Music / Culture

Queer womxn’s nightlife is reclaiming “Galentine’s Day”

Aphrodyki and Gal Pals Club are rejecting Valentine’s Day's heteronormativity in order to make the 14th of February a lot more queer.

As with most things, Valentine’s Day is overwhelmingly heteronormative. What should be a celebration of love, universally, can feel less-than-welcoming to anybody who doesn’t fit within a cis, heterosexual mould. It almost feels like a day of heterosexual propaganda, what with all the images of smiling, kissing cis-het couples in advertising and all over your Netflix homepage. 

That’s not the only problem with the holiday; it’s long been noted that its focus on coupledom helps to reinforce a culture where singles, particularly single womxn, are viewed as social pariahs. As a response, “Galentine’s” celebrations have gained traction over the past few years, celebrating platonic female friendships in place of romantic love. This is nice as a concept – hell, we should be focussing on our friendships every day of the year – but trite taglines like “chicks before dicks” feel like they’re contributing to the erasure of queer womxn who’ve got their own fuckgxrls or non-binary Casanovas, not just fuckboys, to contend with. 

This kind of oversight particularly stings even more due to wider issues around queer female sexuality, particularly the fact that lesbian love and sexual attraction are often trivialised by society. Whether it’s claims that your sexual preference is “just a phase” or the fact that same-sex female couples are often mistaken for just friends when they’re out in public, the constant fight for visibility and credibility can be exhausting. It’s refreshing, then, to see queer collectives skewering this kind of erasure on Valentine’s Day – the most cis-het day of the year. This comes in the shape of club nights from Aphrodyki, London’s only Ancient Greek themed club night for queer women, trans and non-binary babes who love pop, and Gal Pals Club, a night based between London and Brighton and run by Xandice Armah and Scarlett Langdon

Tonight, Gal Pals Club are throwing their third “Gal Palentines” celebration. As co-founder Scarlett explains, the night will provide queer people a necessary escape from a Valentine’s climate dominated by queer exclusion and consumerism. “Like most things in our heteronormative society, Valentine’s Day is not inclusive of queer folks. I don’t pay too much attention to it because I think it’s a capitalist scam to make people spend money and feel bad about themselves if they’re single,” she says.

As she explains, Gal Pals Club was chosen as the club night’s name as a joking gesture towards tabloids’ frequent dismissal of queer identity – making it an ideal outlet to celebrate an alternate LGBTQI+ and womxn-focussed Valentine’s this February. “When we were brainstorming ideas back in 2015, for what was intended to be a one-off club night, [co-founder] Xandice sort of jokingly suggested ‘Gal Pals’,” says Scarlett. “This was when the phrase ‘gal pals’ was everywhere; with tabloid newspapers referring to gay women who were clearly dating as ‘gal pals’ and captioning pictures of women kissing and holding hands like; ‘just two gals, bein’ pals’. We weren’t really thinking too deeply about it at the time, but the ethos behind Gal Pals has always been to create a safe space for queer womxn and trans and non-binary people.”

So what does a Gal Palentines look like then? According to Scarlett, the word to define the night would be ‘inclusion’. “This is our third annual ‘Gal Palentines’ and they’ve always been one of our most popular events of the year, she explains. “My hope is just that everyone has a good time and we can celebrate love in all its forms – whether that means celebrating with your best friends, your chosen family, your polycule or with your boo. I’m imagining it’s probably going to get quite hot and sweaty and sexy – a pretty typical Gal Pals to be honest!”

Similarly, Aphrodyki – which you might have clocked on Channel 4’s The Bisexual – isn’t necessarily pitting itself against Galentine’s but will be taking a stance against tired heteronormative iterations of Valentine’s Day with its Galpalentine’s celebration next week. “We don’t really have an opinion on whether Galentine’s is heterosexist – maybe it is, maybe it isn’t,” explains Hannah, one of the queer night’s organisers. “Galentine’s isn’t really our thing, we do our own specific celebration. However, it would be a good idea if everyone remembered to invite their queer friends to brunch – after all, queers invented brunch.”

However, like Gal Pals Club, the collective is taking on the heterosexism of the “gal pals” label whilst creating a queer-focussed alternative to mainstream Valentine’s Day. “This will be our 5th Valentine’s/Galpalentine’s party, it’s called that because of the narrative which describes queer celebrity couples, as just good ‘gal pals’, even if they’re buying a sex bench together,” Hannah explains. “We’re here, we’re queer, we have gal pals, but they’re not the ones we’re kissing (unless they are). Our event is a celebration of queerness and friendship, by queers for queers and crucially it starts after the straight’s 9:30 bedtime.”

Gal Pals Club’s Gal Palentines takes place tonight at 11pm at Brighton’s Komedia. You can find further info here. Aphrodyki’s Galpalentine’s will kick off on 22 February at London’s Miranda, Ace Hotel. Find out more here.  

14 February 2020