‘Hopeless Isolation & Outright Queer Euphoria’, The Contradiction Of Being Gay In Manchester
One Perspective on Being Queer in Manchester
Ethan Foxon gives us a frank insight into his experience of the LGBTQ+ scene in Manchester & guess what, it’s more than just Canal Street.
‘I recall feelings of hopeless isolation, of disgust at those around me, but also of unshakeable belonging and outright queer euphoria.’
For me, the question of what it’s like to identify as queer in Manchester conjures a number of conflicting thoughts. As I look back over the past four years as a student in this city, I recall feelings of hopeless isolation, of disgust at those around me, but also of unshakeable belonging and outright queer euphoria. And that is before I even begin to take into account what I know about the experiences of those I’ve come to know here.
I grew up in a small city whose “scene” consisted of one, low-rent gay bar occupying the ground floor of a Georgian townhouse. I don’t think I really even knew an openly-queer person before I myself came out at the age of eighteen. Understandably enough, then, when I began to consider where I wanted to go to university, I bestowed upon Manchester, with its glistening Canal Street, the status of paradise.
Predictably, perhaps, I was never able to find my place within Manchester’s mainstream scene. As a queer who prides themselves on their eagerness to break moulds, the over-enthusiasm for chart music, the drag politics, the fetishisation of a handful of body types, the cisnormativity, the erasure of non-white queers, and the general lack of inclusivity (which can even manifest in the form of abhorrent exclusionary door policies under the guise of ‘membership’), I came to perceive Canal Street as a venomous place where the possibility of any kind of social or artistic progressiveness was negligible.
‘To feel excluded by a community you’re told is yours can be agonising…’
Thinking in this way, though I won’t retract my comments, can be incredibly difficult. To feel excluded by a community you’re told is yours can be agonising, especially for those of us (and we are many) who already experience marginalisation, harassment, and even abuse on an all-too-frequent basis. I, for one, have endured devastating periods where I truly believed that I would never find other queers who think like me, dress like me, have the same music tastes (electronic fans hit me up), and share with me the desire to prove to the rest that our people are an artistic and political force to be reckoned with.
Yet, little by little, I have come to realise that Manchester is a wonderful place to be queer. First, we ought to remember how lucky we are to have such an extensive network of grassroots organisations working directly with LGBTQ+ individuals. Charities such as LGBT Foundation (whose services I myself have used), the Proud Trust, akt, and the Men’s Room offer services ranging from counselling to sexual health advice, from support for those experiencing homelessness or engaging in sex work to befriending, from crisis helplines to support with substance misuse, from training for teachers and community workers to creative workshops.
‘It is among people like this that I have felt at my queerest, and that, surely, is a beautiful thing.’
The budding, queer-driven underground music and arts scene here in Manchester bears extraordinary emancipatory potential in helping those on the peripheries of our community to find new forms of protest, new means of celebrating the diversity of identities and expressions that lie within it. Venues like Partisan and Soup Kitchen are, for me, irrefutably important spaces, abuzz with the kind of queer energy I never thought I’d find. What’s more, collectives like Kiss Me Again, High Hoops, boygirl, All Hands On Deck, and Intervention continue to make extraordinary innovations towards a more inclusive and celebratory music scene. It is among people like this that I have felt at my queerest, and that, surely, is a beautiful thing.
Safe to say, things aren’t perfect. That 24 percent of young people experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ+, that prejudice-motivated assault is rising, and that people like me continue to struggle as a result of their identities is fair cause for anger. However, when I take a moment to consider the positives, I come to realise that what Manchester and its people have to offer, on a creative level more than anything, has had a remarkably powerful effect on my coming-to-terms with myself as queer.
Please, people, let’s keep it up.
If you’d like to volunteer with Men’s Room, a charity supporting marginalised men in Manchester, click here.
Charities mentioned in this article: