On college campuses within clubs or communities geared towards marginalized folks, you shouldn’t be surprised to come across an event or group with the attached label: “Closed Space.” What this means is that the particular space you are soliciting is exclusive, or “closed” to only those who identify within the space’s parameters: for example, a Black Student Union event being a closed space only for Black folks, or a Queer party closed to only members of the LGBTQ community. What many people misinterpret as “reverse discrimination” is actually an attempt at legitimately securing a place of sanctuary. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, and all the other “isms” are deeply ingrained into the majority of where folks occupy space daily: the office, the bathroom, the grocery store, on TV, etc. Closed spaces allow for marginalized and disenfranchised communities to find each other, create a space where they are represented and understood, and where the daily “isms” of the outside won’t touch them.
Pride festivals operate along the same logic. Why do we have Pride? Yes, it is to commemorate and make visible the fight for the LGBTQ civil rights movement, but it is also a chance for the community to gather and hold space for our Queerness itself without the “isms” suffocating us. If you’re an ally, remember this when you decide to join the party or visit a gay club on the weekends. Remember that essentially this whole world is catered to you, whereas our community holes up in a handful of clubs and once-a-month parties. We barely have space, so be mindful when you decide to take up ours.
But allies aren’t the only threat to sanctuary during Pride. Within the Queer community itself, the “isms” still manage to create hierarchies and breed unsafety — which is why the existence of separate events that are even further specific than just “LGBT” are organized and held during Pride festivals and throughout rest of the year. These are mainly catered towards queer women, trans and non-binary folks, and women of color/people of color (POC). Because LGBTQ spaces are dominated by gay men and by white, cisgender folks in general, these three marginalized groups within the queer community are forced to create their own spaces not only to be visible to the rest of the community and the world as a valid group of people with their own strength and number, but also to ensure that there is indeed a space for them at all to exist and seek sanctuary and pride.
These events are very city-specific, and vary in difficulty to find. In larger cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, some of the more well-known events are the Trans March and the Dyke March. In San Francisco, the motorcycle group Dykes on Bikes has been a part of the the parade for more than 40 years. And in LA, certain nights are dedicated specifically to women and trans folks to allow for safer places for them to party, like the aptly named “Women’s Party” and “Trans Party” this year. Additionally, Black Gay Pride marches are events are scattered all over the nation. Last year, Chicago had a whole weekend devoted to Black Gay Pride, but the largest celebrations are in Washington, D.C., LA, and Atlanta.
Unlike LA, some Pride programming isn’t often officially allotted for marginalized groups. To find the niche spots, you’ll have to research your local groups, queer dance party organizations, and queer party promoters. Privately organized queer dance parties are the most regularly scheduled and dependable spaces for marginalized queers. Dance parties that aren’t held in main gay clubs are usually monthly. Even in San Francisco, one of the gayest cities in the world, there are only one or two specifically lesbian clubs. This is why most of the private dance parties are once-a-month nights for women or women of color. Even though trans and non-binary folks rarely have their own spaces, they are usually always welcomed at closed spaces for queer women.
Monthly dance parties in the Bay Area like Ships In the Night, Darling Nikki, and Mango, a day party specific to queer people of color (QPOC), are havens for queer women left out and pushed out by the mainstream gay scene. This year, multiple queer dance party organizations are partnering to put on a private party during SF Pride called Sissy Darlings In the Night. Similarly, Miami’s South Beach has its own party tradition for Black women called SweetHeat Miami. SweetHeat Miami was created in 2008 specifically counter the white, techno/house gay culture, and centralize Black queer women and hip hop/Latin music.
These versions of closed spaces outside of college campuses are the only things we have to ensure our safety as queers occupying intersectional marginalized identities. It helps foster safe spaces that bring together sensitivity, understanding, and awareness to those in attendance. This is important because even within our own closed spaces for queer folks, there can be transphobic, racist, and misogynistic threats. It is well known that in dominantly gay male spaces, gay men often grope and assault women as a “compliment.” They view their assault as the exception: “It doesn’t count because I’m gay.” Additionally, much of the white gay and lesbian population say transphobic comments, still don’t recognize non-binary folks, and are not culturally sensitive, which reproduces toxic environments for those who need safe spaces the most. Muslim LGBTQ, QPOC, and undocumented LGBTQ folks find it infinitely more difficult to find a space that respects both their queerness and their other identities. With that in mind, specific parties within the community are essential in supporting marginalized LGBTQ folks. Organizing separate events, official or additional programming, and parties assists us in our inter-community struggles to remain seen, validated, and centralize our own voices and existence.
TERRAN PIEROLA (pronouns they/them) is genderfluid, mixed race, queer boi. As a writer, editor, and a passionate activist for intersectional womxn of color feminism, Terran intends to help change the world through community building and institutionalizing inclusivity. Their interests and experience focus on creating supportive and educational resources for gender non-conforming, trans, and queer folks; queer fashion & film; and advocating for critical pedagogy in mainstream spaces. They graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in English, and currently live in Los Angeles.