LGBTQ+ nightlife: a queer person’s experience going to their first gay club

by | Apr 25, 2024 | Health & Wellbeing | 0 comments

Is your child wanting to go to their first gay club? Queer nightlife has a reputation of being quite, well, rowdy… Dark, smoke-filled rooms with blinding strobe lighting and half-naked ravers. This was what I expected when going on my first big ‘gay’ night out, but what I was presented with was quite different.

I’m here to reassure parents that LGBTQ+ clubs and bars can often be safer and tamer than more traditionally cisgender and heterosexual spaces by sharing with you my first experience in a gay club. 

April 2022. I was in my first year at university in Sheffield. I came out as lesbian to my housemates in a moment of drunken sincerity by connecting to the speaker and playing Girls by Girl in Red (if you don’t know, it’s basically a lesbian anthem)

After excitedly giving me hugs and lots of tears, the next thing they said to me was ‘that’s it, we’re going to a gay club’. 

Fear struck. I knew I was gay, but was I gay enough to go to a gay club? The only representation I’d seen of such places was in 80’s films: speakeasy-like, overcrowded rooms filled with people who were probably double my age. 

I reluctantly agreed. The majority of my friends were straight and cisgender. The fact they wanted to do this with me meant a lot. 

The night came. As we pre-drank, the nerves started to melt away (I wonder why). We planned to go to a small gay club in Sheffield. When I’d looked up the club online, I’d seen it was open until 6am. SIX. A.M. 

For reference, most clubs in Sheffield close at around 3:30am. I guess the gays just have more stamina? 

As we walked through the doors of the club at around midnight, it was, well, empty. Not at all what I expected. To add to the arena of the unexpected: a cage. In the middle of the dance floor. 

We danced in a small, shy group in the corner to the most predictable gay anthems ever: Born This Way by Lady GaGa, I Feel Love by Donna Summer… The drinks they gave us had covers to protect from spiking. I felt so safe. 

This safe feeling didn’t disappear as the room started to fill with the city’s queers. People kept to themselves, dancing in their own little groups. It felt like everything any nightclub should be: fun, respectful, and safe.

[LEFT: She Soho lesbian bar in London]

I know drugs are a major concern for parents. But I wasn’t offered any. From what I’ve seen, drugs are not easily accessible, even if someone did want to do them. 

At some point in the night, our group converged with another. Then another. Then another. Until everyone in the club was dancing together. In any other bar, I would’ve felt scared to interact with so many people I didn’t know. But not here. 

It’s because we all had something in common. It’s called a community for a reason. You all know that you may face some of the same adversity in life, and you find comfort in getting a bit tipsy and dancing together.

It was a positive experience and I’ve had many more. I’ve met many of my best friends in gay bars. And my girlfriend. 

What I’m trying to say is that gay bars are not as unsafe and scary as many films and TV shows make them out to be. If your child wants to go (providing they are 18+, of course), just know they will be safe. Ensure they are going with a group of friends they can trust and they know how to drink responsibly. 

Of course, everyone has to exercise caution on nights out, especially female-presenting people. But don’t let the fact that it’s a gay club stop them from going.