Ahh yes, Valentine’s Day. Every February 14th our calendars so passive aggressively remind us that today is the day we celebrate love, romance and all that other hetero-normative mushy couple stuff.
Before we say more, let us first acknowledge that pretty much everyone*, regardless of sexual identity or sexual orientation, at one time or another in their lives will become the hopeless romantic person, doing lovey-dovey things for our significant other on this holiday. It’s ingrained into us as children, handing off Valentine’s Day cards and stale candy hearts in our classrooms. (*I’ll come back to this part in a bit).
But whether we all get hit by Cupid’s arrow once or twice in life or not, there is one simple fact that doesn’t escape the LGBTQ+ community every February: Valentine’s Day is designed for straight people.
The flower and jewelry ads, the greeting cards and candy boxes, even the stuffed animals that always seem to get bigger this time of year; almost all are designed with the “he is buying this for her” mentality. Some larger companies do offer “Collections for Men,” that women can find appropriate Valentine’s Day gifts for their boyfriend/ husband/ what have you, but as all hetero-focused things tend to be, this holiday is a little chauvinistic and male driven. But that’s another article, for another time.
Our point is simple: Same-sex couples are often completely forgotten when it comes to Valentine’s Day.
Enter Galentine’s Day.
Now we know what you’re thinking. Galentine’s Day is a term generally used for single (usually straight) women on February 14th, to celebrate single-hood by getting together with their gal pals (not girlfriends) and watching cheesy chick flicks and eating too much heart shaped chocolate. Though this may very well be true, there may be a serious issue in the name they’ve chosen.
For far too long, hetero society has diminished the romantic relationships between women by writing them off as “gal pals.” We’ve seen it time and time again in our news feeds online and the tabloid magazines we secretly want to buy but don’t want to be judged by the cashier at the checkout stand.
“A queer female celebrity spotted out with gal pal.” How many names came to your mind reading that? We have so many, we chose not to bother listing them. We know you know them too.
And please do not get us started on the canonically gal pal relationships in TV shows and movies that so clearly queerbait the LGBTQ+ community. That list is even longer.
However more recently, the LGBTQ+ community has reclaimed the term “gal pal” in an almost mocking tone. The movie Carol most certainly had a lot to do with this. By mocking the absurdity of queer women being just (very loving) friends with one another, this almost homophobic term has been used less and less in the media.
So the question becomes this: Is the term Galentine’s Day harmful to the women loving women (wlw) part of the queer community, since the holiday is hetero-centered?
Furthermore, if Valentine’s Day were more inclusive and not so chauvinistically straight focused, would the need for “Galentine’s Day” even exist?
Whether you think that Galentine’s Day is a fun alternative to spending the holiday with a significant other or not, the use of the term “gal pal” is still rocky. Hopefully one day as the LGBTQ+ community did with the term “queer” (once used as a derogatory term for an LGBTQ+ person), we can completely take back “gal pal” without any negative connotations associated with it. We are moving in that direction already, but we’re not quite there yet. Though the media is using the phrase less and less, it is still a fail-safe in reporting on queer wlw couples, especially if one or both have not had a coming out story reported.
If you take nothing else away from this article, let it be this: The words you say have meaning. Sometimes, though it may seem innocent or be said jokingly, your words can effect people in a way you don’t mean them to. Put effort into inclusivity in your vocabulary.
*One final thought: It is incredibly important on days like today, where romantic and sexual relationships of all types are celebrated and praised, to remember that there is a large part of the queer community that is being forgotten completely.
Asexual and Aromantic people exist and are incredibly loving and kind individuals, that simply don’t have romantic or sexual feelings for other humans. And that is totally valid and okay. Please remember that these individuals may have a rough day because they are constantly questioned about their sexual orientation more than most other LGBTQ+ people. Show them some platonic love today and every day, and maybe share a few heart shaped goodies with them too, because hey, EVERYONE loves chocolate!
Happy Hump Day! (Yeah.. that’s not problematic at all).