We all deserve to know what it's like to be celebrated, represented and welcome. For this reason, the alternative queer space is an oasis worth looking for.
White men dancing to ABBA–that’s most people’s definition of ‘gay nightlife’. Until quite recently, it was mine.
If you asked me to describe ‘gay nightlife’ a year or two ago, I probably would have said mostly white men dancing to Abba and Madonna. And in my experience, I wasn’t wrong. Every LGBTQ+ club I had been to would inevitably follow that same formula.
Don’t get me wrong, on a good night and with the right people, I have no problem getting down to some pop classics, singing my heart out to Cher and getting covered in glitter of unknown origin. But it’s just not me. I am not represented in those spaces.
It can be very difficult to find LGBTQ+ spaces that don’t centre the mainstream. Whilst on holiday in Spain with my partner, I suggested we stay a few nights in Sitges, described as ‘the gay capital of Europe’. Drawn in by the concept of being able to hold hands or kiss in public without opposition, we packed our bags, and off we went. It wasn’t long before we realised this gay paradise was not built for us. It was wall to wall, beach to beach white men!
Whilst having breakfast at our hotel, we struck up a conversation with two men, a couple from Germany. They were curious to know what we thought of their utopia. My partner described what she liked about the area, but also mentioned that she wished there was more diversity. ‘Sometimes it’s nice to be the odd one out’, one of them responded. And he’s probably right. Maybe it is nice to be the odd one out ‘sometimes’, but not all of us have the luxury of ‘sometimes’.
As a queer woman of colour, I often find myself having to manoeuvre through these spaces, and it’s exhausting. There’s always some dynamic of power and privilege to navigate. And because we all need a break from that sometimes, and we all deserve to know what it’s like to be celebrated, represented and welcome, the alternative queer space is an oasis worth looking for.
These spaces can be hard to find, but they do exist. Here are ten events I found in the hidden corners of the internet…
Many find Pride too commercial, too expensive and too policed. There are many pride alternatives that pride themselves on inclusivity and political awareness. Queer Picnic is a great London alternative that coincides with the main London Pride events. Family friendly and wheelchair accessible, you can find it springing up in Burgess Park in London.
If you are like me and watch drag acts in awe, silently thinking ‘I wanna do that’ then maybe Andro & Eve can help you reach that goal. Last year, they hosted their very own drag king workshop! Andro and Eve have been hosting and curating queer events in Sheffield for two years. Hosting cabaret, open mic, poetry, film, workshops and socials, they really have it all. They focus on celebrating the diversity that exists within the LGBTQ+ community.
Anyone in Scotland struggling to find events that have room for all the intersections of your identity as a queer person of colour, this brand new collective provides social and creative spaces for just that. A place for QTPOC and allies, this group works to increase visibility and equality in Scotland.
The Cocoa Butter Club was created as a response to cabaret’s lack of representation for people of colour, not to mention its unfortunate habit of cultural appropriation. With monthly events they showcase the best talent from performers of colour who are so often forgotten. Here you can find comedy, drag, dance and more, while chowing down some top notch Caribbean catering served all night.
If you want a change from loud music, sweaty clubs and late nights, this annual film festival is the perfect chance to do so whilst still basking in queer glory. Sit back, relax and watch some great films that you won’t see in mainstream cinemas. Supporting queer actors, directors and producers, the main festival takes place in Glasgow, but events happen across Scotland!
With live music, drag and live art to name a few, Thorny is one of Bristol’s most popular alternative nights! Showcasing the underrepresented voices and performers of Bristol and beyond, it pushes and celebrates self-expression and liberation.
Unmuted is a fantastic project run by Suriya, a Bootcamp graduate who is passionate about ‘raising the voices of underrepresented communities’. With regular meetups, discussions and parties, Unmuted is the place to socialise and meet people of colour who identify as LGBTQ+.
Although everyone is welcome at Lez Be Avin it, this night is specifically directed at LGBTQ+ self-identifying women. With the entire line up, all event staff and even the bouncers for this event are women. With events running late, this club night adds something new to Liverpool’s queer scene.
In the mainstream, being butch isn’t celebrated as it should be (unless you are a man of course). Butch Please isn’t just your average club night.This is a night for lesbians and their friends to celebrate all things butch! You’ll find themed nights, arm wrestling and skill shares to entertain you for the night.
First rule about fight club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. Unless it’s Femme Feral, the feminist fight club and then, how could you not talk about it! Using fighting and performance as a mode of resistance, this group has a real political edge. Fighters say that before they fight they think about women’s refuges closing or a man that has cat called them. In the past year the show has been performed in London, Brighton, Birmingham and Bristol.
It’s tough finding spaces that feel safe, or that make you feel represented fairly and included, but they are out there. Unfortunately sometimes they’re too well hidden, so you might have to dig a little deeper.
Hopefully this list is a good start. It’s by no means complete. If you’ve fallen into any brilliant and beautiful queer spaces, please send me an email and let me know! [email protected]
photo credit: Kaptain Kobold