A guide to finding your LGBTQ+ community

·6 min read

I came out as queer about a year and a half ago, at the age of 18. For the most part, I just started dropping allusions to it in conversations and allowed the people around me to work it out for themselves. Initially, I struggled with finding queer spaces that felt truly accessible to me, largely due to feeling hyperconscious of my skin. This was although they had come highly recommended to me by friends (who were often white themselves). It was only once I got to university that I found a community of queer people of colour. Being able to laugh and make plans with my friends for celebrations like Eid and Ramadan, treating them as my found family, is what makes me feel at home.

Coming out can be a difficult experience. While it can be freeing and is often upheld as ‘The Queer Milestone’, it’s perfectly fine to not come out if you don’t feel safe or ready to unveil your identity. Mainstream narratives often focus on coming out as a one-off event, followed by life continuing as normal and searching for a partner. In reality, it’s a process, and this is a truth that I wish would come through more often. We learn more about ourselves everyday, and that’s healthy. Although having the freedom to find a partner who fulfils you is important, coming out is about more than that. It’s also about forming lifelong memories and relationships with friends who have your back. It's about forming a network of support for one another.

Photo credit: Zave Smith
Photo credit: Zave Smith

Jason Park is a psychotherapist working in youth, LGBTQ+, sex and relationship therapies. “We’re led to create community spaces which form a safe basis for us to engage with our lives, should we be attacked,” he says. “How are you meant to find a positive affirmation for yourself when you don’t have that around you?” Unfortunately, this Stonewall study points out that LGB people are twice less likely to see biological family than their heterosexual peers, making found family and community even more important.

LGBT community: How to find your queer community

The LGBTQ+ community is often spoken about like it's some kind of mysterious monolith, but there’s no one way of getting involved. The examples listed below aim to provide you with a starting point for your journey, but the beauty of coming out is how unique it is to you.

Note, when looking at these spaces and resources, it’s okay to feel that they aren’t for you. Recommendations aren’t the be all and end all. When it comes to finding your LGBTQ+ community, you need to centre yourself and choose the options which make you feel safe and the most authentic version of yourself.

Photo credit: Paula Daniëlse
Photo credit: Paula Daniëlse

Charities

For some, coming out is a time of acceptance. For others, it might lead to displacement. The work that charities do in supporting and creating LGBTQ+ community is vital.

While there are some great charities for the wider LGBTQ+ community, such as Stonewall, it’s also useful to find charities which cater specifically to your needs. For example, MindOut is an LGBTQ+ mental health charity. Coming out is hard, and you need to take care of yourself throughout the experience.

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There are also charities which cater to specific parts of the community. For example, Hidayah is an LGBTQ+ charity which caters to the Muslim community, and Keshet is one for Jewish LGBTQ+ groups. These organisations often run meetups and events in safe spaces, making them an ideal place to start finding your feet.

Clubs, bars and parades

Strobe lighting, sticky floors and rainbow flags: queer nightclubs are a great place for LGBTQ+ joy. As a newbie, it’s normal to feel intimidated, but there’s also something magical about the queer joy in these spaces once you’re more comfortable. They’re largely welcoming spaces, and you’re likely to end up being absorbed into a group of friends on a night out. Sometimes, you may find that they lean towards the cliquey side, but it’s all about finding the spaces that work for you.

In the UK, some names have become synonymous with queer nightlife. London’s G-A-Y and Pussy Palace, Bristol’s Eat Sleep Drag Repeat, Liverpool’s GBar and Birmingham’s Glitter Shit are all great places to start. Some of these spaces, however, such as G-A-Y, are fun byt do cater mainly to cis white gay men.

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There are also clubs which cater specifically to subsections of the LGBTQ+ community. For example, Club Kali started off in London, but has grown to nurture the biggest Asian LGBTQ+ community in the world. Similarly, the Cocoa Butter Club is a cabaret group for black and brown performers who seek to change the face of their industry.

Unfortunately, these clubs tend to be limited to cities. However, many have been running online events, which is still a great chance to get stuck in. They tend to announce such events on an ad hoc basis, so following their socials and checking their sites regularly is a good idea.

Media

The lack of representation of LGBTQ+ identities within the media isn’t a new development. Unfortunately, there remains a lot of work that needs to be done. Still, finding media which mirrors you and your experiences in some small way can be a great route to feeling less lonely. Queer Talk, a great podcast hosted by friends Spencer and Mufseen, explores various facets of queer identities through positive news stories and interviews. ‘Gender Stories’ explores how gender affects different aspects of our lives.

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The Gay Times, Attitude and Pink News offer great journalism for the LGBTQ+ community. Shows like Pose and RuPaul’s Drag Race are also hugely popular, with vast fanbases to join. You can join fanbases by using the shows’ hashtags on social media like Instagram or Twitter, looking at replies to the people featured, or using purpose-made sites like Archive of our Own (often stylised Ao3).

Online historical resources

The LGBTQ+ community has a long, rich history. Unfortunately, it’s not one that’s taught as widely as it should be. When trying to find where you fit within the wider community, it can help to look back and root yourself in time as part of a proud culture.

Particularly for people of colour, who face compounded erasure of our identities and history, archives can help you feel less alone. Jason Okundaye and Marc Thompson joined forces to create the archive ‘Black and Gay Back in the Day’. Shon Faye’s podcast, ‘Call Me Mother’, features chats with queer elders, discussing what it means to be LGBTQ+ in the world today. Looking through these archives and seeing yourself mirrored in history can help you feel less adrift. Nurturing an interest in queer history can also put you in contact with LGBTQ+ elders, a great way of knowing that you’re on the right path and things will all turn out okay.

Follow Mishti on Twitter.

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