On Monday, this queer turned 21 – a number that represents a milestone of sorts in American culture. However, these magical digits mean more than happily forcing my server to really take time to inspect my ID with a cheesy grin after I ordered empanadas and white Sangria.Twenty-one means access and rights to spaces previously unseen.
Of course, I love the prospects that come with finally being able to enjoy the deep discounts of brunch specials across two cities (a list of queer-friendly favorites to be posted soon!), reveling in the fantasy of nighttime bowling without a “25 year old guardian”, and succumbing to the allure of crowded dance floors filled with queers until the early morning hours. No more will I be the 19 year old trying to explain my way out of bar outings with potential love interests. Yep, I can even click ‘MAYBE’ to all of my Facebook invites now without having to warily scroll through the ‘READ MORE’ notice to find out age restrictions. Life has become that simple. Unfortunately, this exciting realization was slightly crushed when one of my close friends lamented about the inaccessibility of the events I had planned for my birthday weekend.
Many facets of Queer culture, whether it is in the form of arts and theater, food, or social outings, remains elusive for the younger folks in our diverse population. Some of the non-restrictive events are slanted by gender lines and related door policies - like the clubs requiring 2:1 "guy/girl" quotas on 18+ night or other nonsense I have run into over the years. Connection to predominantly female queer spaces, those created for female-identifying or female-bodied people, is even harder to find for those under 21. Although I have personally realized this occurrence within New York City and Philadelphia-based spaces, this age restriction affects LGBTQ youth in other places, especially in areas without mass-operating public transportation.
So, let's pose a question:
Why don’t we show more love to our young queers?
Sure, it’s probably a decent idea to keep young folks out of bars and nightclubs. However, by choosing establishments that with age and ID restrictions, we turn more folks away who may want to attend other cultural meccas like poetry slams, art exhibits, theater and performances, live music and more! By doing this, we are facilitating the already constant sense of isolation and alienation young people may feel growing up queer. Moreover, young people may be more likely to acknowledge their own identities through internet forums (if they have access), their peers and mainstream interpretations. Even though twenty-something and older generations rightly deserve their own spaces, giving back to those lacking in numbers will build a stronger community.
Perhaps, we can think about the spaces we create and strive to choose less restrictive locales when possible. If that’s impossible logistically, some of us who aged out of the no-entrance twilight zone may be able to organize more accessible events to provide social support to our younger counterparts. Not only are we paving the way for more queer-friendly places for LGBTQ youth, we are also becoming the awesome bois, girls and queers young folks yearn to get in touch with. I, for one, know how important relationships with older, wiser and knowledgeable queers can be.
In being acutely aware of this paradigm, I decided to compile a short list of age-friendly spaces perfect for all queers to get down with their bad-selves!
BlueStockings Bookstore and Café
Bluestockings is a well-known bookstore for radicals and queers alike. Not only can you grab a cheap book and a cup of joe, you’ll be able to attend book readings, poetry events and other super cool events.