In the wake of the recent shootings at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, many LGBTQ people all over the world are feeling the weight of the tragedy. But though the world may feel like a scary place for queer and trans people right now, there's still hope — safe spaces for LGBTQ people exist, even when the rest of the world feels unsafe. They're places to gather together, to support each other, and just simply to be without worrying about the threat of discrimination or of violence. And they are so, so important.
It was the day of the Pride festival in Boston when I found out about the Orlando shootings. Despite all the rainbow flags and glitter, a sense of sorrow and grief hung in the air; indeed, the festival came to serve an additional purpose to the one it always does: It brought hundreds of people in the community together to commemorate the victims and to mourn. But something else undeniably hung in the air as well, no matter where you were, whether it was the parade, the festival, a bar crawl in the evening, or a block party in a queer neighborhood: Fear. Many people, especially queer and trans people of color, felt that the tragedy hit particularly close to home. I heard many people at the festival expressing concern that a copycat shooter would come forth — a concern that was compounded by the fact that a man was arrested carrying weapons to a Pride event in Los Angeles the same day that news of Orlando broke. Although there is no evidence that the LA incident was connected to Orlando, or that it was part of an LA Pride threat, the coincidence was — and is — hard to ignore.
But there was a message of positivity I also heard, one that echoed my own thoughts: We will not let anyone take away our safe spaces. Because although it sometimes feels like the entire world is unsafe for LGBTQ people, there are places in each community that will provide safe havens. Let's take a look at seven of these safe spaces for LGBTQ people that can be found in most communities around the United States.
1. Bars And Clubs
Gay bars and clubs have been safe spaces for the LGBTQ community in the United States ever since the Prohibition era, providing places for queer and trans people to mingle, make friends, and have a good time. In the wake of the Pulse Orlando massacre, it's understandable that many might be afraid to go into their community's historically safe gay bars and clubs; however, many gay bars and clubs are increasing security and taking other measures to further protect their community. The goal is to ensure that this kind of tragedy will not happen in a safe space again.
2. The Library
To me, there are few better places in the world than those in which I can curl up with a good book to quench my thirst for knowledge. Not only are libraries great places to escape, but moreover, they're also usually full of resources for queer and trans people and allies looking for articles, theory, and literature pertaining to being LGBTQ. If you're worried about reading these books in front of other patrons, many libraries — particularly those connected to universities — have private study rooms you can book to read in comfort, privacy, and safety.
3. A Local Café
Cafés are great places to read, do work, and unwind with a favorite beverage and maybe some cute barista eye candy. They can also play host to meetups, letting you chat about books, social justive, movies, or sexuality with likeminded people. Some cafés might even have a "safe space sticker" — a sticker or sign that specifically designates a location as an LGBTQ safe space. Clientele who frequent these locations will typically honor their designation as safe spaces, and employees will be committed to maintaining that environment.
4. School Offices
If you're feeling unsafe at school, hang out in the office of faculty or staff members with whom you feel most comfortable. Ask them to chat, work on an assignment, or even have lunch together. In my experience, faculty and staff members can offer some helpful perspectives on feeling and staying safe on campus, whether you're still in grade school or whether you've made it to higher education.
5. A Friend's Or Loved One's House
If you're dating someone who doesn't live in the same house or apartment as you, getting away to their humble abode may be the best way to feel safe and loved. Not dating anyone right now? Go over to your friend's or a favorite relative's house. The difference between a house and a public space like a café or library is that you and the people close to you get to control who's in it, making unsafe situations less likely.
6. Drag Shows
Though not all drag queens and kings are queer or trans individuals, drag shows are often places where members of the LGBTQ community can come together and revel at incredibly talented performers in a bar, club, or concert venue. If venues in a city near you don't host drag nights frequently, try burlesque shows. They usually attract a similarly open-minded audience and are a good place to feel safe and have fun.
7. LGBTQ Community Center
Most major cities have LGBTQ community centers that function as hangout spots, counseling centers, HIV testing clinics, art spaces, and general safe spaces for LGBTQ youth and young adults. I didn't know my community had a space like this until I was in my early 20s — a couple of years after I came out — so if something like this doesn't sound familiar to you, Google it. You might be surprised to find that there are a couple LGBTQ centers near you!
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