November 30, 2015, by Emily Howard

Are we losing our queer spaces?

Starting university in many ways marks the crossing of a threshold: the independence and change of scenery encourages individuals to come out of their shell – and many also choose this time to come out of the closet. For many students, university offers the first opportunity to explore the LGBT+ scene: not only the clubs, bars, and social life but also safe spaces where LGBT+ individuals can access support and resources.

When I first moved to Nottingham, I was so excited! The prospect of actual gay clubs – non-existent in my small and conservative home town – was a revelation, and the dynamic LGBT Network was friendly, accessible and helpful in providing an introduction with the “scene crawl”. At that time, there were two popular gay clubs (as well as a handful of smaller bars and pubs): Propaganda and NG1. The Friday night Props-to-NG1 ritual became habitual, and the night life for LGBT+ students felt vibrant, buzzing, and welcoming.

In the summer of 2015, NG1 decided to drop its “gay” tag. As dawn broke after another Friday night, so did the previous enchantment with Nottingham’s gay scene. Now in my third year, LGBT+ nights out are limited to just the one club, and rumours are circulating that even Propaganda will drop its gay association in the future. Of course, there are lots of other bars and clubs in Nottingham that are fun for many students who happen to identify as LGBT+ too; but the importance of “gay” clubs as safe spaces for LGBT+ students remains.

A safe space where LGBT+ people can socialise is crucial. A place where individuals feel no anxiety about prejudice, homophobia and transphobia, “outing” and acceptance – or even just a place to dance without being hit on by people who you’re quite frankly never going to be interested in. On the bright side, the LGBT Network¬† is marvellous in running nights out (as well as daytime events, trips, cafes, workshops and discussion groups) which provide safe spaces for students, and the city is home to many LGBT-friendly venues. Who knows, perhaps another gay club will pop up; but for now, the forecast for Nottingham’s gay nightlife is bleak.

I wonder what the next generation of first years will feel when they experience Nottingham’s “gay” scene for the first time… excitement and awe? Or just an underwhelming, disappointing anti-climax?

(Information about UoN’s student LGBT Network can be found on the SU site and on their Facebook page)

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