Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome. At the end of this post, I will be leaving the same three Instagram links to black queer and trans organizations as I did in the last video, please check them out and support a few of them if you can. If you can’t, at least share them.
As you know from the title, I want to talk about alcohol-free queer spaces, also called sober spaces. This can be a range of things, but at the core, it means a space where alcohol isn’t present. Here, I’m talking more about social spaces. Of course, there are businesses that don’t serve alcohol, but they’re not places where you can go in and just hang out. When you ask around for where you can go to find other queer and trans people to meet, the usual immediate answer will be some kind of bar, and tends to cater toward cis gay men. That isn’t ideal for a lot of people – those who don’t feel comfortable in a gay male-dominated environment, those who are sober or in recovery, those who simply don’t like the overstimulating environment of a bar, those who aren’t of legal age, those who just don’t want to drink.
Gay bars have long been important to the queer community, as a space for socializing, organizing, protesting. The problem is that this kind of place isn’t ideal for a lot of people, especially in a community that has increased risk of addiction and substance abuse issues. There are a lot of options, but not nearly enough in my opinion. There’s bookstores like I mentioned in a previous post, but they’re not always places you can just roll up to and hang out in without buying anything. There are LGBTQ+ centers, but they’re not always comfortable places or conducive to socializing.
I’ll be linking an article from them, the media/news company, that talks about this and lists several options for sober queer spaces all over the country. One of the quotes I want to say here is from Bauman, the co-founder of Cuties, a coffeeshop in Los Angeles.
“You don’t have to be sober to want sober spaces… The more spaces we have that are not centered around an activity, that you don’t have to give a reason for being there, that’s a revolutionary thing.”Virginia Bauman
I absolutely agree with this statement, and this was a big reason why I founded the Deaf Queer Social in Seattle. Obviously, it’s on hold now because of the pandemic. When I founded it, from the start I knew I did *not* want to host it at bars or any spaces that have alcohol as a main focus. I wanted it to be an accessible space, in more ways than one. I wanted to make sure all ages were able to attend, families could bring their children, the older generation could feel comfortable there where they’d feel out of place in a bar or club. Bars or clubs tend to be very dark or dim spaces, which is an accessibility issue for Deaf and DeafBlind people. I wanted to make sure that it would be affordable, bars and nightclubs can get expensive very fast. So far, all of the locations I’ve hosted the Deaf Queer Social at have been coffee places open until 8 or 10pm. When we are able to gather again, I plan to have some meet-ups at parks or outdoor spaces, or do other social activities that are cheap or free. I also host it a little earlier in the day than many other social events, like Deaf Night Out. DNO tends to start at 6 or 7pm, but people tend to not show up until 8pm or later. With DQS, I start it at 5pm, end at 8pm, and it’s been on Friday evenings. This way, people can easily choose to go home and relax or go to other, later events.
Going back to sober queer spaces in general, we need more spaces to just be. Queer spaces that aren’t nightlife venues often have a harder time sustaining their business, compared to nightlife venues. Bars do have a big role, and I think they are important to have. I just would like to see more options that don’t involve alcohol.
That is a good place to stop. Please let me know what your thoughts are, and if you know of any sober queer spaces in your area! This can be an event, gathering, or something else, it doesn’t have to be a physical location.
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