queer spaces: it's time for a quiet evolution
It wasn’t until moving to New York City that I started to think deeply about the intersection of two of my identities - being queer and introverted.
The mantra goes that you can find “anything” in New York City. While this is true in many ways, almost three years after moving to the city, there’s still been an emptiness - a part of me craving stillness, while also finding connection.
The connection between introversion and being queer hit home while watching Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix special, Nanette. Gadsby asked the comical, yet relevant question:
Where do the quiet gays go?
For real! Where DO the quiet gays go?! This one, simple question sparked an idea and journey that was bubbling within my soul, but hadn’t surfaced in a coherent way. Here are three aspects of being queer and introverted that I’ve been mulling over in recent weeks.
1. The queer introvert dilemma: connection or isolation?
One of the most significant obstacles faced by queer introverts is how many social spaces for LGBTQ folk are designed for extroverts - bright lights, loud music, lots of movement, endless amounts of small talk, often going hours into the night.
The equivalent of marathons for socializing.
I often find myself facing the same dilemma again and again: venture into sensory-intense spaces, in hopes of connection with other queer people OR choose alone time. The former is tricky because I wholeheartedly desire connection, but extroverted-oriented spaces leave me feeling exhausted at just the thought of venturing into them. Whereas a night in is incredibly fulfilling and re-energizing, especially after a full week of work.
Queer extroverts, on the other hand, are itching to get the bars or club, even after work, because they recharge and are energized by being social. I’ve even talked with self-avowed extroverts who aren’t that excited about the social scene, but feel in some way obligated to show up anyway.
Maybe I’m alone in this, but after work, often the last thing I crave as an introvert is more intense social time. Give me a quiet book club, a panel discussion (where I’m taking it all in), or even a quiet conversation with a friend to wind down the day.
What are queer introverts do when we want to find connection, but feel exhausted at the prospect of going to yet another happy hour, drag show or event to see and be seen?
2. Diversity of people, diversity of spaces
First, the people side. By their name alone, it’s easy to guess who will be at gay bars - primarily gay men. I’ll be honest that as a gay (queer) man myself, I haven’t had to think as much about finding spaces where people like me can be found (minus the whole introvert part). Especially in the urban cities I’ve lived (Washington, DC, Chicago, NYC), gay bars are still largely geared toward gay men.
The narrow focus on gay men leaves fewer spaces where lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer women, and queer people of color can feel welcome and comfortable to show up. Although it’s often said that gay bars are open to anyone and everyone, in reality, it often doesn’t play out that way.
What if we intentionally created more spaces where the spectrum of LGBTQ can bring themselves and feel welcome? How might that look?
Second is about our spaces. Our dear, queer spaces. Most of the social “scene” revolves around alcohol, bright lights, and blasting music. Again, the design is built for extroverts, from the ground up. While I’m all for an atmosphere of celebration and revelry, when it’s drenched in alcohol, these spaces can often feel like more of a means of escape, rather than a haven for connection and presence.
As a queer community, we have an opportunity to demand more diversity of spaces and diversity of people within those spaces. What’s beautiful about queer people is that we have the creativity and visionary tendencies to break molds and re-create. Will we take steps to do so?
3. Re-Imagining queer spaces
As a queer introvert, this is the sort of soothing, introvert-friendly space that comes to mind: a quiet cafe, with easy-on-the-senses, transcendent music in the background. Perhaps tea-light candles at each table.
Preferably communal-style tables - round, where we can talk as a group or be able to chat with the person next to us. Alcohol isn’t present, but there are warm or chilled beverages, satisfying and nourishing. People come and go as they please. The pace is slow. Conversation simmers. There’s an ease and welcoming.
How might we re-design spaces, in order to better facilitate meaningful connection? Specifically, spaces where queer introverts can be present, without expending their social capital at such a rapid pace. Think slow burn, versus a jolt to the senses.
I’ve been encouraged by groups popping up across the globe - mostly in London - such as Queers Without Beers, calls for the rise of a Queer Cafe, and more alcohol-free spaces. There are many queer people who are sober or struggle with addiction. Are we standing in solidarity with them, and providing spaces where they can fully show up as themselves? If not, why not? And what can we do about it?
Queer people live courageously each and every day, as we fully show up as ourselves. Let’s do the same and re-imagine our own social spaces in a way that welcomes even a wider spectrum of LGBTQ. Let’s put our minds together and create more conscious spaces that facilitate togetherness and connection.
If need be, introverts, let’s lead the way.