Gay village, LGBTQ+

Is Manchester a safe place for members of the LGBTQ+ community?

  • NQ reporter Fionntan Evans reports on life for members of the LGBTQ+ community in Manchester
  • Examines nightlife, club culture and gender conformity, and asks how safe people are in the gay village
  • Asks members of the community for their experiences

Gender non-conformance is a huge topic in British media today. With heated gender debates on Good Morning Britain and a lack of understanding with gender identities, it’s easy for the British public to distance itself from the experience of trans and queer communities.

There are many groups in Manchester set up to offer a sense of community and support for the trans community and gender non-conformity. Manchester Concord offers advice and support for people who fall under the trans bracket and its website offers a guide to gender identity, safety advice, safe changing spaces and places of refuge.

Teaching others about gender identities may be confusing to some, it may even seem confusing to the cis members of the community.

Gay village, LGBTQ+
NQ reporter Fiontann Evans

I asked George Hood, a past worker for Kiki Nightclub on Canal Street about his thoughts.

“Sometimes I feel that some parts of gay village aren’t inclusive to other members of the LGBTQ+ community such as trans and black queers. It was something I picked up on when working there because of the stares and comments directed at these people just trying to enjoy their night like everyone else.

“I think there is still a long way to go before everyone can be accepting and knowledgeable of the trans and queer communities.”

Morgan McGoldrick is a drag queen who identifies as non-binary. He spoke to NQ about his experience and thoughts on the British gender conflict.

Q: Do you think there is a limited understanding of gender-non-conformance in the public conscience? Why would you say this is?

Morgan: I don’t think there is much of an understanding of gender-non-conformance here in Britain. From personal experience, I have had family and friends ask me to explain my gender identity and ask ‘what even is non-binary?’

“When I first came out as non-binary, even my boyfriend who I live with was confused and questioned our relationship – simply because he wasn’t educated about what it meant. He didn’t want me to ‘become a girl’.

“I had to explain to him that I was not going to ‘become’ a girl, but I neither feel male or female and I float between the two.”

Q: Do you feel accepted by the wider LGBTQIA+ community in Manchester? Have you had any experiences where you haven’t been accepted by the community because of your gender identity?

Morgan: On the most part, I do feel accepted by the LGBTQIA+ community. I have had tremendous support from members of our community. However, there have been some instances where my gender identity has been joked about and questioned, this infuriates me.

“In one instance, a cis gay man who wears makeup said that he ‘doesn’t see a problem with making fun of non-binary people’ because he too wears makeup. Androgyny and non-binary are completely different and this misunderstanding can be incredibly hurtful.”

Q: How do you think people can educate themselves on gender identities, to give themselves a true understanding of the very real experiences you and others go through?

“Firstly, I’d ask people to start asking questions. By this, I mean asking people in your community about their gender identities. You will get an answer. I do think that people don’t care enough to educate themselves with gender politics.

“This is a shame. If you don’t feel comfortable asking people, Google is your best friend.

Heavy drug use is practically synonymous with gay nightlife. The question I want to ask is:  Why are drugs so ingrained in gay culture?

Gay culture established itself in popular conscience thanks to the vibrant, queer-fronted nightclub scenes like Studio 54 and the underground glamour of the Club Kids.

These scenes drew crowds of all persuasions, being symbols of openness and optimistic hedonism of their time. Both scenes had a ‘more-is-more’ atmosphere which used heavy drug use and extensive hours to ensure the party never stopped.

Gay village, LGBTQ+
“Manchester, Jul-2017” by maltman23 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Unfortunately, the party never stopped for some on the scenes, with many overdosing or suffering serious addition problems.

This vision of hedonism haunts gay pop culture. References to poppers, cocaine and other provocative themes are highly prevalent in music and TV.

The indoctrination of this ‘party’ image deeply affects young gay people who quickly fall into a dangerous cycle of drug use that most often ends in addiction.

There are many reasons why many LGBT+ people abuse drugs. Many use heavy partying to escape the abuse and anxiety queer life entails. Dealing with everyday discrimination, hatred and poor life quality, alcohol and drugs may seem like an easy way to numb yourself to the harsh reality for a while.

NQ took to Instagram to find out how others feel about the gay community’s relationship with drugs. 90% of people agreed that heavy drug and alcohol use is a massive issue in our community.

Cathal Irwin, 20: “Being gay is tough for some people and coming out isn’t always easy or possible, and they turn to drink and drugs as a coping mechanism. But also, I think that due to gay culture originating as an underground culture it started with the indulgence of drink and drugs and this gets passed on from person to person.

 “In gay culture, gays are portrayed as drug abusers because of poppers etc. That being said, almost every young person does drugs, especially in bigger cities. It’s things in gay club culture like dark rooms. Can you imagine a dark room in a straight club?”

Curtis Stannard, 22: “There are many great services dedicated to protecting the wellbeing of those in our local community who suffer from drug abuse. If you, or someone you know needs help fighting addiction or mental health, please contact the LGBT Foundation or The Trevor Project.

Considering the many public sexual abuse scandals facing the LGBTQIA community, may people fear for  their safety on the streets. This feeling of fear is even felt in Manchester’s gay village where many residents, visitors and staff find themselves more alert than ever.

The village is meant to exists as a safe space for members of the community to gather and express themselves without fear of discrimination or abuse. However, despite this promise and branding, many experience abuse and discrimination.

Following the Sinaga scandal, people visiting the village are much more wary about the dangers lurking in the shadows after Manchester came to the brutal understanding that sexual abuse, date rape and manipulation exists on its own doorstep.

The village has been reported as the worst area of Manchester city centre for violence and sexual offences, with Bloom Street ranked as the 15th “most crime-ridden spot in England and Wales.”

In an online poll shared to Instagram, 52% of people said they had experienced sexual abuse or predatory behaviour on Canal Street.

Gay village, LGBTQ+
“Manchester, Jul-2017” by maltman23 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

NQ took to Instagram to find out how sexual abuse has affected members of the LGBTQIA community.

George Hodd, 20, former bartender at Kiki Nightclub:  “I worked in Kiki for a while at the beginning of university and the harassment encountered was shocking. Funnily enough, the gay village was one of the few places that I just felt like a piece of meat if I’m honest.

 “I’d say you can speak to everyone member of the community and each one will have been harassed in some way, from name calling to groping to worse! Especially on nights out.

Ben, 25, drag artist: “As a drag artist, I have had a lot of people harass me, grope me at bank machines, scream shit at me and even spit on me! I think we all face that in the community – especially women, drag artists, and the trans community in Manchester.”

There are many groups dedicated to protecting our community from the dangers posed with sexual abuse and violence.

Such groups like the LGBT Foundation and Greater Manchester Police provide great services to ensure street safety when the sun goes down, but is this enough?

In an Instagram poll conducted by NQ, 85% of people believed not enough action is taken to safeguard the LGBTQIA+ community from potential harm.

Edith Collins, 20: “I think there should be safe spaces in cities where LGBTQ+ can refuge if they have been attacked rather than having to go to police stations. Maybe government funded, maybe run by organisations, but I just feel there’s not enough physical spaces of refuge for gay people.”