Love for all

Local gay couples sound off on V-day

Girlfriends Krystle Tonga (left) and Ali King think that couples should show affection for each other every day.

Girlfriends Krystle Tonga (left) and Ali King think that couples should show affection for each other every day.

Photo By hillary feeney

Party time:
The Valentine Dinner and Dedication Dance at the Arc Tower Pavilion (2040 Park Ave.) starts at 6 p.m. on Saturday (Feb. 13). Tickets cost $40 per couple or $25 per person. Tickets for only the dance are $25 per couple or $15 per person. For more info, call 877-3614.

Last year on Valentine’s Day, girlfriends—and fellow Chico State University students—Krystle Tonga and Ali King savored homemade heart-shaped pancakes, watched The Vagina Monologues and visited Broadway Heights for a romantic dinner.

Valentine’s Day often elicits images of men wooing women with flowers and a box of chocolates, but this holiday celebrating love is just as important to people of other sexual orientations.

“It’s not like the LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer] community celebrates it this way and the straight community celebrates it another way,” Tonga said. “It’s all about passion.”

That may be true, but not everyone is as comfortable as Tonga and King are with celebrating in public, where their displays of affection are sometimes viewed as taboo.

Gary Sereno-Regis, 57, normally celebrates Valentine’s Day with his partner, Glenn Brown, 50, and their dogs Ladybug and Bobo at their home in Paradise. In general, Sereno-Regis said, Chico residents are open-minded about the LGBTQ community, but he is still cautious about public displays of affection.

“You’re always looking out behind you,” he said. “Or when you’re dancing with your partner, you’ll sometimes hear a negative comment. It can be a downer.”

This year, Sereno-Regis and Brown are inviting the public to celebrate the holiday a day early (Saturday) at the first-ever Valentine Dinner and Dedication Dance at the Park Tower Pavilion. The couple have organized the event, which is sponsored by Chico Pride Fest, a nonprofit group that helps the LGBTQ community. Proceeds from the night will go toward funding the Chico Pride Festival in June.

Sereno-Regis, who is a board member of Chico Pride Festival, said it will give patrons a chance to enjoy Valentine’s Day in a romantic and safe setting. Couples will be able to show affection, and single attendees will have an opportunity to mingle.

“That way, people from the LGBTQ community can go out somewhere public, but people won’t look at them strange if they are holding hands or give each other a peck on the cheek,” Sereno-Regis said. “The dance will have an atmosphere of total freedom.”

Brown, who co-chairs the Pride Fest board, and Sereno-Regis decided to skip a trip for their seven-year anniversary to host the fundraising event. The night will feature a four-course dinner followed by a dance with music by a local disc jockey, who will take requests. He expects most of the guests to be LGBTQ but hopes that people from the straight community will come, too.

“It’s an educational opportunity to exchange between two cultures,” Brown said. “Honestly, this way the straight community can see how normal gay relationships are.”

Jillian Ruddell, the vice president of Chico State’s Pride, noted that celebrating Valentine’s Day is not dependent on sexual orientation. For people of both the LGBTQ and straight communities, it’s important to show love for their partners every day of the year, not just on holidays.

“It’s a visible day when you and your partner feel it’s acceptable to go a little further than usual,” said Ruddell, who identifies as queer and is director of the Associated Students Women’s Center. “People get more intimate with their displays of affection.”

Tonga echoed her.

“It’s sad that people forget to tell the ones they love how they feel on a regular basis,” she said. “It shouldn’t be limited to February.”

Tonga and King, who identify as lesbian and pansexual, respectively, don’t follow traditional gender roles when it comes to romance. King is attracted sexually and romantically to people regardless of their sex or sexual identity. The women realize that their relationship runs counter to the typical heterosexual relationship.

“In general, society teaches us that the masculine will cater to the feminine,” said Tonga, a senior majoring in political science and sociology.

Tonga and King have been together for a year and a half, and like many other couples in long-term relationships they had not finalized their plans for this year’s holiday (as of Tuesday, Feb. 9). However, they enjoyed Broadway Heights’ cozy atmosphere last Valentine’s Day and were thinking about starting a tradition by going back there.

“I do like the holiday, especially when you’re with your partner and it’s someone you love deep down in your heart,” Tonga said.