By Abigail Whitney
IF you’re one of the estimated 18,000 LGBT+ people living in Chester, you might be unaware of all the city has to offer. Whether you’re looking for a safe and enjoyable night out, a support group, or simply more information on life as a member of the LGBT+ community, Chester has what you need, as long as you know where to look.
While Chester may not have its own LGBT+ club (with its only gay bar Bar 69 closing in 2018), there are still places for students to have a drink and a dance in spaces that are explicitly accepting and safe for those in the LGBT+ community, or even students who are away from home for the first time and questioning their sexuality or gender identity. Every Tuesday night, Rosie’s hosts ‘Gender Blender’, (hosted by local drag queen ‘Lady Wanda Why’) which is a night specifically designed to provide an environment for members of the LGBT+ community to express themselves freely and without judgement. If you’re looking for somewhere more relaxed, or for somewhere to have pre-drinks, then you can head to the Liverpool Arms (an explicitly LGBT+ friendly pub) before you make your way to Rosie’s.
If drinking and going on nights out isn’t your cup of tea, but you’re still interested in finding a safe and accepting space, do not despair, for there are plenty of organisations who don’t centre around nightlife. OpenTable LGBTQIA+ are an organisation that aims to provide support and safety to anyone who is both a member of the LGBT+ community, and part of a Christian faith. They acknowledge that acceptance within religious spaces cannot always been guaranteed, and while it is their long-term aim to change that, they offer a space for acceptance and safety until that aim is achieved. Body Positive is a Chester-based charity that aims to provide education and support for anyone wishing to improve or discuss their sexual health and relationships. They provide walk-in sexual health checks and clinics, free condoms and support groups for various different sectors of the LGBT+ community. For mature students who are members of the LGBT+ community and over 50, Silver Rainbows is an organisation for those who grew up in a society that was much less accepting of the LGBT+ community than perhaps it is now, and provides specified support for both those who have been members of the LGBT+ community all their lives, and those who are only recently exploring or discovering their sexuality or gender identity.
Once a year the people of Chester take to the streets for Chester Pride. While Pride is always a great day out for those wishing to celebrate their sexuality or gender identity freely and without judgement, it is also an important reminder of those in the community who have protested, and often lost their lives, in the fight for equality for all. To find out about the parade or other Chester Pride events, or to check dates for Chester Pride 2020, check their website: www.chesterpride.co.uk
And of course, there is the LGBT+ Society at the University of Chester, that aims to provide a welcoming and inclusive space for students within the LGBT+ community. For LGBT+ students who are seeking a social atmosphere free from judgement, the society organises events such as group trips to Chester Pride, drag nights, and parties for Halloween and Christmas. However, it is not all about the nightlife, as the society also regularly holds discussions and talks on the importance of safety, and an awareness of sexual health and relationships.
For more information on LGBT+ life and history in Chester, you can find an abundance of resources both in Storyhouse Chester and on their website.