The bar. The club. The "spot". All places that many queer people utilize to connect with other queer people. For some its a place of escape and for others, it's home. It is a place where you can not only be your true self, but often it is a meeting ground to talk about all the things that are wrong in your day and how you plan to leave you pain, sorrows and worry on the dance floor.
Recently, I served on a panel for an event that paid tribute to the wonderful lives lost in the Orlando shooting. Being on the panel helped me to recall the memories I had of going to night clubs in the Los Angeles area when I was in college, specifically on theme nights where I could really turn up and let loose.
During the question and answer part, someone in the audience asked, "Since Orlando, do you think that there is a need for gay clubs? If not, how do we begin to create community outside of bars and clubs for queer people, specifically queer people of color who don't feel welcomed/safe in queer white spaces?"
Not only was this a GREAT question, but it is a topic that I have had several conversations about with many folks in my inner circle.
So let me take a stab at it....shall we?
In hearing the question of whether or not we should still fight to keep queer clubs, specifically clubs that serve LGBTQ people of color, my answer to that is yes.
YES. Queer people of color need bars and clubs. Why you ask? Well, for starters, queer clubs and bars create space for community. Now are these spaces problematic or triggering for some?
I remember the time I got called fat at a dance club and how that spiraled me into an exercise binge that almost landed me in the hospital. Yes, these spaces can be extremely toxic for some LGBTQ folk, but the reality is that for some, especially some queer folk who aren't validated in any other space they are in: the club is their fortress of solitude.
Especially if the bar/club offers great drinks that aren't watered down or music that can keep you dancing.
On the other hand, yes, clubs and club culture can be a big issue for some. Specifically folks who might have alcohol, sex or drug addictions. Because let's be honest, clubs and bars are the the perfect recipe for escapism and often turmoil.
So for folks asking-What spaces are there for people who opt not to go to bars, but want to be in community with other LGBTQ people: I would challenge folks to open up their Google Chrome and start searching.
While in college I was a HUGE club kid, those days for me are now a distant memory. For me, I now find community not only in academia, but in meetup groups, in LGBTQ social activism movements as well as social media groups. Just recently I was invited to a group in Los Angeles that wanted to come together in community to talk about ways we could strategize bringing in more LGBTQ people to help take down Trump.
Is this a form of activism? Yes, but at the same time, it is community.
And don't be afraid to start doing things yourself. Host dinner parties, events at local parks or ask folks if other queer people want to get together to play card games. I know I am DYING to have a party with other queer Black people while playing, "Black Card Revoked".
The point is this: if you want community outside of a dance floor, sometimes you can't wait for other people to do it for you. Community in the LGBTQ community takes time to build and regardless of whether it's making your bottles clink or you connecting with your queer friends to run a trail, community is something that has to be created.
So go out and dance. Or stay home and watch Drag Race. Either way, as long as you are in good company you have nothing to fear. <3