For younger people, the scene bars and clubs seem to be the only places for LGBT community socialising, says Christine Allen. What’s wrong with the alternatives?
‘I like my love on cock.’
No, this is not my way of saying I’ve gone off ‘the V’, as my gay pal so eloquently puts it. The above sentence is however what I found myself writing recently on the Facebook wall of a well-known gay club night, in order to secure free admission.
Having turned 26 in March, perhaps it is to be expected that I’d feel slightly ridiculous posting such a comment on any club’s profile. However, even when I was 22, nightclubs, and all they entailed, were never quite my bag.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I like dancing to Britney as much, if not more so, than any gay man. I also enjoy a couple of vodka and Cokes to boot. But do I want to go clubbing every single weekend in order to meet LGBT people of a similar age? No I do not. Does that appear to be my only option? Unfortunately, yes.
Last year, feeling like I wanted a change of scene, in more ways than one, I decided to join Running Amach (RA) – an LGBT women’s group formed in 2010, facilitated by the international website MeetUp.com. While I met lots of cool and interesting women there, I never felt like I truly belonged, as the average age of its members ranged from the mid-30s to the late-50s.
Considering the variety of events that Running Amach host, I was surprised to not see more than one or two other women of a similar age to me in attendance at any of the meet-ups.
Why is it that many women and men in their 20s see the gay scene as being the one-stop shop in which they can express themselves and socialise? Is it down to a lack of awareness of what else is out there? Or are the majority of us simply just happy for three-euro shots and drag queens to be at the epicentre of our community?
Although I do enjoy some aspects of the gay scene, I find that it can be quite shallow. People you meet in nightclubs rarely become more than fair weather friends – in other words, they become individuals that contact you, or that you reach out to when there is an upcoming night out on the cards, and you need to make up numbers. Considering it is pretty much impossible to engage in any meaningful conversation when GaGa’s ‘G.U.Y’ is thumping in the background, where is the quality in such ‘friendships’?
While I know that many people do enjoy the gay scene, often with friends that they are more than happy to see outside of a club setting, I can’t help but feel that it’s all quite restrictive, unoriginal, and to be completely honest, a bit depressing.
After all, these clubs don’t particularly care about any of the individuals that attend their events in droves. Like most businesses nowadays, they may be clever in how they go about cultivating a sense of belonging via social media, but when it comes down to it, their sole purpose is to get cash in their tills.
When I was 19 I attended BeLonG To, the LGBT youth group in Dublin, set up for individuals between the ages of 14 and 23. There, I made lots of new friends and a world of possibilities was opened to me – including writing. It is a place in which I, and many other young LGBT people, have felt a strong sense of belonging.
LGBT societies in college are also other such groups, in which people can get the same sense of acceptance. I myself am a member of DCU’s LGBTA society and have found it a great source of support in regard to attending college for the first time as a gay student. However, with BeLonG To’s cut-off point being 23 in regard to membership, and many people graduating from college before they reach the ‘mature student’ age of 23, the gay scene is often then perceived as being the only point of contact for young people within the LGBT community.
My purpose in writing this article is to point out that there are other ways of expressing your identity and being part of the LGBT community, besides RSVP’ing to a club event every week on Facebook. We have Outhouse, a space designed for the LGBT community to congregate in, and MeetUp groups like RA and D.I.G.S (Dublin International Gay Social Group) – all great platforms to socialse on.
Despite this fact, whenever I have mentioned any such meet-ups to friends who frequent the scene on a regular basis, the response has been one of politely veiled, but nonetheless apparent disinterest. When I managed to cajole a friend into joining me in attending one such event, I got a cancellation text – a hangover being cited as the cause of the no-show. Groups such as RA and our community organisation Outhouse already hold events that include pool, sports, drama and films, to name but a few and yet the attendance at such groups by LGBTs in their early to mid 20s is almost non-existent.
So what is it that young LGBT people actually want to see as part of a meet up event? Is the lack of interest down to a lack of alcohol present? And if this is the case, what does that say about our community’s culture, never mind the culture of the nation? Perhaps peer-pressure plays a part. We’ve all heard of the FOMO syndrome – Fear of Missing Out. Plus, many young LGBT people have their identities tied up in weekly club events and stepping out of that comfort zone and heading in a different direction to the herd isn’t an easy thing for anyone to do.
This weekend I’ve decided give the nightclub event listings on Facebook a miss, instead opting for a Revolutionary Women’s Walking Tour of Dublin, conducted by UCD lecturer Dr. Mary McAuliffe. It’s an event that’s open to the public for the same price that would buy you one pint and a shot. Who’s with me?
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