Gay, Interrupted: On Navigating Gaybourhoods As A Queer Brown Woman

“Helloooo,” he lowers his eyelids flirtatiously and giggles, drunkenly clinging onto his partner. Having a markedly low tolerance for street harassment, I am immediately put on edge. I relax a little into the realisation that my friend and I — a trans man and an androgynous lesbian, both small-ish Asians — could easily be mistaken for two gay men ourselves.

Then another voice calls out, “Ni hao!”

I pause. Did he really just say that? How did he, why did he— do I really look Chinese? (Coming from a background of being erased in Chinese-majority environments, that particular remark stung just that little bit more. If we’re going to be dishing out drive-by racism here, my preferred slur is “terrorist.”) Does that even matter? Am I being oversensitive, or overthinking this?

Are we not supposed to be here?

They laugh.

“Fuck you!” I respond, a bit too belatedly.

We’re walking back to our hostel through Manchester’s Gay Village, having just talked about exactly this over dinner: white cis gay men dominating queer spaces. White cis gay men making us feel unsafe and unwelcome; white cis gay men stumbling uncomfortably close to us while yelling “ni hao!” under street signs that warn against the consequences of homophobic hate speech.

A friend shares that the first time she visited a bar in the Village, a drag queen was telling a joke about Chinese folks. Her unanticipated entrance invited an awkward pause, her physical presence selfishly disrupting the previously easy laughter of the audience. That is exactly what navigating gay districts as a queer brown woman often makes you feel like: an interruption.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Village is that it’s really pretty. Being accustomed to the damp grime, broken glass and rowdy crowds of London’s Soho, I’d add unexpectedly pretty. Flowers line the streets that in turn straddle a calm, picturesque canal, the kind that seems like it must have been made to be strolled along and never anything as crude as channelling flows of water. Plastered next to pastel-coloured posters promoting an upcoming trans festival are large, bold signs warning that hate crimes are taken seriously by the Manchester Metropolitan Police. Looking down on all of them are rainbow-coloured street signs declaring, “Smile! You’re on CCTV.”

The place where we had dinner, the Richmond Tea Rooms, is the pinnacle of this. Owned by two men, its over-the-top decor queers the British fetishisation of tea and temperance that tearooms and their associated rituals symbolise. We sat in Alice in Wonderland-themed seats overwhelmed by plush cushions with Heather, who lived nearby and whom we had just met in London a couple of days earlier at an Autostraddle meet-up. She told us that the Village’s main drawback is that it still doesn’t feel safe at night so the flowers and police warnings were part of a recent attempt to “clean up” the area.

There’s an argument for policing trans-, bi- and homophobic violence, of course: according to Stonewall’s 2013 Gay British Crime Survey, 1 in 6 LGB people in the UK had been the victim of a homophobic hate crime or incident in the past 3 years. Stonewall in England & Wales does not (yet) represent the trans community, but trans people, especially trans women and sex workers, are disproportionately subject to harassment, violence and murder on the streets. The nation’s only memorial commemorating the victims of transphobic hate crimes was set up in the Village in 2013… and vandalised just days after.

What’s less clear is whether there’s as strong a case for the police to be doing it. Urban gay neighbourhoods, whether in Manchester, London or elsewhere, almost always arose from the fear of queerphobic violence, sociopolitical disenfranchisement, and the criminalisation of sex and sex work — all of this frequently at the hands of the police. All of this still frequently happens at the hands of the police, so it’s worth asking: are the pride flags decorating blue uniforms today a sign of the times or simply of short-term memory?

If we slap a rainbow on it can we call it even on decades of violence now? via

If we slap a rainbow on it can we call it even on decades of violence now?

Criminal justice system reform is slowly working its way into the LGBTQ activist consciousness, but not without its hiccups. At a Dyke March in 2013, a well-known queer feminist added anti-police chants to the event’s usual rally cries as we marched through the heart of central London. Responding to those who grumbled about her going off-message (including a police officer who nudged a march participant near me and asked quietly, “What did we do?”), she later added on Twitter that if we couldn’t see how all police were scum, we weren’t thinking intersectionally enough. Fair. Maybe.

Here’s the thing though: if she had been thinking “intersectionally” enough, she would have known that had the policewomen been sufficiently provoked, it is not her, a white woman, who would have been hauled off to jail and kept there. It is not her, a British citizen, who would have been asked to leave the country. It is not her name and her face which would have made headlines the next day. Corralled between police officers with the authority to arrest us and white anarchists with little personally at stake if they did, my enthusiasm about participating in a public queer event for the first time gave way to unease and insecurity. It’s important to recognise that we do not want to invite the mechanisms of state violence and surveillance into our spaces and onto the most vulnerable members of our communities, but surely the solution can’t lie in offering up their bodies to make a political point.

Earlier that day Jeremy and I had been reading through TripAdvisor reviews, taking perverse pleasure (as we queers do) in the hurt feelings of straight people who cried oppression when their hens do in the Village were ruined by, you know, actual gay folks. “If people think homophobia is bad, go and see first hand the hetrophobia (sic) on display at G-A-Y!!” declares one. Another grumbles about “staff watching normal straights all the time” (emphasis mine), while my personal favourite makes a gloriously revealing typo in stating, “as a straight person I feel prejudiced on occasions.”

“If a typically ‘straight’ venue treated people like this they’d be sued for discrimination! However I don’t let it bother me (because it really doesn’t) and continue my night elsewhere.” (I imagine the unwritten part of the review goes, “Specifically, in front of my computer, writing a lengthy online diatribe about things that totally didn’t bother me at all.”)

“Sort it out, we all want to be in a prejudice free world.”

Yeah. Don’t we all. These reviews got across the point loud and clear that straight folks really, really do not enjoy being left out of G-A-Y, perhaps similar to how queer people do not like being excluded from healthy family environments, the right to self-determination and expression, employment and education opportunities, media and political representation, and life itself.

You'd think the name would have tipped them off, but nope. via John Coxon Photography

You’d think the name would have tipped them off, but nope.
via John Coxon Photography

Unfortunately I struggle to empathise with the stresses of having to find a night scene friendly to heterosexuals even after going through pages and pages of similarly worded reviews, but one comment that really gave me pause was one that was meant to be a positive endorsement of the Village:

“It is a popular destination for Hen parties and they’re welcome in most bars […] and you will spot a drag queen or two whilst wandering from bar to bar!”

You will spot a drag queen or two. Maybe if you’re lucky!

Signalling another massive shift from the days of sex in the bushes (well, the days of more sex in the bushes), gay districts are now tourist attractions promoted by city councils on glossy brochures and rainbow-themed (of course!) webpages. Part of this is because of the massive urban rejuvenation efforts that have transformed gaybourhoods worldwide in the past few decades, whether from funder-backed urban redevelopment projects or the steady gentrification of white, middle-class gays, making them safe, alluring destinations for the curious wanderer looking for an “alternative” night out. Yet part of this — the part that is not anything new, and definitely not anywhere near progressive — is because queer people have always been seen as tourist attractions. It’s just that now we’re more easily and acceptably consumed in moderate, measured doses within designated areas.

Liberation™, brought to you by Barclays. (You might even spot a drag queen or two!) via Dos Manzanas

Liberation™, brought to you by Barclays. (You might even spot a drag queen or two!)
via Dos Manzanas

In going from private closet to public spectacle, shady neighbourhood to international attraction, have we really reclaimed pride from shame or played into dynamics of commodification and assimilationism to our detriment? There’s no easy way to talk about The Man here when the mainstreaming of gay culture has, for many, made it possible to survive and even thrive. Gay’s the Word might never be the radical socialist space it once could have been, but neither does it invite the suspicion and sabotage it once did. Pride marches are now sponsored by big corporations with dodgy politics and even worse labour practices, but they also inspire vulnerable queer youth to imagine futures that aren’t crushing dead-ends. Playing straight, playing for straights — at-risk queers have long learnt how to make heterosexuality and capitalism work for them to survive. But let’s also not kid ourselves in thinking that the respectability politics that underlie the progress of the LGBTQ “community” has uniformly made it better for all, when sex workers and saunas are swept away to make space for parties and wedding proposals. Gay districts are safer, more open and more profitable than ever before, but for whom?

As I’m trying to get a grasp on what gay districts stand for and how we should preserve this, it’s funny enough to think of straight tourists being side-eyed by butch bouncers but decidedly less amusing when I think back to how at a London Autostraddle meet-up in 2012 our tiny assemblage of queer women was rejected entry into a bar in Soho. The bouncers weren’t convinced we were gay, even though we probably collectively had more piercings than hair on the left sides of our heads. Do we have to perform gay to be allowed to be gay in public? How do we do this, when “looking gay” is inherently coloured by class, race and gender? Queer women and men alike have adopted variations on the “working class” attires of flannel shirts and combat boots as queer uniforms, for instance, but it’s hard to say if a queer Sun-reading Mancunian man would pass G-A-Y’s bouncers’ tests as easily as a young skinny boy in a deep V-neck t-shirt. Muslim women participating in gay pride marches get called “suicide bombers,” while white women in rainbow niqabs are applauded for their courage in bringing to light the struggles of poor, third world brown queers. And that one time our ragtag group of mostly ladyqueers got turned down in Soho is just one of many incidents of queer women’s sexualities being disbelieved, trivialised and invisibilised. Endless media and activist discussions of homophobia and sexism — on “fag hags,” on bachelorette parties in gay bars, on gay men feeling entitled to touching women’s bodies — take as their opposing players gay men and straight women, ignoring the queer and trans women whose bodies make up the battleground.

The gendered dynamics of gay spaces extend far beyond the policing of “looking gay” at bar entrances, of course, whether we’re talking about the gender divide between the Castro and Oakland because of economic disparities between gay men and women, or feminist and lesbian spaces (particularly bookstores) and the organisations behind them being chronically underfunded and frequently the butts of jokes in gay media, including in everyone’s latest favourite tearjerker, Pride. (Don’t get me wrong, it is an excellent film that I strongly recommend. Yet it unfortunately also follows in a long-established tradition of trivialising queer women’s needs for their own spaces.) The year that I arrived in London, First Out Café, the city’s first daytime gay venue, closed. The year that I left, Candy Bar, the biggest (and only wheelchair-accessible) lesbian bar, followed suit. This isn’t unique to London, as many other spaces that cater primarily cater to queer women and other folks struggle to survive while gay men’s clubs and bars thrive. As Carmen writes from DC, “It’s not possible for us to know, just yet, how our community will change now that we don’t have a central place to house it.”

I know intimately the promise and allure of gay districts, even as someone whose fullest extent of engagement with “the scene” is often just standing awkwardly in a corner sipping a mocktail while friends unsuccessfully implore me to dance. As an 18-year-old in London, newly arrived from a home very far away, my first night in the basement of Ku Bar — on the one night they have designated for women — was eye-opening. I was intimidated by the alcohol, loud music and physical intimacy, but I’d never been in a room with that many queer people before and it was affirming in a way I didn’t even know I needed it to be. Particularly memorable for me was a moment when a middle-aged Chinese lady whose business wear resembled that of the homophobic principal of my junior college casually walked past, wineglass in hand.

Neither are gay districts necessarily now devoid of hope for me. In my last week in London I finally caught Soho’s annual Village Fête, which gave space to community groups, queer performers, and the odd and brilliantly endearing waiters’ race, in which waiters well, race, along Old Compton Street balancing a wine bottle and glass on a tray. Instead of the Metropolitan Police, the Fête was cared for by the Lesbian & Gay Foundation’s Angels in pink fluorescent vests, who were borrowed from Manchester’s Gay Village and whose first job was to listen to whatever people needed to say and to provide support where necessary, whether it was directions, a safe ride home, or yes, a police call.

Still, that first time I left that gay bar in Soho, I was mainly afraid of running into people I knew from back home. (Like Manchester, the gay district in London is right next to the city’s Chinatown, which doesn’t do much to assuage the fears of closeted queer Asians like I was then.) I didn’t know then to be wary, instead, of those I’d just shared the small, dark basement with. I hadn’t expected then that the vast majority of racism and sexism I’d experience in my three years in London — whether it was yelled at me on the streets or calmly, condescendingly expressed in meetings about the rightful “priorities” of the LGBTQ movement — would be from other queer people.

Gay districts are constructed as havens, as sanctuaries, as places where expression and identity can freely tumble forward in messy, drunken messes. But this glosses over the realities of those of us who are policed for not being gay enough or for being too queer, for dressing wrong, for looking wrong, for being wrong; this doesn’t confront the complexities of police and policing at the intersections of queerphobia, racism, sexism and classism. This picture simply moves on past the interruptions that unruly bodies present, the disruptions to social norms that gave rise to gaybourhoods in the first place. This picture prioritises comfort over challenge, compromising the promise of safety and welcome that these neighbourhoods are supposed to stand for for those of us who aren’t white cis gay men. Who are the “gays” for whom gay districts are built (around)? Who gets to decide?

Are we not supposed to be here?

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Fikri has written 61 articles for us.


  1. this is so well done. when i post a comment, i like quoting from the article something that really hits home. i couldn’t do that this time, literally would have ended up just reposting the whole article. again, well done.

  2. Summary: Yay, thank you, this was really interesting!

    Long winded borderline over-share: I’ve been thinking so much about privilege recently, and privilege disclaimers. To the extent that I recently realised that even my burgeoning awareness of the sheer scale of my privilege is probably a privilege.

    Anyway this comment isn’t meant to be about me, I really appreciated hearing someones voice describe the things firsthand, that I’m usually reduced to just hypothesising about with equally privileged friends.

    I definitely see a problem in the queer/GRSM/LGBT+ communities, where there is increasingly a doctrine of how to be gay… or how not to be gay(while being gay). Which I realise isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we as humans crave community, and association with community, however a dangerous precedent of alienation to those who project a different form of difference is being relied upon to falsely strengthen our communities.

    My Architecture thesis touched upon the work of Georg Simmel ‘The stranger’, a fascinating (and accessible) read for anyone interested in a surface level introduction to this part of human sociology.

  3. Amazing article; I’ve been reading a ton about this lately and you hit on so many of the complexities that I’ve been struggling to understand.

  4. Thank you so much for writing this.

    I think you hit on one of the reasons that intersectionality can be so helpful when talking about queer politics and communities – none of us have straight privilege, but that doesn’t mean we’re all on the same playing field. I am infinitely more safe in queer spaces than a friend of mine, because I’m White and cis and she’s Asian and trans. Queer spaces eliminate (for the most part) the danger of being queer, but they do not eliminate the other dangers that queer people may face for the other parts of their identities. Also, queer spaces aren’t as accessible to all queers as they are to some – they tend to become gentrified and thus inaccessible to queer people who are not wealthy, which is obviously most of them because of the skewed wealth distribution, particularly in the U.S.

    Again, thank you for writing this. It highlighted lots of things and was really informative and eye-opening. Thank you.

  5. This is a really excellent and thought-provoking piece, thanks Fikri! I am always happy to see more of your writing here!

  6. Interesting, I can’t say I’ve ever really experienced this myself though. Aside from some people feeling that I’m not “queer” enough, but that isn’t coming from cis white men generally. I’m not queer identifying at all so it doesn’t bother me as much as amuse me that these groups think I give any fucks about their “rigid open mindedness”.

  7. i value your writing this so much, fikri, and want to share it with everyone i know. i think this touches on so many important realities of queer community/”community” that many people find easy to overlook unless we’re actively talking about them, and so i’m thankful for this piece and for you.

  8. You touched on important facts. I celebrate the increases in gay rights and respectability. And understand that with success there is more stratification with the LGBTQ community. I live in a gayborhood and I love it but I wouldn’t have been able to live here if I didn’t have access to money.

  9. This was so excellent. I can’t think of anything more fitting to say besides that. I continuously love all the work you’ve done for AS.

  10. Brilliant article as ever. So many truths. Also could not agree more with your sentiments r.e. Manchester Capitalist Pride, I couldn’t get my head round it (many years ago) when I was there – the dissonance between the everyday experiences of being a working class small town gay and the tourist attraction of forced pageantry…although it pisses of right wingers who cry out “think of the children” and I’m on board with their feathers being ruffled…or plucked.

    • I’ve never been to Manchester Pride, only London’s! The first time I went was the year that there was some conflict or another with the mayor’s office (2012, I think?) and so there weren’t floats and stuff, but I was still ridiculously excited to be there at all, and it was far bigger than anything I’d experienced before. I distinctly remember being overwhelmed by the level of corporate sponsorship — Green & Black and Tesco in particular stood out for me. BUT STILL then there was a tiny, tiny all-male Muslim queers contingent (I say “contingent” but it was really like 2-3 people max) who told me that there weren’t any women there because queer Muslim women, hijabis in particular, are far warier of the harassment they get during the parade.

      The last Pride I went to in 2014 was when we all got soaked and I don’t remember much from it (except that Ian McKellen was right behind the group I was marching with), but after that we had an Autostraddle meet-up in a vegan cafe and it was excellent.

      • Oh, yes. I believe Ian McKellen was with those “Stonewall” folks or something. You know, nothing big.

  11. I used to think I could never be a lesbian because I wasn’t a vegetarian, didn’t like motorbikes, and had no idea who the hell Judith Butler was. Then I shaved my head, and all was revealed.

    The idea that there is a type of gay, the too gay, and the good gay is a prevalent issue for me. The white cis gays taking over the scene is definitely something that bothers me, too. I never even realised how much it bothered me until I was picking universities and I actively stalked the facebook pages of their queer communities until I saw someone who was not white or cis. Half the clubs hardly seemed to have enough queer women, too. Eventually I found one, and the stand out is cis and gay, but not white, and that’s good enough.

    The discrimination in the queer community is there. I have to call out people for the bigoted and racist things they say and do, and I usually get arguments in turn. Being queer does not mean you can’t be a bigot. Hell, being Arab and discriminated against does not mean I can’t discriminate either.

    The annoying part isn’t just the racial and cultural discrimination, I can still deal with that by chanting “privileged and ignorant white person” in my head. It’s how they can also discriminate against your queerness. I mean, whoa, you’re queer yourself. It boggles me.

    My favourite moment that sums up my thoughts entirely is a person telling me, and I only paraphrase from memory, “Don’t come out. The Arabs will hate you for being queer and the queers will hate you for being Arab.”


    This was wonderful, Fikri, and I am very, very glad you wrote it.

    • I never even realised how much it bothered me until I was picking universities and I actively stalked the facebook pages of their queer communities until I saw someone who was not white or cis.

      It took me at least a couple of years for me to be able to put my name to the discomfort that I felt in queer (and sometimes feminist) spaces, whether in uni or otherwise. I knew I didn’t fit in, but I thought I was making it all up in my head, or I made so many rationalisations (I don’t drink, I’m not interested in hook-ups, I didn’t understand a tonne of British culture then…) especially because I was actively downplaying my racial and religious identities when I first moved to London — I’d left home thinking I wanted to escape exactly those parts of my self and community, and hoping to find something else with queer folks. Sometimes I still have to fight a tiny voice in my head that tells me I am being That Person when I raise issues with or consciously choose not to participate in white cis gay-dominant spaces but man, whatever. I’m no longer the young’un who was desperate enough for anything queer, who kept her head down from bizarre notions of needing to be grateful/thankful for the little that was handed to me, and I deserve to do what I need to make myself feel safe, comfortable and happy.

      My favourite moment that sums up my thoughts entirely is a person telling me, and I only paraphrase from memory, “Don’t come out. The Arabs will hate you for being queer and the queers will hate you for being Arab.”

      Ayee I have so many complex feelings about this. The tl;dr version is I’ve dealt with a lot of awfulness from both “sides” since coming out and I know that I’m personally in a better place for it, but… I don’t always know if it’s something I’d recommend to a baby closeted brown queer. Not till the rest of us have got our shit sorted, y’know? Or no, I don’t know.

      • Downplaying racial and religious identity was something all the children of immigrants did when I was younger, by default I did the same thing, especially after 9/11. I’ve come into those aspects of my identity now, although I’m unsure how it’ll fit into being openly queer. I’m worried coming out will throw my entire identity off and I’ll have to go through that hell of getting back to a place that I’m comfortable and safe. I hope having experienced those aspects of my identity separate from each other will make for more smooth sailing.

        I’m definitely desperate! I want to learn from your experiences though — if I don’t learn, what the hell is this article for, then? — and not have to be so desperate, but I am. I’m so desperate for any queer environment. In my current closeted state I’m doubly so, but like you say, we shouldn’t have to be.

        Does anybody know? Or better yet, will people ever get their shit figured out? I can only imagine the awfulness you had to go through. I suppose there will have to be a point where I have to face it, but you never know, maybe by then you’d know, because I have a very good feeling I’m going to do a lot of not-facing-it until I’m about grey.

        • Sorry for the slow reply! School, anxiety, internets, etc. The usual.

          I probably come from a very different Arab background/community than (most of) you because I’m from Singapore, where the Arab community is mixed with the larger Malay one — I identify as both and growing up I was definitely closer to the Malay/Javanese side of my family than the Arab one. The main difference it has made in my life is that Malay folks don’t have family names, only patronymics, so as someone with an identifiably Arab last name it’s changed how people look at/think about me… and made me a lot more googleable. Which is significant when you’re someone writing online about being queer before you were actually y’know, out.

          I have written a bit about the race/religion/sexuality stuff I’ve experienced but tbh the worst of it only came after that essay, and a lot of it because of that essay. People are not ready for queer Muslims, at least not where I’m at. I got a lot of flak from Malay/Arab folks back home for it, and it hurt in no small part because it felt like I was being ejected from a community that I’d been calling mine long before I had anything/anyone queer in my life.

          I have also really struggled with finding spaces where I feel equally comfortable in both parts of my identity (and more), which used to a big thing in my life but now I’m finding myself less and less patient with people/groups re: waiting for them to get their shit together. I’ve lately been focusing more on my personal relationships and families, not abstract “communities,” because I find that groups based on interest or common political struggle aren’t always what they’re made out to be especially in times of personal crisis. I’m at a stage of my life where I need friends, not (just) allies; lovers, not comrades. This might come off as particularly cynical — and maybe it is! — but I’ve found myself way, way happier and safer now looking to those immediately around me than continuing to place hope in “community.” This might change in the future, but it’s just where I am now.

  12. There’s some research going on at the moment in terms of how London’s Soho is changing in terms of online spaces. I couldn’t bring myself to be involved, it felt very cis-gay centric and I didn’t have the spoons, but anyone who wants to help prevent that (small) piece of research from being dominated in such ways may wish to be involved.

  13. Fantastic article and very necessary. Great point about queer people as tourist attractions – I had never thought of that in quite that way before. You really bring out the nuances of the situation without trivializing the deeply problematic parts of it, and that’s so great to read. Thanks so much! Your articles are always so good.

  14. First night out in the village (Manchester) since coming out with 2 other women who’ve ‘ been there done that ‘ – help!

  15. I’m a queer youngun who hasn’t even gotten the chance to visit a gaybourhood yet. There’ve been several things by more experienced/mature people about the state of things that made me curious and perplexed, but this article is so lovely and thorough and readable and thoughtful that I feel like I had a really good conversation. I’m sure my experiences when I get to be more travelled will be different (my country and stats are not the same as Fikri’s), but I think I have an awareness of some things that had flown over my head before.

    (Oh, and I would like to particularly say thnx for that sentence about “they also inspire vulnerable queer youth to imagine futures that aren’t crushing dead-ends”–there are so many times I’ve read some impossibly savvy stranger’s thoughts on amelioration et al that made me feel like a fragile hick alien.)

    ((And are gay cafes nice? Has anyone been to one? It’s been nearly six years since my queer awakening, and I’ve still got two before I can drink, so cafes and bookstores and the like sound like heaven in a way bars don’t.))

    • Admittedly when I first wrote this it was a lot more SMASH SMASH EVERYTHING IS THE WORST BOOOO (especially because I started writing it when particularly enraged at the Manchester incident) but my partner helped me read through it and was like… yo but that’s not true tho. I definitely benefited a lot from queer neighbourhoods/spaces as a babygay — the hall I lived in in first year of uni was really close to Gay’s the Word in London and that made my whole life — and in a lot of ways I still do now, so I want/ed to acknowledge that.

      I don’t think I’ve ever been to a gay café (like I said in the piece, First Out closed within a month of me arriving so I never got the chance to visit) but vegan ones are about the same thing probs. Gay bookstores are my everything. They usually only have tiny, tiny sections devoted to queer women, but even then it’s still way more than you’ll ever be able to consume in a lifetime… and significantly less awful than most of Netflix’s gay & lesbian section, I promise. If you’re looking to start exploring queer communities while avoiding alcohol, I’d def recommend looking for meet-ups and groups first — queer bookstores tend to have info on local events/activities/groups, and failing that, there’s always the internet.

      • Oh, understandably! I’m very glad this article landed where it did, because, again, it’s the first one I’ve spotted that was neither gloom and doom or throw-glitter-and-pretend-it’s-ok. I’m sooo going to run to the gaybourhood when I go to the next chapter (right now I’m in my too-small, too-uncool, too-conservative for one hometown) and probably discover all sorts of things about myself…agh, I’m making wistful cat noises.

        Vegan cafes? This is VITAL intel, I’d’ve assumed they were just hipster/arty and gone somewhere I could be hipster/arty while eating cheese. I’ll try to look for one if there isn’t a gay etc. one proper… Bookstores: There’s been very little time in my life when I wasn’t reading 1-5 books, so this endorsement gives me life. I’m trying to imagine what takes up the rest of the space? (Genderfluid demigirls on adventures? HAHAha I’ll hold my dream but not my breath.)Objectified Scotsmen, M/M edition? Probs. Oh, THANK YOU. Alcohol isn’t something I mind being near, but I find it tastes disgusting, and the idea of being able to go places in the daytime and/or without inebriated strangers around seemed super good–I think there’s a strong likelihood I’ll start out exploring by myself in an unfamiliar city, so. The Internet <3. God, the internet has been such a boon so far. Thank you for all this!

        • I should add a disclaimer though that this might not be true of all vegan cafés. There are hipster ones, hippie ones, anarchist ones… I should do an ethnography of vegan cafés one day.

  16. Just the other day I was in a gay pub in Haggerston, East London and on the way to the toilet overheard a white gay dude say out loud, ‘Look it’s Mindy Lahiri!’ I am South Asian and 5’2″ but that’s as far as the similarities go (I don’t even know, is Mindy Kaling short?). This type of thing happens so often in queer spaces where you’re supposed to feel safe and included. Great article, thanks for shining a light on the issue.

  17. Beautiful piece! I always wonder about this specific issue…it’s wonderful that you addressed it so honestly and openly.

  18. This covers so much ground and has an eerie kind of mad libs quality to it; you could switch the location to Toronto or Boston or Melbourne and it would be just as applicable.

  19. This article was really eye opening. It was a really great read, and carefully composed and thought out as well. I am a white cis lesbian, living in Colorado. I lived in Denver for quite awhile, and I will say, though we don’t have any gaybourhoods, we have an excellent trans and gay community, with a lot of supportive people from all ends of the lgbt spectrum, and straights. For example there’s a bar in Denver called Milk, and it has two goth nights a week. There is a big scene of multi-racial trans people that frequent it, and everyone at this place is very protective and defensive of the trans people there. If even one bigot says something ignorant, we stand up for that person, and black ball the bigot. In the alternative arts area, Baker City, in Denver, everyone is very kind and friendly to any person, queer, gay, cis, black and queer, etc. It’s not a gay community, it’s a mixed community of artistic and alternative people, and everyone is really kind. Whenever I have experienced discrimination, it is from the usual areas, a passing group of jocks from the douchebag bar.
    Although I will say, whenever I go to an actual “gay bar” here, instead of the little alternative communities in town, it is filled with pretty white superficial cis gay men, who do feel like it is acceptable to do things like grab my ass and say I’m hot, as if I asked them. Nights at any gay bar are always dominated by the men, and girls nights are just as rare here. I have had better luck meeting girls in the artsy parts of town, than the places supposedly meant for us.

  20. Ugh, I hate the village. While I empathise with what happened to the author, I think it’s naive to view the gay village as a safe space – it’s widely known to have one of the highest crime rates in Manchester city center:
    Too much alcohol, too many drugs, a culture of peacocking and pulling that brings out the worst in people’s fragile egos… there’s many reasons for this (though I’m not trying to excuse any of it, it flat out sucks. I’m a white cis man and I don’t feel safe in the village, much less “accepted” there).

    I wish queers of all stripes would invest their hard earned time and money in venues and spaces that are not in this small, stratified ghetto, a space that seems to me to have outlived its purpose. But getting people not to opt for the “safe” option (ironic!) and to try something new or different – ie travelling a bit further out of town to find a space that is much more safe and accepting – is just too much like hard work, unfortunately.

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