Some Bars I Used to Know: Edition 2

30 April 2013

I’m over the gay bar. I think it started when I came back from California. While studying abroad, I took a class on the history of the gay bar. However, I also spent this time exhausting the West Hollywood club scene. By the time I came back to Melbourne, it was understandably time for a break.

Still, I began thinking about the culture of the gay bar, and although for many it heralds a joyous moment of acceptance and visibility for many young gays, it can also deny many other queer-identified folk this same joy. Truth be told, gay bars are safe spaces for mostly young, gay (predominately) white males. This was true of West Hollywood and it’s true of Melbourne too.

With this, I started searching for alternatives. Where do you go if you’re a queer who doesn’t fall into this extremely narrow category and market?

I eavesdropped on other queers’ convos and did some late-night Googling, which finally paid off. I came across a catalogue of queer parties and underground events, such as Danceteria and Grouse. (Check out the Facebook pages, friends.) These queer parties happen every couple of months in Melbourne and are characterised by an open-door policy. They let in anyone who falls on the queer identity spectrum and even those who don’t. Entry is low-cost, the DJs are good, and they’re nestled within the burgeoning alternative scenes of Brunswick and Fitzroy. Apparently I was out of the loop since queers started telling me that they were gravitating more to these party nights and away from the old gay clubs. I was excited to hear about peeps migrating and thought about how culturally productive for the queer community these events actually were.

As young people today try to break down binary thinking and strict codes that govern queerness, the thought occurred that queer dances might emulate this thinking too. Falling on a random day of the week, usually promoted a month or so in advance, and often held at different venues, these queer dance parties fall in stark contrast to the weekly, scheduled gay bar festivities.

The queer dance party is sporadic. It is an event that tries to diversify queer collectives in a warehouse of intimate and relaxed solidarity. By moving location and time, it changes the rhythm and consistency most queer sites, like gay bars, thrive on. When the night’s over and the dancing is all done, goers are not left with a rigid timetable of when the next party is to be held or where the next drink will be poured.

Free from the binaries of heterosexual cynics, these events are as broken down as queer identity itself—trans*, intersex, asexual, bisexual, and so on. Most importantly, however, these nights let in anyone and everyone without any set agenda like most gay bars do.

For me, the gay bar no longer offers comfort. With a wealth of gay culture to absorb and more avenues to meet other gay men and queers—smart-phone apps, friends of friends, uni queer clubs—coupled with a growing sense of safety in public places, the gay bar has lost some of its allure.

For me, this is an important part of such queer dance parties as it helps one feel a sense of social empowerment rather than the reckless self-indulgence that most gay bars feed us with.

At the moment, the thought that a random dance party could spring up at any moment—and get all us queers and non-queers boogying to 90s No Doubt—has my money any day.

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