“I want to take you to a gay bar,” Electric Six infamously announced in their 2003 hit, and, if you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community – or have been somewhat on the curious side at least – you have most likely dreamed of getting up on a podium at a gay bar and celebrating your sexuality. Fortunately if this sounds familiar, then have no fear, because Leeds has a gleaming gay scene right in the middle of the city centre.
The Leeds gay scene is varied and important. The New Penny has been awarded a heritage award for its contributions to the LGBTQ+ community. Said to be the longest running gay bar in the country, the prolific venue goes to show that Leeds knows how to do it right. On the other end of the gay bar spectrum, Fibre has been described on Trip Adviser as ‘the most pretentious gay bar in the UK’. As someone who embodies the definition of ‘pretentious English Lit student’, you can find me on the dance floor of Fibre letting my full pretentiousness out of the closet.
Viaduct is perhaps one of the most loved gay bars in the city wand has welcomed several of the UK’s biggest drag artists over the years. It is bold, bright and it is very, very queer. Exiting through the Viaduct smoking area you will find yourself at Mission 2, which opens its doors to the LGBTQ+ community on Monday and Saturday nights with events such as ‘Werk’ and ‘Cloud 9’. Mission’s transformation into a gay club includes various podiums for you to get your freak on and is a not necessarily common knowledge among students. However, these gay club nights provide LGBTQ+ individuals with a club environment, rather than the more bar-to-club atmosphere at many of Leeds’ other gay bars.
However, no community is without its downfalls. Gay bars have the tendency to cater most efficiently for gay men. This is what made the Union’s decision to introduce the new female LGBTQ+ club night ‘Scissors’ so important. The Union has provided a space for gay and bisexual women to express their identity.
Throughout the rise of the LGBTQ+ movement, it has always been gay bars that have been at the forefront of gay and trans liberation. It was at the Stonewall gay bar in America in which the infamous Stonewall Riots – the ‘Rosa Parks moment’ of LGBTQ+ liberation – took place, and thus beginning the visibility of the LGBTQ+ movement. When the Pulse nightclub was attacked last June, part of its significance lay in the fact that the target was a gay nightclub. In a minority history that has been so dependent on nightlife, the attacking of such a place symbolised an attack on not only the current LGBTQ+ community, but an attack on its history and the sheer significance of these safe spaces. The attack reminded us that even these so commonly thought of ‘safe spaces’ can still subjected to the external gaze of homophobia. Just because LGBTQ rights have professed profusely since the 1960s, it doesn’t mean the battle for equality is over.
Whether you’ve spent your whole life in the closet and want to let loose or just want to express your sexuality, then Leeds’ gay scene is welcoming environment. Going to a gay bar for the first time can be a truly exciting experience. However, the opportunity to be in a place in which you know that your identity is being celebrated, is one that every LGBTQ+ person should experience.