The commodification of various queer events have understandably lead many to try to protect queer spaces with an increased fervour.
For those who identify as LGBTQ+, these spaces serve an integral purpose within the queer community. They supply a safe environment for those who wish to express their identity and are affirming to those who are rarely surrounded by those similar to them.
But they are arguably most vital for those who are taking the first tentative steps towards accepting who they are. It is for this reason that the presence of allies within spaces like Plush should be debated with a certain degree of care. It’s easy for those who have already established a network of friends who identify as LGBTQ+ at university to argue that these spaces should be exclusively queer. But to do so appears potentially selfish – it is to deny those questioning their identity the chance to explore it in the presence of a safe group of friends.
It is to suggest that those well-meaning allies are not valued – when in fact the opposite is true. Of course, there is a distinction to be made where large groups of straight people overrun places like Plush and we should all be troubled when such spaces are almost fetishised by the straight community. Venues like Plush and events like Queerfest are not to be used as a break from the monotony of Bridge and Cellar. These spaces, and the people who occupy them are not an exciting ‘other’ and should not be used or viewed as such.
But there is a deeper problem which underlies complaints of straight, cis-gendered people occupying queer spaces. It is mistaken to presume that we can immediately ascertain someone’s gender or sexuality by merely looking at them. We may assume we see a straight person or couple in a queer space, but to assume such is problematic. Biphobia is an issue which the LGBTQ+ community is yet to adequately combat. Bisexual people are the largest group within the queer community, and yet they are consistently overlooked and undermined by the movement.
So long as straight people remain exceptions to the rule, their presence shouldn’t be deemed inherently problematic. Allies are an integral part of the LGBTQ+ movement, and to reject them from queer spaces is, occasionally, to deny someone of valued support.
Hopefully most will appreciate that they may don the glitter and bask in the glory of Haute Mess or Queerfest, but in the firm knowledge that in this space they are a guest, not a host.