Queer Community Needs More Sober Spaces

By Kelly Burch 08/01/19

Some people who are LGBTQ+ and in recovery don’t know where they can engage with their community without facing the temptation to drink or use drugs.

Queer community celebrating Pride
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This week, Elton John celebrated 29 years of sobriety. While the celebrated gay icon has been able to confidently navigate both his sexuality and sobriety, others say that there is a need for more spaces for LGBTQ+ people to gather together without drugs or alcohol. 

“While the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement started in The Stonewall Inn bar, there’s an increasing push for ‘sober spaces’ in our community, and not just as a way to fight alcoholism,” Daniel Villarreal writes for LGBTQ Nation.

Traditionally, LGBTQ+ social spaces have revolved around gay bars. However, Villarreal points out that having more sober spaces would help not just people who are in recovery, but also LGBTQ+ youth who are not old enough to be admitted to bars. 

Community Building

“By law, bars can only welcome people 21 or older, leaving LGBTQ+ youth with few venues to find acceptance and older mentorship,” Villarreal writes. “As more gay bars continue to close, there’s a need for other venues where we commit to different sorts of community building, like watching films, discussing politics and creating art. These venues could also do better than gay bars have about being more emotionally accessibility [sic] to queer people of color, trans, non-binary, poor and older people as well as people with disabilities.”

Like Elton John, more LGBTQ+ people are speaking out about their sobriety. The site LGBTQTeetotaler highlights stories of community members who are sober. Other treatment centers are popping up, focusing exclusively on people in the LGBTQ+ community. 

But even after they get sober, some people who are LGBTQ+ and in recovery don’t know where they can engage with their community without facing the temptation to drink or use drugs

Facing Temptation

“I have a pretty wide gamut of gay and lesbian and transgender friends; not one of them is sober,” a woman named Leanne told Think Progress last year. “I don’t even know what that looks like for me, especially in a city.” 

She continued, “It’s very common that there’s going to be places exclusively like bars, and events—even brunches and things like that—where alcohol is just common. People don’t even think twice! Everybody brings something. It’s not a big deal. There’s not a lot of thought put into it, so they don’t think about what it might be like to have someone sober in the crowd and being tempted.”

Villarreal writes that coffee shops and other sober settings can help combat these feelings of isolation. 

“While none of these efforts will resolve our community’s alcoholism on their own, together they can provide social outlets and support for people who share Elton John’s quest for sobriety,” he writes. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.