “Voilà!”
If any of this seems odd to you, keep in mind that leaning into that discomfort can bring about so much growth, belonging, healing, empathy, creativity and love. Vulnerability is the birthplace of all of these gifts and we are worthy of them all. Do what feels right for you and feel free to go at your own pace.
The great thing about living in a city like Austin is that there are always free events where people can come together and participate in activities that help them create lives that they love. I would like to invite you and your loved ones to allgo’s Fourth Annual Healing Fair on February 22nd, 2020 from 1 to 5pm at the Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center. This will be a great opportunity to foster social connections within the community while learning about and accessing more personalized holistic approaches to health. Come find out how and why you are a part of something much bigger and more beautiful than whatever the world has been trying to tell you. For more information, check out our facebook event page. We hope to see you there!
So what does health and healing look like for you? Let us know on facebook, Instagram and Twitter @allgoqpoc!