Out of the Bars and Into the … Cafés?

You’ve probably heard of the idea of a queer “scene,” perhaps most often from people who don’t care for it. But what, exactly, is this scene? Who’s a part of it? Who isn’t? Who decides? Is there more than one? What happens when a scene evolves—or when it doesn’t? These are the questions we’ve gathered a group of writers to consider for an Outward special issue on “the Scene” in LGBTQ life today. You can read all of the stories in the issue here, and you can listen to a full episode of the Outward podcast covering more of the queer scene by subscribing on iTunesSpotify, or wherever you get your audio.

If you’ve spent any time on “Gay Twitter,” the subset of the platform populated by queer tweeters who love drama and are terminally unable to log off, you’re probably familiar with what’s commonly referred to as the “café discourse.” Essentially, it consists of a call for more LGBTQ spaces outside of bars and nightclubs, which typically translates to queer libraries, frozen yogurt shops, and, naturally, cafés. These places, the argument goes, are inherently more “inclusive” and “accessible” than their nocturnal alternatives. In a 2018 piece for the Daily Beast titled “The Gay Bar Is Dying. Long Live the Queer Cafe,” Samantha Allen put it this way: “The simple truth is that spaces focused on sex and alcohol—as important as they have been and continue to be for queer survival—are always going to be somewhat exclusionary.”

While this argument has enjoyed a recent vogue, it’s been around for years. Its internet form seems to have gestated in the pages of Tumblr, but the anti-partying, “I’m a different kind of queer” sentiment goes back for as long as contemporary queer communities have existed. Wherever you encounter it, the café discourse presents itself in a tone of righteousness, the goal being to save the (queer) minors, the disabled, the older folks, etc. from the soul-deadening, alcohol-soaked, hypersexual thumpa-thumpa orgies that are gay bars and clubs—allegedly. Read more via Slate