Abigail Ruhman is a freshman journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life, politics and social issues for The Maneater.
This column is part three of Abigail Ruhman’s “Twelve Gays of Christmas” series. Twelve Gays of Christmas is a twelve-column series about a variety of LGBTQ topics. During the holidays, members of the LGBTQ community are more likely to experience depression. By informing readers of the issues facing the LGBTQ community, these columns are meant to support the community this holiday season.
When it comes to issues that involve your identity, advice can be one of the most powerful tools. For many minority groups, this is done at home with family or with other members of that community. Unfortunately, the LGBTQ community loses that opportunity because sexuality is not always shared between family members.
This is why it’s so important to have spaces for queer and gender nonconforming individuals to seek out common ground and advice.
The issue is that the most commonly known space for LGBTQ individuals is a gay bar. Not only does this exclude sober or underage individuals, but it also isn’t always the best space to find guidance.
There are places that are safe spaces for the community, but the problem is that access to them is limited. For example, the MU LGBTQ Resource Center is a great, calm place with education for members of the LGBTQ community. It is also a great place for those who are questioning their sexuality or gender to find resources. In addition, it allows people who have recently come out a place to find a support system.
Unfortunately, the LGBTQ resource center is limited to college students, and some colleges don’t offer a similar set up. And with the number of the gay bars closing in the past 10 years, many are asking what the next LGBTQ hot spot could be.
“Queers Without Beers” is a monthly meet-up in London. The event focuses on social aspects rather than drinking alcohol. The event serves non-alcoholic drinks and baked goods in a coffee shop environment. The event created its own accessibility statement as a way to create a more welcoming environment.
This is a great solution to the main problems with bars: the drinking. But it’s once a month, and, tragically, is in London. There was an aspect that already has a connection to the LGBTQ community. By hosting the event in a coffee shop style environment, they actually were relating back to the history of the community.
As the popularity of coffee shops began to rise, they became a place of intellectual discussion and social progress. This appealed to the queer community during a time before homosexuality was illegal. As culture changed and homosexuality was criminalized, the Turkish government raided the shops in an attempt to find queer individuals.
The ideology was that drunk people were happy and sober people were plotting against the government. The government didn’t want LGBTQ individuals plotting to overthrow the status quo.
That wasn’t the end of coffee shops influencing the LGBTQ community. In fact, the Compton's Cafeteria Riot predates the Stonewall Riots, which was believed to be the start of the LGBTQ rights movement. Transgender women, drag queens and crossdressers viewed Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco as a gathering place for the community.
At the time, crossdressing was illegal. When one of the patrons was dragged away by police, she emptied her steaming hot coffee cup onto the officers head. This lead to a massive ban of transgender women and drag queens in local businesses within the city.
The local LGBTQ community responded with a massive protest across the city. It inspired the community to find a more intense sense of rebellion.
Coffee shops are a great alternative to bars. They don’t exclude underage or sober individuals. They also offer a calm environment for people with anxiety, a tendency to get over-stimulated or just someone who doesn’t like bars.
Moving on from the image of a gay bar is vital to creating an open and accepting environment. Creating a space that is open to all members of the community allows individuals to find guidance and resources in a space that is safe for them.
Starting with coffee shops and then expanding to other types of public spaces allows the community to not only find a place to find other members of the community but also to support LGBTQ business owners. Whether it’s a coffee shop or a LGBTQ centered book store, this community needs a space to explore their history. Every community deserves to have somewhere to learn about themselves, and the LGBTQ community deserves the opportunity to have that as well.