LGBTQ+ column: Exploring the inner gay club culture

by James Rowland / Beacon Correspondent • October 19, 2016

Geoff Williams, a writer for Entrepreneur Magazine, listed LGBTQ+ clubs as one of the ten types of businesses that will be extinct by 2017, claiming there’s no longer a need for safe spaces for queer individuals to hang out. Acceptance of gay people has grown in the last decade, but these clubs are more than just safe spaces. They are escapes from the heteronormative world we live in.  

At LGBTQ+ clubs, anybody and everybody can be whoever they want with no judgements. It’s an opportunity for queers to experience a similar freedom our straight counterparts experience in their everyday lives. You see, for many of my straight friends, the reality of understanding that queer individuals like myself cannot approach individuals we find attractive in public without the fear (and often reality) of physical and verbal harm is difficult. Even at Emerson, there is still a huge stigma when it comes to being hit on by someone of the same gender. I’ve attended parties in which I have innocently flirted with some boys when we were just hanging out and faced aggressive backlash. Similar experiences have been shared among my close gay friends.

For me, queer clubs are an alleviation of all that. I love sitting at the bar with friends and casually flirting with all the cute boys who come by to talk to us. It’s an experience I think everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. Hopefully you find these tips helpful on how to navigate your next night out to a LGBTQ+ club.

LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX

Sex and queer clubs are inevitably synonymous. Queerness gives so many people sexual freedom from hegemonic heterosexuality, and it gives us space to explore that freedom. Hegemonic heterosexuality is the traditional concept of intimacy we as a culture have been accustomed to; a cisgender man courting a cisgender woman, coupled with the power dynamic of the male in a position of power both in everyday life and in sex.

Recently, I had the opportunity to do a bar crawl with the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit. It was fascinating to see the rigidness of the courting system between cisgender straight people. Men in groups would casually strike up conversation with women sitting around the club with their friends. The men were patient and slow, then got more territorial of particular women as the night progressed. The conversation was, of course, always G-Rated.  It was kind of adorable, until I realized it was very much a reenactment of those cartoon hawks who circle the sky waiting for the small rodent to swoop down upon.

In gay clubs, there are no strict rules or hegemonic standards to how one should act. It’s based on individual comfort and interests. I’ve met my fair share of very fine looking boys at clubs. One boy in particular had quite an imagination; he wanted to recreate a scene from a pornography video he’d recently seen with me. As flattered as one could be, I politely declined.  It wasn’t part of my particular brand, which is okay. I’d suggest knowing why you’re going to a club in the first place, so if a situation does come up you don’t get swept up in the moment and make a decision that makes you uncomfortable.

DRESS CODE

I’m going to be completely honest, there really isn’t a dress code. I’ve seen club patrons in thongs that leave nothing to the imagination, and button down shirts with khaki pants. There is an overwhelming pressure for hypersexualization from the bartenders, to the go-go boys, to the guests. Although there is a tendency toward hypersexualizing at all clubs, LGBTQ+ clubs are the only spaces left that allow queer individuals to express their sexuality without the fear of verbal or physical backlash. Clubs give queer individuals that freedom which is why many of them still survive today even with the rise of equality. My go-to outfit choices are usually dark-colored, long-sleeve shirts with black or dark blue pants. Oh, and don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes. I’ve had to walk home far too many times. I don’t care how fine a boy might be, they’re not worth foot blisters the next morning.

DRUGS

Drugs are a big part of this party scene. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 20-30 percent of queer individuals have a substance abuse problem compared, to only nine percent of the general population. Specifically, cisgender gay men have a higher usage rate with stimulants such as methamphetamine. Steven Shoptaw,  a licensed psychologist and Professor  at the University of California Los Angeles Departments of Family Medicine and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, reported in a 2007 article for the International AIDS Society that methamphetamine usage was five to ten times higher with gay and bisexual men who lived in urban areas.

This column isn’t another high school health class lesson on drugs and alcohol, so stay with me here. Knowing the signs of drug overdose can save you or your friend’s life. If you do engage with drugs, please don’t mix drugs with other drugs or with alcohol. Always use the buddy system and let your friends know what you’ve taken. I am very fortunate as I’ve never witnessed or been in a life or death situation, but have heard numerous stories that could literally write the next 10 years of blockbuster horror film hits.

THE THUMPA THUMPA

What makes queer clubs one of the best places to be is the freedom it gives all who enter. Have fun and know your limits. The gay party scene is an overwhelming euphoria.  It has the best music and the most amazing energy. Don’t feel embarrassed if dancing isn’t your thing. Just take it at your own pace and have fun. Let the never-ending thumpa thumpa take the night away.

Love Always,

James