Why is queer nightlife important? How has the LGTBQ community suffered from a lack of it during the coronavirus crisis? Can queer nightlife survive the pandemic?
Join us for this breakdown of the importance of queer nightlife! Let’s see if it can still stay strong during COVID-19!
Nightlife Is Essential
Everyone has felt the impact of the pandemic on their social lives. We are constantly struggling to find new ways of sharing our time with someone, even if countless venues, bars, and clubs have closed down. However, queer life is even more difficult as a consequence of the pandemic.
For LGBTQ people, the nightlife is a major part of queer life. It’s actually one of the only ones that bring together LGTBQ people in their own communities. It provides great opportunities for finding love connections and friends. What’s more, it allows gay people to feel free and express themselves in queer-focused places like gay night clubs and bars.
However, in this age of social distancing, nightlife and even Pride require crowds and tight spaces. Gay bars and nightclubs attract swarms of single and taken men. The venues give them a chance to party without any prejudices or even emotional/physical threats.
So if you consider the crowds and the atmosphere of closeness that gay nightlife creates, it makes sense that they are not made for current coronavirus measures. That means it’s extremely difficult to find and participate in queer gatherings, gay parties, and even go out on dates. As a result, the economy of gay nightlife has crashed. Unfortunately, many venues have been forced to shut down temporarily or for good.
How It Used to Be
Obviously, if you’ve even been to a queer bar or club, you know how things used to be. The typical nightlife for gay men often consisted of going to parties in boy bars. Other LGBTQ venues include gay clubs, lesbian bars, queer bars, etc.
Such places were once considered to be the centers of LGBTQ culture. They allowed gay people to openly socialize and live freely. There was a lot of variety in the establishments. That is, you could find venues that accept high-class clientele. Others cater to BDSM fans, for instance. Also, there are twink bars, sexual innuendo clubs, mega-clubs, stripper bars, piano and comedy clubs, and many more.
However, some believe that the importance of LGBTQ bars has dwindled in recent years, even before the pandemic. New laws and social stances on homosexuality have become a lot more lenient. The internet has also contributed to the worldwide recognition of LGBTQ people.
The result is that gay people have become much more accepted into any bar and not just gay-only venues. Most venues before the pandemic have become gay-friendly and even offer gay-only nights. However, this also serves as an example of how the gay bar industry has suffered even before the pandemic. Namely, straight bar owners have started to rely on lots of gay clientele. That creates competition between straight and gay bars. In turn, it harms many small businesses that operate as gay nightlife venues. This rivalry began back in the 2010s. Also, another thing that was already harming gay venues before the pandemic were virtual hookup platforms. Some include Grindr, Scruff, and Adam4Adam.
How It Is Right Now
In March 2020, more than 50% of bars and restaurants were closed by most U.S. states on a statewide level. That means the nightlife industry was practically decimated, and it is now hanging on life support. Combine that with a massive 37% of gay bars that were closed between 2007 and 2019, and you’ll understand the impact of gay dating apps and gay-friendly straight bars that we discussed earlier.
By now, you’re probably already familiar with the safety measures for COVID-19. You know that they make any kind of night out practically impossible. This is mainly because of isolation and quarantine. However, it is useless to blame these measures. They do not harm the gay club industry on purpose. Instead, they intend to protect your health and safety. It is definitely not advisable to visit clubs and queer spaces during the pandemic. They do provide the proper social distancing precautions and a safe environment. Plus, they are among the riskiest areas in which you could contract the virus and spread it to others.
As an alternative, the LGBTQ community has turned to zoom parties. While this is a temporary solution, it does not have the same effect as going to a party or club outside your home. It’s also possible to use gay hookup apps. However, some studies show that 90% of sexual acts will put you at risk of getting infected. Moreover, they eliminate any mystique that you would get from meeting strangers in bars and getting to know them.
As mentioned above, one of the biggest challenges of all this is related to self-expression. LGTBQ nightlife has always provided queer people with a “place of their own.” In it, they can freely express themselves and enjoy the company of others who have the same sexual orientation.
What’s more, gay clubs and bars can be big stress relievers. This is especially true if you work in a predominantly heterosexual environment. They are safe spaces that allow you to retreat and spend time with people who share your sexual orientation. That is true for both single and coupled members of the queer community.
The truth is that gay venues aren’t only intended for wild hookups. They are an essential part of LGBTQ life, and queer people can definitely feel a big void with their absence.
Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic has been raging for almost a year now. That is a long time for LGBTQ people not to have access to all those benefits of gay nightlife that we’ve described above. Some of the biggest challenges include individuals ignoring safety measures and meeting strangers online or even attending private parties where anyone could contract the virus.
So is the future bleak, or should you be hopeful? Well, some venues in New York City have shifted their business online, and they’re hosting live streams with sing-alongs, karaoke, and other activities. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, clubs have begun to host live-stream events with drag queens and go-go dancers on sites like Twitch or OnlyFans.
Most of those venues can profit through virtual tip jars; however, many say that the money is not enough compared to how much they used to make. Also, various states have provided relief funds and donations to LGBTQ venues. What’s more, if you want to help, you could also seek out various venues and their GoFundMe pages and donate to their cause.
Unfortunately, the venues that have felt the biggest impact are clubs located in small cities. Such small businesses do not have the means to produce online content or raise money. That also endangers their staff (dancers, drag queens, DJs, etc.). Moreover, the visitors of those venues are also at the highest risk of isolation and depression since they live in remote areas and do not have a nearby LGTBQ community.
In the end, it’s unlikely that nightlife will return to normal anytime soon. The same applies to straight, gay-friendly, and gay-only venues. If you have to socialize, you will need to accept the new normal. That includes safety checks and regular testing along with shorter operating times for bars that are allowed to stay open. Private parties are an option, but only if you exercise the proper social distancing rules and make sure that all the participants are healthy. It is not advisable to look for hookups via apps because you could never know if the other person is infected.
Ever since the Stonewall Inn riots and earlier, LGBTQ peoples have survived many challenges in society. So right now, it’s important to stay strong and hope that things will revert back to normal soon!