When I was set the task of writing an article on why the lesbian scene always seems to be constantly changing, my head filled with all kinds of socio-economic theories. I gathered some friends in the Retro Bar and began comparing G3 listings past and present looking for a pattern to see if any of these theories fitted. We were soon mourning our dead: Vespa, Glass Bar, Miss Shapes. Two pints in and we had decided Soho was rubbish and anything worthwhile had moved to the East End and was full of pretensions. After about an hour of heated debate on why we didn’t go to any of the nights that were still running I took a depressing glance at the notes I’d scrawled: ‘cliques’, ‘avoid’, ‘rebound’, ‘monogamy’, and tellingly, ‘trouble’. One phrase seemed to succinctly answer the riddle of why lesbians don’t go out on the lesbian scene: “because we think it’s s**t”. All the theories I’d come armed with clearly came secondary to the increasingly indisputable fact: that most lesbians don’t like the lesbian scene.
This should have been less of a revelation. I’d been discussing the article and the more commonly held beliefs with every lesbian I saw over the Christmas period. These ranged from the classic – you only go out clubbing for about three weeks till you find someone then you stay in for three years – to the comical – you go to places you know your ex won’t be, if you have a lot of exes you stay in. We confirmed these suspicions in front rooms, local boozers and on stairwells at house parties, with not a pink pound in sight. If the locations for these discussions didn’t give me a hint the expression on people’s faces should have set off alarm bells. Almost without fail every time I broached the topic faces began to contort, lips curled into a snarl and throats gagged like they were coughing up the ghost of pubics past. So why do many lesbians seem to hate their scene and why is “scene” itself a dirty word?
From what I can grasp most of you don’t find the scene representative. You don’t like the music and if you do it’s too loud and on too late. Basically, you’re a fussy lot and the scene simply doesn’t cater for your tastes in the way you want it to. The lesbian scene seems to be something you put up with when you were first coming-out but now you’ve grown, you’re comfortable with your sexuality and expect a better clubbing experience. As my friend Rosie put it “lesbians want to go to good places, not grimy little broom cupboards full of psychos that you have nothing in common with”. I know not when the moment of disillusionment occurs but it doesn’t seem have tainted your memories of past club glory. You gaze back to bygone days when the dance floor was rammed full of were beautiful women who wanted to kiss you. These are the sepia tinted days when at least once a month you’d find a note of sizable denomination under the bar and would proceed to buy everyone shots because drinks were just so cheap back then weren’t they!?
And now I’m going to suggest something really controversial: it’s not that the scene is s**t so you don’t go, instead you feel the scene is s**t because you don’t go. I went to Ruby Tuesdays and was relieved to find Soho wasn’t dead, I just hadn’t been there in a while because I’d assumed it was rubbish. It wasn’t and I had an amazing night. I also went to check out Twat Boutique in Dalston, another night I’d been avoiding because I’d pigeonholed it as “too trendy”. Guess what? I had some lovely conversations with some lovely people and another great night. Both venues were free to get in, the dance floor was rammed and the women were as hot as they used to be, if not hotter. Okay I didn’t find any money on the floor but the shots kept flowing and I remained merrily inebriated till closing with very little spent. For those of you screaming, what about the rest of us, there’s life outside of London. I never remember getting along very well with the scene in Brighton, but I have since met people who were living in Brighton at the same time as me and lament the fact we never found each other. Why did we never meet? Because we didn’t go out to the gay places! If enough of you go out and ask for something different, they’ll have to provide you with what you want. Simple supply and demand economics right?!
Here’s what I’d recommend to reverse this flow of negativity. Take some friends, an open mind and a sense of humour and try somewhere new. Don’t just talk to people you came with – avoid cliques by approaching other groups of women. Don’t dash for the door at the first sign of someone you don’t want to see. Don’t get in a huff if you don’t pull or see anyone you want to pull. You can even bring your girlfriend (being in a relationship does not preclude you from admission to clubs), just don’t have an argument with her and never, ever, kiss someone else’s girl. Do throw some shapes on the dance floor like nobody’s watching and if enough of you do this, at the very least, you will have fun. If all of you did it, presto! The scene that you thought was tired, old & didn’t represent you will stop being so. Let’s turn cries of “it’s not as good as it used to be” and moans of “we’re only here because there’s nowhere to go” into “I tried X and was pleasantly surprised”. Because if all of you came out as much as the boys there could be enough nights to cater for your tastes.
The scene has always been there for you if you’ve needed it. Maybe you’ve made your friends, found that special someone or simply outgrown it but having a scene is important for people who are starting to come out and explore their sexuality. Let’s make sure future generations have a scene as diverse as they are and doesn’t alienate them. Chances are the nights you loved closed because they no longer made enough money to sustain themselves and why IS that? More often then not, it’s because you stopped going! As Beyonce nearly sang if you liked it, then you shoulda shook yo’ thing in it”. If the night you loved is gone, don’t moan about it, instead go out there and experiment. New nights only get a few attempts before the venue decides it’s not busy enough and put on something else, but it takes time for word of mouth to spread. Nights that you could have loved never really took off because you thought you’d get around to going later. Go now! The recession’s only made it worse and some once great venues have already been forced to close (Ghetto, I miss you). And if you’re lucky enough to have a favourite night, then do it a favour – go regularly and not just when you break up with someone! If you want a diverse clubbing experience that reflects your identity, and a scene that you get more out of than just a good moan about it now and then, you’re gonna have to vote with your feet.