Words by Lorna Grey
Leeds is an incredibly proud city. You only have to scan around the city centre and bare witness to the beautiful murals, the white roses and the dedication to the community to see it. This sense of pride extends to the queer scene of the city, too.
Beginning under that statement rainbow bridge of Lower Briggate is a district dedicated to such a community, a beautiful reminder of what those colours stand for. Which is total and unequivocal bliss in celebrating individuals, ringing especially true by night and post-summer sun, as even under the cover of darkness, it still manages to remain one of the brightest and warmest places in the city centre. It’s a place where anybody, regardless of their sexual or gender identity can unapologetically and openly be their complete selves.
Viaduct Showbar – @viaductshowbar
Where the glammest of drag queens deliver some of the most famed claimed queer anthems and where th cameras pointed to the dancefloor are only encouraging you to take on your own superstar moment. Viaduct Showbar is glittery, glamorous and above all else, fun!
The New Penny
How many gay friendly pubs do you know with a blue plaque outside of it?! The New Penny takes the title of the longest operating gay bar in the UK. That’s quite a feat, and it’s opening hours are long too, as it’s open late every, single, night, offering the community opportunities to dance, socialise and drink into the early hours.
Beyond this dedicated slew of clubs and pubs, there’s an entire underground and alternative LGBTQ+ scene in Leeds, focused on not only acceptance, but the freedom of sexual liberation and expression (or the lack of, as asexuality is often underrepresented), as well as a space of safety and support regardless of where you fall on the gender spectrum.
Wharf Chambers – @wharfchamberscc
Members only co-operative Wharf Chambers are widely renowned for their strict and secure safer spaces policy, but they should also be recognised for their frequent hosting of LGBTQ+ friendly events too. Consent is key within the Wharf walls and hand-in-hand with freedom of expression, Wharf is a wonderful place to express your complete selves.
Love Muscle – @lovemuscleleeds
The brain child of DJ Michael Upson, the “queer pumping dance party” Love Muscle can , as the music – selected by incredible DJs of people of margilised genders and sexualities – supplies a truly unparalleled soundtrack until the early hours. Expect incredible outfits and even better showcases of attendees living their truth and celebrating it. The pride edition of Love Muscle is always a popular affair.
Age Of The_ – @ageoftheinfo
Some of the most creative and innovative minds in the world of drag have curated a night that champions all of the weird and wonderful aspects of such. From Dyke Chambers – a space for womxn and non binary folk, to Age Of The Virgin – an event which encourages and supports those dipping their toes, dabbling or experimenting with drag. Age Of The have a reputation for delivering some of the most artistic and gender bending variations of the art form within the city, a true homage and a total reclamation of the performative act.
Sheaf Street – @sheafstreet
Communal work space come cafe come club space Sheaf St also deserves a mention, with its permanent safer spaces policy in practise no matter what the occasion. Also worth noting that their gender neutral bathrooms not only preach inclusivity, but cut down those pesky queues dramatically! Fancy dress is almost always encouraged at their in-house events, with glitter being a must.
Sex Club – @s_ex_clu_b
Very little to be left to the imagination with a name like sex club, self proclaimed as ‘Leeds’ weirdest, campiest alternative clubnight’. You can expert garish outfits of lace, leather and bare skin in this queer, fetish, goth party.
Flamingo’s Coffee House – @flamingosleeds
If drinking and dancing aren’t your thing, Leeds first LGBTQ+ friendly cafe – and the only exclusively dry queer space – Flamingos is open late and with board games, books and delicious vegan cake on offer, you’ll surely stay until the warm environment – complete with preferred pronoun badges and an LGBTQ+ literature – closes it doors.
The Book-ish Type – @thebookishtypeleeds
A real hidden gem up in the rafters of the bustling Merrion Centre sits a quaint and queer little shop, filled to the brim with LGBTQ+ literature. As well as stocking fiction, essays, magazines, zines and more at reasonable prices, The Book-ish Type pride themselves in offering a semi-regular ‘Second Hand Sunday’ event, in which donations of well loved books are resold at a reduced rate with any profits given to LGBTQ+ charities and organisations.
Leeds LGBT+ Lit Fest – @lgbtlitfest
For more of your fill in LBGTQ+ literature, Leeds’ own festival dedicated to the works of queer authors, queer stories and non-ficton writing about all things gay are celebrated in this annual event. If you can’t wait for your fix, though, a monthly book club should tide you over, exploring inclusive and extraordinary texts every first Wednesday of the month.