Last night I went out for dinner with some friends and afterwards we ended up in a small gay club in Soho.
I walked in and there was tropical wallpaper, wonderful kitsch-ness dripping from the ceilings and cleverly placed hanging mirror balls that darted light and wonder around the space.
The bar person blew me a kiss from their cherry red lips and gave me a wink as they expertly crafted an assortment of excellent cocktails for us.
I can’t remember the last time I was in a space that was so visibly and comfortably diverse — age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality— there was a throbbing, dancing, exuberant, messy-in-all-its-colour-and-human-ness crowd. There were seats, a sense of spaciousness, and the music wasn’t overbearing (for a 41 yr old like me), and yet the dance floor was still fully alive. There were no tensions, even when a drag queen stumbled through the dance floor, sticking their stiletto heel into someone else’s toes by mistake — the dancing started again seconds later and the moment was forgotten. The vitality in the room seemed fuelled by joy rather than anything illegal.
It was liberating and reminded me of what it feels like to be amongst people who aren’t living in or accepting of (or sometimes accepted by) our heteronormative culture. I used to be in these spaces, seeking out the curious, connecting with that sense that there’s always something beyond the “norm.” I’m not sure when I stopped doing this, but I was reminded last night of how important it is for me to be in those spaces, where that sense of “anything goes, everyone is welcome” is the motto resounding through the room. It was really life-affirming and expansive.
We decided last night to get back on a path of discovering and going to such places, so now we just need to find them. It seems like much of London’s LGBTQI nightlife spaces are in decline, at a time when we need spaces for diversity and togetherness more than ever. I’d love to hear of recommendations for good nights to go to or spaces that need support.