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'A Little More Inclusive And A Little Less S Club' - The Importance Of LGBT Safe Spaces

13/10/2016 11:39
Jacob Ammentorp Lund via Getty Images

We all share spaces with one another, whether a pavement, a coffee shop or an escalator you use on your work commute each morning.

One thing that most people don't have to ever consider, however, is how they edit themselves to feel 'safe' within these spaces.

For lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, those considerations and re-evaluations are a very real thing.

It might take the form of refraining from touching your partner's hand in public, re-thinking how you choose to dress for a specific occasion or avoiding using toilet facilities to avoid potential backlash and misgendering from those around you.

Some people might label these events as 'one offs', and decide it's not worth 'making a fuss' by reacting. But in fact, this editing is the lesbian, gay, bi and trans community's response to structural oppression and discrimination (something that all marginalised communities have to deal with on a daily basis.)

Anti-LGBT attitudes are still very much alive here in Britain, which many people often find surprising.

Reported instances of hate crime toward the community continue to rise year on year, 99 per cent of young people continue to hear homophobic language used at school and LGBT people continue to be disproportionately affected by mental health and homelessness.

Amidst this hostility and feeling of being 'othered', the LGBT community has often sought solace in safe spaces. Places created by us, for us, where we huddle simply to be together and to be ourselves.

I remember being eighteen and in school, counting down the hours each week until Friday, when my best friend and I would make our way to the Scala in Kings Cross for a club night called Popstarz.

During the week, any name-calling, pushing, teasing or bullying that I might have been on the receiving end of didn't matter - because I knew that I was getting closer to dancing with my new group of friends, who were different, interesting and, more importantly, comfortable in their own skin. And that made me feel comfortable in my own skin, and a part of something.

Lots has changed since then and, today, we continue to see some of Britain's best-loved LGBT venues shut down or face closure. Despite huge outcry from the community and its friends and families.

Much of what is left has disintegrated into alcopop playgrounds for obnoxious hen and stag parties; not because they have any affinity toward the gay community, but because our community and its spaces are so 'othered' by their outlooks.

Being dehumanised into something trivial in your own space is ostracising and not really much fun for anyone, especially when coupled with intrusive questions, lots of drinks being spilled on you and often a pretty naff soundtrack of songs that should have died in the nineties.

But for LGBT folk, and our fabulous, warm and loving straight friends, where do we find somewhere a little more inclusive and a little less S Club?

We have a handful of examples in the Capital, and in Manchester the likes of PopCurious and Bollox are leading by example, but it's still a sparse situation for the rest of the country.

It's so vital that this is rectified, and that queer culture, spaces and safety are not just protected, but embraced, nurtured and grown.

Stonewall Season launches later this year - and is a selection of events curated across Britain to celebrate LGBT life and culture.

Bakeries, bars, independent cinemas and club nights will come together from 1 - 10 November to act as a catalyst for this much-needed community boost.

Reigniting and reimagining its spaces, and our feelings of belonging and togetherness.

As well as hosting our own Stonewall-led events across England, Scotland and Wales, we're inviting individuals, groups and businesses to use the time to throw their own, creating a moment in time that we can all share together.

We look forward to seeing you there!

You can find out more about the Season at www.stonewallseason.org.uk.

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