Queer safe spaces that aren’t clubs
Because queer people deserve lowkey and sober spaces, too
Jun 21, 2019
Where are all the queer kids at? Getting drunk at a club, mostly.
Cool factoid courtesy of me, the repository of depressing facts: the LGBTQA+ community faces higher risks of substance abuse. It makes sense—we’ve a lot more to drink about than most people (Oh, you got friendzoned? That’s cute). There’s the trauma of being in the closet, the anxiety over coming out, and the daily indignities and harassment we receive on the down low. The collective chronic stress queer people face is called minority stress, and it explains why we can experience PTSD symptoms akin “to people who have been in combat situations or who have been raped.” (And if you’re a queer woman, that stacks up even more)
That’s why it didn’t surprise me that when I was looking for LGBTQA+ safe spaces, what I found were mostly bars and clubs. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it’s a problem if you’re suffering from substance abuse addiction, uncomfortable with the overt hypersexuality in club settings (queerness isn’t just about sex!), or an underaged gay who just wants to find their people. (And, speaking as someone with multiple LGBTQA+ family members, I’ll never be cool enough to sneak in my underaged queer relatives into a bar.) There are very, very few sober spaces around. (And again, for queer women, there are few spaces around in general. Lesbian bars are disappearing around the world)
So where do you go from here? Well, here’s a list of queer safe spaces you can hang out in without having to drink, ranging from cafés to lowkey bars where the focus is listening to music rather than sipping beer.
1. Open Table MCC
Unit 401, De Oro Building, Sierra Madre Street, Barangay Malamig, Mandaluyong
MCC, which stands for Metropolitan Community Church, is an LGBTQA+ church. And by that, I don’t mean that it’s merely a church that embraces the gays but still others them and reinforces homophobic rhetoric (oops, I dropped my keyboard), this is a church that is fundamentally made up by queer people for queer people. In doing so, the church fosters an incredibly warm and open community that’s deeply involved with social justice (“mga bakla, makisangkot kayo,” the pastor said in his homily when I visited). If you take a visit, expect to see a pastor wearing a rainbow stole, praying over the lives of the marginalized, and referring to the Holy Spirit as a queer she. (The church also officiates same-sex wedding ceremonies!)
2. Fred’s Revolucion
Shop 66 Cubao Expo, General Romulo Ave., Cubao, Quezon City
First United Building, 413 Escolta St., Santa Cruz, Manila
The first time I saw Fred’s, I was on a trike going from Binondo to Recto when I caught a glimpse of the unmistakable pride flag and portraits of Karl Marx, Che Guevarra, and Mao Zedong. It’s the kind of place that sounds almost mythical. While it’s thoroughly a pub, the countercultural hangout place is chill enough that no one’s going to shame you for ordering a plate of wings instead of their craft beers.
3. Commune Café
36 Polaris cor. Durban Sts., Poblacion, Makati
A café, co-working and events space, Commune is a second home to many working queer people. Making it even homier to the LGBTQA+: A single rainbow flag greets every customer by the counter.
4. Conspiracy Garden Café
59 Visayas Avenue, Quezon City
Conspiracy Garden is an Asian fusion restaurant and events space (they regularly hold music gigs, but they also host art exhibits and spoken word performances). Even though it’s an almost-historic place for underground artists, it’s pretty toned-down and unflashy.
5. LoveYourself Centers
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Unit 5, 3F, Anglo Building, 715A Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong
2028 Taft Ave. Ext., Pasay
858 Blumentritt Rd. cor. Remedios St., Sampaloc, Manila
2F Torres Bldg., 2442 Park Ave., Pasay
5F, Pineda Bldg., 98 Manalac Ave., Sitio De Asis, San Martin de Porres, Paranaque
LoveYourself is known for being a group of friendly HIV-testing centers that offers free HIV-related services (which in itself is already admirable), but these sites are more than that. They’re also warm, inviting, and inclusive cafés and co-working places that welcome all genders and sexualities. (By the way, LoveYourself’s Malate branch is the first transgender healthcare clinic in the country! You can get hormone treatments and counseling sessions there)
6. Uno Morato
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120 Maginhawa, Diliman, Quezon City
Uno Morato is an artist space, bookshop, cafe, and bar (sorry). It’s home to many queer events such as Task Force Pride Philippines, as well as a venue for artistic ventures like poetry readings and spoken word sessions. Sure, poetry sessions at a bookstore-cum-café is such a queer woman stereotype, but not all stereotypes have to be bad.
7. Pineapple Lab
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6053 R. Palma St., Makati
Tucked in the busy nightlife area of Poblacion, Pineapple Lab is an inclusive creative hub that’s open to all kinds of artistic endeavors. Right now, it’s the home of “The Lil Gay Shop,” a queer-centric retail space filled with clothes, art, sex toys, and so on created by the local LGBTQA+ community and curated by Jodinand Aguillon. (Read: Pride steps out of night bars and into broad daylight at The Lil Gay Shop in Poblacion)
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