Queer spaces are vital hubs for LGBTQIA+ people, combatting loneliness and deepening connections, so what’s behind the decline in their numbers? Alessandra Vescio takes a closer look
When talking about the experience of queer people, it is very common for the word ‘community’ to come up. LGBTQIA+ people themselves often recognise that they are part of a community, a large group made up of different lives, stories, backgrounds, who share the identity of being queer, and what this means and brings with it.
The long journey of figuring out who we are is something unique to the queer community, and although every life is different, there are some very common patterns for LGBTQIA+ people, such as the importance of ‘coming out’ and living our true selves. All of this can be very isolating, especially at the intersection of identities such as race and disability.
According to a 2022 government report, queer people are more likely to feel lonely than their non-queer peers. In particular, gay or lesbian and bisexual participants were 1.4 and 2.5 times more likely to experience loneliness, respectively. Furthermore, transgender people, and trans women in particular, experience high levels of social loneliness. Also, older LGBTQIA+ people are more likely to live alone and to not see their biological family compared to non-queer people, and LGBTQIA+ pupils are more likely to have fewer friends and a smaller group of friends than non-LGBTQIA+ pupils.
“Isolation and loneliness amongst adolescents are on the rise, and the pandemic has taken its toll on young LGBT+ persons’ mental health,” says Lukasz Konieczka, executive director at Mosaic LGBT+ Young Persons’ Trust. “A young, queer person can attend a school of 2,000 students and feel like they are the only one who is queer at the best of times, but often also face hostility aimed at them directly or at someone else within the school of broader society.”
Nevertheless, being queer doesn’t mean being alone. There are thousands of people out there who share similar experiences, and who long for meaningful and trusting connections. And this is why queer spaces are so absolutely vital.
Over the years, they have played an essential role in raising awareness, fighting for LGBTQIA+ rights, and helping queer people make new connections and find a new family, especially for those who were rejected by their biological ones. A queer space can be a café, a bookshop, a bar, a club, a restaurant, a community centre that organises meetings, workshops, events, and parties – or that simply welcomes queer people who want to have fun with others who understand them.
But, despite their importance, queer spaces are on the verge of disappearing, and although the pandemic has made the situation worse, these venues have been at risk for a long time. For example, 58% of LGBTQIA+ venues in London closed their doors between 2006 and 2017, while in the US there are fewer than 25 lesbian bars compared to the 200 that were open in the 1980s.
There are many reasons behind this decline. For instance, dating apps now play an importan