Queer Nightlife Talks Discusses Inclusivity

Everyone wants to feel included in the spaces they frequent. But when you walk into a party or event, what about it makes it inclusive for you? How do you decide which ones will be welcoming? What about the event makes you feel like you belong there? On Tuesday, September 15, 2020, the SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund (QNF) hosted the second of its new online Queer Nightlife Talks discussions, “What makes a party inclusive?,” asking community members these questions.

About 30 people attended the Talk with Angel Garfold of QNF and Honey Beatrice Thomas facilitating. Media outlet 48 Hills co-sponsored the event. There was plenty of engaged discussion with a lot of sidebar feedback happening in the Zoom chat.

QNF believes in sharing and that any information or resources that can benefit people in queer nightlife should be readily made available for anyone to use. As we did with our first Talk to ensure that the ideas and comments that arose during the discussion are offered to the entire community as useful information and feedback, we are summarizing the night’s proceedings here. Admittedly, this report is long, but we felt it important to include as much information as possible to ensure this can be appropriately used by party and event producers and venue owners and managers.

We hope this information can be used to make events more inclusive while better educating the entire community on the many aspects to be considered on the topic of inclusivity. Better awareness of and acting on inclusivity can only improve local queer nightlife, whether that is online during the heights of the pandemic or in real time as the Bay Area continues to experiment with outdoor spaces. Once indoor entertainment spaces are able to open, with the necessary limited capacity, the lessons of inclusivity can be put into action there too.

The following summary coalesces the most frequently-raised  ideas and comments.

QNF Continues to Adjust

To start the event, Garfold explained that QNF has reworked its mission. The QNF remains committed to providing resources and opportunities to promote and support those in queer nightlife in the SF Bay Area during the COVID-19 pandemic, while also embracing even greater diversity and inclusion.

Amid the reality of donor fatigue and a longer than anticipated pandemic, QNF is currently taking applications for and distributing grant awards for emergency needs like food and medications. QNF also continues to put money in the pockets of struggling nightlife workers by creating opportunities for queer performers and artists to be paid for their work.

Centering the Group

Garfold mentioned the evening’s discussion will probably not manifest an ideal change immediately. Parties can add components gradually and learn along the way. Absolute, broad, and immediate changes will be hard for organizers, and also not always trusted by attendees.

Thomas started out the discussion by displaying a Venn diagram composed of three intersecting circles labeled Inclusion, Equity and Diversity with the overlapping area labeled Belonging. Belonging, it is suggested, is what we really all want – to Belong. Thomas pointed out that whenever the topic of inclusion comes up you have to also take into consideration equity and diversity because otherwise what are you including?

Thomas mentioned that diversity can only be experienced within a community. Diversity is about the unique and distinct differences that individualize us.

Inclusion is a measure of how the diversity is able to impact the event or organization.

Thomas used the metaphor of diverse people in a car. The car is inclusion and equity is the road. Equity is the system to enact diversity and inclusion so that clear pathways are defined by which individual voices are heard to foster diversity and inclusion.

All three of those factors, diversity, equity and inclusion, taken together create belonging which is ultimately what the session was going to be talking about. A true sense of belonging makes us feel that we are authentically welcome and our perspectives are important as is our comfort in participation.

The entire diversity, inclusion and equity formula creating belonging is an ongoing process in which each of the three former factors are present in various weights to affect how belonging is created or not. Thomas emphasized that the purpose of these discussions is to develop our own lens through which we see by hearing people’s stories and their truths. This allows one to assess, for example, if a situation might have diversity and inclusion present, but not equity. In such situations, the lack of equity allows the dominant group, the dominant social characteristic, to become the standard for assimilation and decision making.

If diversity and equity are present, you have a pathway and the people, but there is no inclusion, there is no “car” to reference back to Thomas’ original metaphor.

So producers, groups, events and venues should constantly assess if any of the three components are out of balance.

This relates specifically to queer nightlife with the feeling of welcome. Welcome is the mechanism by which we can flag or signal that various members of the community feel like they belong. So, Thomas indicates that the focus of the evening was fostering a discussion about how do we manifest a sense of welcome, a sense of belonging, in queer nightlife. This served as the anchor point for the rest of the evening.

The Discussion

The discussion kicked off with a warmup talk between the two moderators while some lively sidebar text chat took place. Then Thomas then asked everyone in attendance to imagine the most amazing and inclusive party or event of their life. What did they see outside the door? What did they see when they first walked in? How were they greeted? What were the symbols of inclusion for them that they saw that told them they were welcome in that space? Everyone was encouraged to write what they envisioned at such a party into the event chat.

Some of the inclusive elements that people mentioned were:

  • Lots of different sensory areas (light levels, sound levels, crowdedness levels).
  • Everything accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Multiple generations of people in attendance.
  • Seeing everyone in the community including drag kings and queens, leather queers, business suits, t-shirts and flip flops, and every single possible age with no one looking askance at others, just celebrating everyone who is there.
  • The event being hosted by BIPOC, queer, disabled, and neurodivergent people, and there is a wide age range and a true mixture of genders (and non-genders).
  • Before the event, the invitation itself matters. Perhaps the organizers list access features of the space and give attendees a way to request other access accommodations, if needed.
  • There would not only be excellent disability access, but there would be access for low income folks.
  • Everyone welcomed to the event warmly.
  • A diverse set of people of different cultures and bodies, but also not in cliques or small isolated groups.
  • Affirmative messages on advance promotional materials inviting trans people and people of color by name.
  • Communicating clear expectations of conduct on venue signage and the designation of staff who can mediate conflict during the event.
  • Lots of trans girls having a great time.
  • No strobes.
  • Event is not majority white.
  • Enough food for everyone.
  • The party is invisible to the police.
  • Different temperatures, textures and sound rooms available.
  • Affirming all bodies on promotional materials.
  • Encouraging people to have fun in their own bodies in ways that make sense in the space.
  • No minimum number of drinks.
  • Remote locations to stream the party, dropping a few pins at public parks and at the beach around the city and streaming the music there.
  • Welcome and support for safe use (or no use) of a variety of intoxicating substances.
  • A space where new faces are welcomed and introduced around and where those with disabilities have enough room to move and interact without being stepped on.
  • Diverse entertainment without segregating it into “theme” nights.
  • Doorways wide enough for mobility devices and there are areas where the mobility devices can roll easily.
  • There are areas close to the stage for deaf and hard of hearing people.
  • Lots of sturdy comfortable chairs without arms available for sitting.
  • A safe injection site.
  • Guide animals allowed.
  • Zero misgendering happening even of nonbinary people with clearly communicated expectations ahead of time and ways to address it.
  • Knowing ahead of time if the space is accessible, and how.
  • The event is deliberately welcoming of all people, not just certain people.
  • If an event is targeting a specific group or demographic it is clearly indicated since it is not fun to show up at an event to find out that although you are allowed in you are not actually really welcome because you are the only person like you in the crowd.
  • No gatekeeping at the door. Incredibly welcoming.
  • The option to wear something indicating pronouns, as appropriate for the situation.
  • Events of varying crowd sizes since not everyone enjoys packed and crowded events.
  • Visual imagery on event or venue promotion collateral that includes people of all colors dancing or gathering together.
  • A variety of soundscapes, crowding levels, and sensory experiences in different parts of the venue.
  • For appropriate events, ASL interpreters should be available or can be requested.
  • Event fees discounted for certain marginalized groups of people.
  • Awareness that what an event is not saying can have just as much of an impact as what they are saying.
  • Event and party promoters are specific in their messaging. Do not leave people wondering if they will or will not be welcome at a certain event or space.
  • Designated people to support or assist anyone with specific needs or questions or who might be in need of civil and productive situation meditation.
  • Designated sober parties or sober spaces within parties are helpful since there can be pressure felt by some sober people when in non-sober spaces.
  • Creating advance standards of engagement and community agreements by which the event or venue will abide.
  • Acknowledgement that making mistakes regarding inclusion is fine as long as producers, venues and participants learn from those mistakes and improve.

After the opening section of the Talk, Garfold asked attendees to provide feedback and comment on what were some experiences people have had when party producers have done things that have fostered an inclusive environment, the positive inclusivity experiences. Some of the feedback was:

  • Events clearly advertising that a variety of body types are welcome.
  • Producers and venues who make their inclusion information easy to find.
  • Some parties are produced in nontraditional spaces and are more underground in part so that they are more accessible and so no one has to be turned away for lack of funds.
  • Especially during this pandemic era, parties need to understand that there are people who are immunocompromised or who otherwise need to keep a distance from events, at least for now, even if held outside.
  • Clearly posting accessibility information ahead of time.
  • Events that livestream (even when there is an in-person event happening) to address accessibility for some who cannot attend the physical event.
  • ASL interpreters on hand to help the deaf or hard of hearing.
  • For online events, providing closed captioning when possible.
  • When a producer is collaborating with a venue or another producer, make the accessibility guidelines the party will abide by available to them as well. This sets expectations for everyone involved in producing or hosting the party. The sharing of equipment between stakeholders can be useful if it improves overall accessibility for an event.
  • When an event learns that they are less than inclusive for some reason, learning from that and improving.

Garfold asked attendees how they felt about virtual events. What has been good about them in terms of inclusion? Garfold also asked how those present are able to assess ahead of time if an event is inclusive to them or not. Not every event is for everyone and how do you learn that ahead of time?

  • A virtual event started to add a pin drop in a park with a location to meet up while remaining masked and socially distanced. Even after we return to in-person events some would like to “attend” parties this way too since the inside, crowded, often heavy base-driven environments are not ideal for everyone.
  • Parties that are held at earlier hours since many are not able to or do not want to stay up late.
  • Outdoor events should be considered more often since that environment appeals to enough people to make them worthwhile.
  • There are not enough events where people with special needs and their caregivers and family who care for them can attend. An event could let it be known that if you have someone in your care, or need certain types of care yourself, there will be a space for them at the event.
  • Events aimed at an older audience. Portland has something called “Hot Flash” (aimed at an older audience of non cis male identifying folks) and it starts early at 8pm. Lots of people like to dance and still go to sleep before midnight.
  • Neurodiverse inclusion should be considered as part of inclusivity. This brought up the comment that often producers are not fully educated about the wide variety of accessibility needs and accommodations and if they were better educated they could provide for those audiences better.
  • There are things to be learned from our fellow queers in smaller towns. They can tend to be far more inclusive out of necessity. Those promoters play a wider variety of music and lines between groups are more blurred racially, socioeconomically, linguistically, or in terms of subculture.
  • Some promoters (especially those in Oakland) make an effort to circulate in places where those who are having a rough night gather. For example, the smoking decks are frequently filled with those who are not feeling comfortable and don’t feel like they have a way to alert someone who can help.
  • Some people have auditory processing disabilities and if events can address those needs it would be helpful. Someone experienced disability access barriers at plenty of queer and other online events. They have an auditory processing disability and the low frequency background sounds from multiple microphones being on are a real disability access barrier for them.
  • Often there is no opportunity for folks to request disability access at the beginning of a meeting or as part of an invitation before the event. Simply providing the option to request an accommodation can go a long way in improving inclusion. Of course, the producer or venue receiving the request needs to respond fully and in a timely manner. If an event cannot provide the accommodation for some reason, be clear about that in the response.
  • People often take calls or participate in online events outside and the wind on microphones makes sounds that cause disability access barriers for some. Auditory processing disabilities aren’t uncommon.
  • Scent sensitivities are often not taken into consideration.
  • Making it clear ahead of time what access is provided, offering the option to make a request, and that you’re receptive to such requests, is useful. Events can say upfront if there are stairs, if they are using scent, if there will be no strobing lights, and so on, on the poster.
  • If the community had access to known people or groups who understand these inclusion issues well and how to best addresses them, that would be a valuable resource for promoters to turn to for education and assistance.This would be especially useful for new party producers, but longstanding producers can utilize these resources to make their existing events more inclusive. These groups could gather and distribute information through social media and other avenues to better educate everyone around these issues. 

Garfold then asked those in attendance to offer examples of things that producers or venues have done wrong in terms of inclusion. Some feedback included:

  • Walking into an all male, white, able bodied party. This generated a comment about being able to know ahead of time the environment of the party. If a poster or advertisement only shows certain types of people, perhaps that is the target demographic for that particular party.
  • If a party is held in a basement venue, it is not going to be an able-bodied event. Even having a single step up to get into the event could provide challenges for some. So you might need a lift or some mechanism to increase accessibility. Perhaps there could be assigned people on hand to assist people entering and navigating the venue. It all starts with the venue itself and whether it is equipped for accessibility or can be adapted for accessibility. It is difficult in some instances for a venue to adapt to full accessibility, but efforts should be made. In San Francisco, with so many older buildings, this is sometimes difficult.
  • One local venue that was mentioned always has able-bodied people available to help someone in a wheelchair up or down stairs and they advertise that clearly on their website and in their marketing collateral. It was noted that scooters are heavier than wheelchairs and might require a different strategy.
  • Some events list directions for where to park, but not public transit information. That privileges those with cars in a city and area where many do not have a vehicle. Parking, especially in San Francisco, can be incredibly expensive and makes it economically prohibitive for some. Adding public transit information would be of great benefit.
  • Many events feel like networking events rooted in transactional relationships. This makes it difficult for people on the outside to make it in.
  • Disabled folks are sometimes stepped on by event organizers who didn’t address the need for inclusivity.
  • A failing is when inclusivity is a checklist instead of a cultural value and social norm. Events could provide staff to check in on people who look like they might be on the outside or not feeling like a part of the event.
  • Events can assign some big, buffed and strong men (privilege redistribution as it was described) to help those needing it and check in with them during the event should they need anything or to move to another location or up or down stairs. This is proactive and means the disabled person does not need to find someone to help. That helper is assigned to them from the start. They could exchange cell phone numbers so they can easily contact each other throughout the event.
  • Packed events with everyone bumping into each other may not have a no-touch rule or one is not being enforced. Complaints can be taken as crying wolf because it was not a true consent violation. They take people’s money, whoever wants to come in, with no limit on the number of bodies that fit in the space (heavy crowding). Producers and venues being aware of at what point the space becomes overpacked and difficult to navigate is important since some people do not do well in packed spaces. Perhaps some producers can be slightly less financially motivated and more cognizant of how much more enjoyable a party might be less crowded, but it was acknowledged this can be a difficult thing to do when bills need to be paid.
  • Safety, especially for women/femme/nonbinary people, is important and events could have someone on on hand to address it if there is an issue. Knowing that there are trained staff who can respond to a troubling issue or consent violation feels safer and therefore more inclusive.
  • It is important to recognize that inclusivity is ultimately a choice. It is a choice to approach strangers rather than block them out of conversations. It is a choice to engage with those outside of our houses, packs, tribes and cliques. It is a choice for event organizers to know the spots people go when they are miserable and it is a choice to help them. It is a choice to provide pathways to redemption for those who transgress because we know we will too. It is a choice to make community a priority over individuality or tribeality, to recognize that we need each other to succeed.
  • Perhaps some public or foundation monies that give grants for all kinds of things might need to be encouraged to subsidize some queer events to help foster inclusivity and accessibility. Or perhaps a sponsor might subsidize an event for these purposes. Money is an undeniable factor in creating these inclusive spaces and we need to get creative with how to find and use that money. Thinking carefully and deliberately about who your sponsors are is key.

Thomas then pivoted to discussing the concept of affinity events and venues. An example would be a party that has a sexual component to it, often based on an affinity. Sometimes these affinities can be demographically based (gay male, queer women, and so on) or interest or fetish based (kinky play party, sex party). Thomas asked the group if there is a path forward for parties that want to cater to certain demographics or types of people and how can we all be mindful of inclusivity when such specificity is at the heart of an event?

Garfold offered specific examples of not wanting to infringe on a party’s right to cater to one demographic, such as gay men or lesbians, but still be inclusive within that targeted affinity group (demographic). and how to communicate that the event is not being intentionally “negatively” exclusive.

  • It is important to know that one is truly welcome at an event for everyone’s enjoyment and comfort.
  • Affinity spaces are important for building confidence, being recognized and building relationships.
  • Even if some events are exclusive they still need to be explicitly anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-ableist, and so on. Just because it is “bear night” should not mean it is “hate femmes night.” This person felt every party should be a POC, disabled, transfemme, neurodivergent, sex worker, immigrant, immunocompromised party, and other identity groups should only be secondary.
  • One person felt that it doesn’t feel like a queer party if there’s no sensitivity to intersectionality.
  • There can be instances where a party is definitely for an affinity group, but still open to others and they need to be clear upfront that such is the case.
  • It was asked if it is important that everyone wants to and does party and socialize together or is it okay for there to be some combination of inclusive and exclusive events? Not everyone believes that all parties and events need to be fully inclusive, but it is important to be clear when an event is for a specific affinity group and that such exclusivity not be conveyed in a mean-spirited or dismissive manner. Just because many want more inclusion generally does not mean that everything needs to be fully inclusive.
  • Centering is fine, but it would be great if there was more trans and nonbinary centering and expectations communicated. Perhaps a party can state it will assume an attendee is a “they/them” unless told otherwise. Maybe buttons could be worn as indicators.
  • At some convention play events they night have a separate men’s play space, women’s play space, and pan play space, and the pan space ends up being basically heterosexual which is not always comfortable. Some don’t feel entirely comfortable in any of those three spaces.
  • Some events say they are open to trans people but make an assumption that the trans person will present in a way that they consider in line with the typical appearance of the particular affinity group to which the party caters.
  • Mediators at parties can be important when you are mixing types of people and others at the party may make some wrong assumptions (for example, misgendering). Making this a practice and policy would be beneficial.
  • When you have parties that center certain groups at which others are welcome there is always the risk of chasers and that must be monitored and addressed quickly.
  • Those who might hold privileged positions should take some responsibility for having the difficult conversations with producers and sharing information that might help parties be more inclusive and respectful.
  • Some felt it is complicated in that there are different minority groups for which privilege is not a single dimensionally comparative point to determine who is the “most oppressed group” that must accommodate the other.
  • Some felt every party should be open to include anyone.
  • Centered parties, at which a particular demographic or affinity group is the focal point, can be great whether they are exclusive or welcoming of others not part of those groups.
  • Someone suggested the idea of a party staffer like a gogo person who was also tasked with readily welcoming others to the party to generate an environment in which attendees feel they belong.
  • Affinity parties and events are important as are inclusive parties and events. They each have their place from the larger community perspective. Setting expectations around an affinity party does not need to be offensive. Affinity spaces are a home base. Everyone needs a home community, anda a place to mingle in confidence.
  • So much of creating inclusion is figuring out the language to use. Changing a single word can have significant positive (or negative) ramifications. We need to shift to language that is kind and allows people to maintain their dignity.
  • Having an emcee or host who embodies a welcoming and inclusive attitude can help. Party hosts should actually “host” and welcome people and make them feel included.
  • Events could post a survey on their site for use after the event to solicit feedback.
  • Someone felt that there is a difference between “exclusively for” versus “oriented towards” and that parties that have tickets available publicly shouldn’t be “exclusively for” events. Someone agreed with that distinction because publicly-available exclusively for approaches turns into gatekeeping at the door. They mentioned that if an event is advertised on facebook, anyone should feel welcome. There was some disagreement. It was pointed out that it is difficult to build an audience for an affinity-based event without using Facebook.
  • Scaled prices along lines of privilege in “centered” events can be an interesting idea, such as charging more for white folks or more for cis men. This is also a way for the less marginalized to be financial allies to the more marginalized.
  • One person mentioned that the leather community has a calendar that seems complete and maintained, but that they have not seen a consolidated calendar for general LGBTQ+ nightlife. A well maintained LGBTQ+ calendar of events would be welcome. The target event audience, if there is one, could be listed there too.
  • Workshare options for events is a great way to foster inclusion. Not everyone can physically work an event. So try to provide opportunities for the less able to contribute as well. Workshare is also a community building strategy, and builds investment in the event itself.
  • Events can strategically mention that discounted tickets are available for those in need, but it is not publicly available on Eventbrite (or another ticketing platform) without a code, to avoid someone just grabbing the lowest priced ticket available and ensure those tickets go to who needs them..
  • Events can offer opportunities to new performers in a work/trade partnership for access into the event. It is also important to create such pathways so that new talent can become better known and used at bigger events.
  • Events should create mechanisms for providing feedback to the organizers which would help improve future parties.
  • Perhaps we can use some of the physical spaces not being used for parties for other queer uses such as art, bodyworkers and healers, and community organization meetings. Nightclub venues are also great for events such as book clubs, game nights, healer/bodywork nights, skillshares, studio nights, mixers, open mics, and space for local artists/vendors. Venues can still make money through dance events and alcohol sales while offering their spaces for other uses too. (Obviously only when it is safe to do so.)
  • Is there a way to document diversity at parties? Can we ask at the door, or is that too intrusive? One strategy is to count how people present, such as being of color, rather than asking people the questions directly. That approach is not perfect, but it brings awareness to the diversity in the room. The payoff for producers is that you become better at what you do and meet the needs of the community more. Casual data by scanning the room can help. You don’t necessarily need hard data. Use a clicker while walking around the room. Maybe give a drink ticket for turning in a survey?
  • Documenting diversity could be made fun. Have some tokens and place them in the jars that represent you. Best if those are in a place where it’s not highly visible while you are putting them in, or alternatively, maybe put them somewhere in the open so people coming in could see them and have a sense of whether they want to come in.
  • Create a standard training for people staffing the door at events to be better aware of inclusivity issues. Make the training required for everyone at the door, maybe bartenders too. It can help them practice their non-marginalizing language skills such as gender neutral pronoun usage and to best welcome a diverse cross-section of people.

Garfold wrapped up the session by reiterating what QNF is and what we have been up to lately. Then Thomas ended the night with a group grounding, breathing and community bonding exercise.

In summary, much of the night’s discussion can be boiled down to party promoters, event organizers, and bars and venues seriously attempting to discern how they can best welcome as wide a variety of people as possible, how they can communicate that in their advertising and messaging, and how can they accommodate all people best within the space. Even if an event caters to a specific demographic, such as gay men, while still communicating that specifically, how can events also include as many diverse people within that demographic as possible?

We, those who produce, work in and frequent queer nightlife, have the answer to better inclusion. We simply have to act on it.

It’s not expected that every producer or venue will do things perfectly. Pick one thing to improve upon and do that, then build from there.  Party producers, promoters, venue owners, performers and artists are all creative people and we can come up with creative solutions to provide greater inclusivity while hosting some of the hottest events around. QNF strongly encourages community members to continue to have these discussions amongst themselves so that the topic of inclusion becomes a standard discussion point when planning all of our queer events.

Next Queer Nightlife Talk

The next Queer Nightlife Talk will be “How do you live without the party?” on Tuesday, November 10, 20202, 7pm-9pm on Zoom.

QNF knows we are all dealing with restrictions on our social lives. The loss of our events at which we gather combined with being unable to hang out with some of our friends pulls at the threads of the fabric of our mental health. And so many are struggling financially. Taken together, the current situation can be a perfect storm for mental health challenges, even for the most emotionally strong among us.

This next Ttalk will be a professionally moderated public forum on the mental health issues facing both queer nightlife workers and the queer community at large.

Check out our site and social media soon for an announcement about this Talk.

Questions? Ideas?

If there are any questions about this summary or if you have an idea for a topic for a future Queer Nightlife Talk, contact QNF at qnf-info@sfqueernightlifefund.org.

QNF Awards Emergency Grants

In late August we announced that the SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund (QNF) would be moving to a quicker monthly emergency grant awards application and assessment process.

Since weekly fundraising was declining as we competed for community donation dollars in the current challenging environment, QNF was forecasting fewer dollars to give. So, we made the decision that, at least for now, our Fund’s grant awards will specifically address emergency food and medical bill needs.

We just completed our latest round of grant awards. We received 22 applications with 9 people meeting our criteria and awarded $4,156.

The next round of grant award application submissions were heavily promoted on all of our social media channels and the deadline for applying is end of day tomorrow, October 15, 2020.

We strongly encourage those workers in local queer nightlife who have been impacted by the pandemic and are having a difficult time meeting expenses for food and medical bills to visit our application page and apply.

We will be reopening the application process with a new due date in November soon after tomorrow’s deadline has passed for the current round.

After applications are submitted, we review them and determine where the greatest need exists and what we can offer based on the Fund monies available at the time. We notify grant award recipients before the end of the month with an anticipated grant amount sent to the recipient by the end of the month. The maximum grant is $500.

If you are applying, please look carefully at our grant eligibility criteria to make sure you qualify. This is extremely important to make it more likely that your application will be approved. 

As mentioned in many previous communications, we feel at this point in time it is important to prioritize women, transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary, and all queer, Black, Indigeous, and people of color. However, every worker in local queer nightlife with eliglble needs should apply. We intend to provide resources and opportunites to the entire spectrum of workers in queer nightlife, while we strongly encourage people in these too-often marginalized demographics to apply.

Donations to QNF can be made on our Donation page.

QNF Hosts Career Development Workshop

Recently, the SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund (QNF) hosted a career development workshop for workers in local queer nightlife who are facing the reality of our queer venues either opening slowly with limited capacity, or not opening at all for the foreseeable future.

QNF feels that part of our mission is to help queer nightlife workers maximize their earning potential to best weather the COVID-19 pandemic storm. So, we launched the first of what may be a series of online career development sessions or services to best equip local queer nightlife workers to procure gainful employment so they can pay the bills.

We kicked off our career development track with a three-part workshop led by well known corporate job coach and human resources expert, Deary Duffie. The workshop, “You, Inc.” Reimagining Your Career, offered strategies to help struggling workers expand their likely career options by looking back at their career history, examine their job situation with respect to their values and job attributes, and look forward to envision the gap between their ideal job and their current employment situation, and the action steps required to bridge that gap.

In the interest of sharing this information as widely as possible for those who might not have been able to attend the workshop, here are some key takeaways from the event.

  • Look back on your work life and Identify the peaks, valleys, significant events and turning points in your life thus far. Attach dates to these career events. Plot on a timeline if that helps. Then try to identify how you felt during the peaks and valleys. What behaviors or attitudes do you remember displaying? Were there certain areas of knowledge or specific skills that contributed to those situations? Then assess the transitions between peaks and valleys and ask yourself your motivations, problems, support mechanisms and other factors that contributed to the upward or downward trend. Obviously, what you are aiming for is more peak experiences in your future professional life.
  • Reflect upon the values and job attributes that manifest in fulfilling work for you. These values and attributes can be used to make career decisions going forward. Think about things like geographic flexibility, life/work balance, diversity, integrity, money, working solo or with a team, and any value or job attribute you feel might have significance in making decisions on where your career might lead and what types of work will be the most meaningful.
  • Inventory your knowledge domain and job skills. Identify everything you can think of that you know or can do. Dissect your work life carefully and thoroughly for this information. Think broadly. What you are trying to find are transferable skills. These are skills you have now that can be directly linked to future employment. Have you done analysis or problem solving? How are your oral and written communications skills? Are you good at time or project management? If you need to do an online search to help identify such knowledge and skills, there are lots of suchs lists available to prompt your generations of your own list. Now sit back from your list and try to make relevant transferable connections between your past work and work you want to do in the future. When talking with employers during interviews or networking situations, learn to be strategically vague, talking more generally about your experiences if your target industry is different than what you have done in the past.
  • Network! That can seem like a bad word to some people, especially introverts, but it is vital to ensuring a robust work life future. Networking is another way of saying building mutually beneficial relationships with people in your current or target profession or industry. And make sure to keep records of who you meet and what you learned from them. Most jobs are attained these days through a direct referral. So these networking relationships are really important to ensure you remain employed.
  • Undertake informational interviews with people in industries about which you do not yet know enough to make you feel comfortable applying. People love to talk about themselves and the work they do. These quick interviews (keep them short) can provide valuable information and connections. However, never ask for a job during such interviews. That’s the kiss of death. Just listen and ask questions. That’s how you will both gain knowledge and create a truly valuable networking relationship.
  • When interviewing for a job, research the business or company thoroughly ahead of time. Leverage any contacts you might have in your network who work there or might know those who do. 
  • Diving deep into creating a resume was beyond the scope of this workshop, but Duffie offered some great tips. Describe your results, not just work responsibilities. Employers like results-driven employees. Part of creating this results focus is what Duffie called identifying your STAR stories (Situation, Task, Action, Result). These STAR stories can be used in your resume and during interviews or networking opportunities. STAR stories connect your transferable background and skills to your desired job, help you answer interview questions better, and help you better identify skills and behaviors you may need to add or improve upon in your job toolkit. 

Duffie offered other useful information and guidance during the workshop, but QNF hopes the above synopsis helps everyone to find new work within this challenging employment landscape in which we all now find ourselves.

QNF would like to publicly thank Deary Duffie for agreeing to lead this first of our career development offerings. We hope to offer more opportunities for queer nightlife workers to gain information or skills necessary to remain working and living in the Bay Area so that when nightlife returns full steam we have the foundation of people to help it blossom into something even better than it was before the pandemic.

You can donate to QNF to help with their work on our Donate page.

PLUS Products Delivers Final Pride QNF Donation

As San Francisco entered the 2020 Pride season, the SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund (QNF) was lucky to have a generous corporate partner helping add to QNF’s fundraising totals in a substantial way so that we can continue to help workers in local queer nightlife impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

PLUS Products was impressed with the work we are doing and approached QNF wanting to partner with us for their annual giving back to the LGBTQ community by donating one dollar from the sale of each of their Limited Edition Pride Gummy tins. In past years, PLUS has donated money from the sale of their Pride branded tins to The Trevor Project and the SF LGBT Center.

Last week PLUS delivered its final payment to QNF from this year’s Pride Gummy tin sales. We are happy to announce that the payment brings their overall donation this year to QNF to $56,880.

This generous donation will go a long way in helping struggling queer nightlife workers as they continue to be challenged by a local nightlife landscape with many event venues closed and bars operating at limited capacity utiliziing makeshift outdoor service areas. In spite of a reopening of many San Francisco businesses, queer nightlife remains mostly hobbled by the ongoing threat COVID-19 poses and the necessary protocols and restrictions we must take until public health official deem venues safe to open again.

Thanks to all of our generous donors, including PLUS Products, QNF continues to offer emergency monetary grants for food and medical bills, paid positions to nightlife workers during QNF events, a DJ podcast, community discussion forums, and career and job development workshops for displaced nightlife workers.

Donations to QNF can be made on our Donation page.

QNF Presents to the San Francisco Entertainment Commission

The SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund (QNF) was honored to be asked by the San Francisco Entertainment Commission to present a summary of our work supporting workers in queer nightlife struggling due to the pandemic. On Tuesday, September 15, 2020, Angel Garfold, Race Bannon and Shannon Amitin told the Commissioners about QNF and its work. QNF also provided information that the Commission might find useful in their work as they explore ways to safely reopen local nightlife in the future, both outdoors in the short term and indoors in the long term.

Commissioner Laura Thomas, who had invited QNF to the meeting, provided a lead in to the presentation lauding QNF for stepping up early during shelter in place. Thomas explained that QNF quickly understood the challenges that the nightlife industry, the queer nightlife industry in particular, is facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thomas pointed out that QNF is doing one of the things that the queer community does best, figuring out how to take care of our own. Thomas also mentioned that while some of the things we would be presenting were specifically pertinent to queer nightlife, much of the information we have gathered potentially applies to all of San Francisco nightlife too and could help the Entertainment Commission in their decision making and process moving forward

Garfold started the presentation with an overview of what QNF is and what we’ve been doing to date. She explained how Phil Hammack brought together what ended up being the Steering Committee members in mid-March to see what could be done to address the hit nightlife was taking because of the virus. QNF knew that workers in local queer nightlife were going to be severely impacted by the shelter in place orders, unable to work, and otherwise challenged because many nightlife workers are gig workers not eligible for some of the financial relief other workers could access.

We quickly rallied, Garfold said, to begin aggressive fundraising to help struggling workers, much of that money already in the hands of workers with application review for our third round of grants currently underway. Over time, especially in light of more public awareness of racial injustice, QNF shifted its mission to address more heavily impacted marginalized communities. 

One of the ways QNF began to raise funds directly from the community itself was hosting its now regular Quaran-Tea Dance online party events that started as weekly events and has lately been produced on a more sustainable monthly basis.

Garfold mentioned our new Queer Nightlife Talks which launched in August with the second one taking place that very same evening (detailed summary report coming soon). Garfold also mentioned our new career and skills development series. She wrapped up her summary of QNF’s activity to date with news about our new DJ podcast series. It was emphasized that all of our DJs, hosts, performers, moderators, and ASL intepreters are compensated to stay true to our mission of helping queer workers survive the pandemic.

Garfold ended her portion of the presentation by highlighting that QNF has become truly aware of the hardship many queer nightlife workers are enduring and that the community needs to help them figure out how to make it through these difficult times.

Bannon then presented on the community feedback and discussion results from the first Queer Nightlife Talk, “What makes it a party for you?” so that this information could potentially be used going forward by the Commission. Rather than reiterate that entire portion of the presentation here we encourage everyone to read the detailed summary report QNF created from that event. The Commission was sent a concise PDF document ahead of time and Bannon strongly suggested the Commission drill down into the details of that report to better inform their work going forward.

Just a few of the points Bannon touched upon are: the technology challenges some producers have in the online world; how some online event attendees love the accessibility they provide; how online events make some queer folks feel more comfortable considering attending real time events in the future; Zoom fatigue and the decrease in online event attendance; that people want to feel safe and secure but are clamoring for in person events when possible; some of the social distancing challenges even in outdoor spaces; the desire to have online events continue to happen for various reasons once in person events remerge on the scene; hybrid events such as limited attendance in person events also announcing an outdoor location where party attendees could gather socially distanced and dance to foster a party feel in a safer manner; and that many of the ideas and input gathered at the Talk pertain to not just queer nightlife but nightlife overall.

Next Amitin mentioned that when shelter-in-place began QNF knew we had to act swiftly. Without unionization or a governmental body to advocate for queer nightlife workers, we knew it was up to the community to care for its own.

Six months into the QNF effort Amitin offered that the Entertainment Commission is the queer community’s best ally in this moment and that it is imperative that we meet folks where they are at — and to do that, we must provide any and all resources to support a community that has continuously faced discrimination, a loss of venues, and unbearable displacement.

Amitin mentioned that unemployment extensions and long-gone PPP loans are not enough. As we stare down a long road of recovery, QNF believes we must take a harm reduction approach and work now to provide the necessary permits to gather safely outdoors. He reiterated that QNF recently held a public forum to discuss the future of queer nightlife, and while we covered both in person and virtual events, the majority of the time was spent brainstorming ways to hold future safe in person events.

This demonstrates a deep-seated need for in person events, and we are looking for a way to help the community to gather again face to face safely. Amitin offered that the organizers of the Castro Shared Spaces program, of which Amitin is one, were provided all the information and tools necessary to host safe, weekly outdoor events. Now we see how well a safe, structured reopening can work.

Since gyms may pull a $25 permit to hold classes in city parks, and neighborhood organizations can receive Shared Spaces permits of their own, QNF asked that the Entertainment Commission prioritize small-scale party promoter outdoor events.

Amitin concluded that people around the world associate San Francisco with LGBTQ culture, but well before the pandemic local queer nightlife was suffering. We simply cannot afford to take its survival for granted.

During the post-presentation question and answer portion of the meeting, Commissioners asked questions and provided feedback.

Commissioner Steven Lee brought up internal Commission discussions about what a Stage 4 reopening of some venues, likely months away for now, might look like and asked if QNF might be willing to provide suggestions for appropriate safety protocols and best practices based on what we have learned thus far. Much of that information already existed in the detailed report we provided from our first Queer Nightlife Talk commuity public forum, but QNF agreed to assist the Commission in any way possible. It was acknowledged that while the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH) must appropriately take the lead in what is safer, perhaps the QNF could provide input that would dovetail nicely with DPH’s guidelines to better prepare venues for reopening while maintaining community health.

What might work for the queer nightlife community would likely work for other nightlife communites in the city too. QNF said it would consider such an advisory alliance once the QNF Steering Committee discussed it further. Another idea suggested by Amitin was a QNF and Entertainment Commission co-produced event during which the entire San Francisco nightlife community would provide input that could benefit the creation of future protocols and strategies for venue and event reopenings.

Another point brought up by Commissioner Thomas was that drag performers, since most lip sync, already abide by the “no singing” guidelines and perhaps that is yet one more opportunity for performers to begin working again at some point while abiding by the current guidelines.

Bannon brought up that some other countries are ahead of the United States in figuring out how to hold outdoor events and slowly reopen brick and mortar venues and perhaps we could look to them for some guidance also when determining what might work for San Francisco. Amitrin pointed out that San Francisco is already permitting limited outdoor events such as the Shared Spaces program and that that experience and data can be used too when creating future protocols and guidelines.

Commissioner Lee mentioned the challenges weather might pose as San Francisco gets colder and wetter in the coming months. So, while it has to be done safely and in compliance with DPH’s directives, giving some thought to being inside ahead of time now makes some sense.

Commissioner Cyn Wang thanked the QNF and pointed out that San Francisco’s queer community and famous nightlife scene is part of what makes San Francisco special and draws in visitors from around the world. Wang also mentioned that the Entertainment Commission is already working on some accessory entertainment uses as part of already approved outdoor events or street authorizations and asked asked QNF that if there is anything we think should be advocated for with policy makers or pushing for in terms of regulatory changes, to let the Commission know and they would take that under serious consideration. Wang wants to be especially sure that the needs of the queer nightlife community are always part of decision making or policies. Wang reinterated that the Commission is an ally to the queer nightlife commuity.

Commissioner Lt. Dave Falzon mentioned how important it was to hear from an organization like QNF who works in a “boots on the ground” fashion with the nightlife community. Falzon also highlighted something that surprised him during the report on the Queer Nightlife Talk that many community members hoped that some online events would continue post-pandemic. He now holds the view that perhaps online programming could be part of San Francisco’s overall nightlife future. He also brought up that he’s mindful of how performers get compensated during online events and QNF responded that compensation for performers and artists is part of our core values and we agree.

Bannon pointed out that in the future when we have returned to some semblance of nightlife normality, online events seen around the world could draw people to visit San Francisco to be part of our amazing nightlife scene.

Garfold used the Quaran-Tea Dance done in collaboration with the Sisters Perpetual Indulgence for their Easter event as an example of a local event having a huge worldwide audience that also allowed former or displaced San Francisco residents to experience the wonders of our party culture too.

Commissioner Dori Caminong lauded the QNF’s fundraising total of $300,000 raised thus far and how important the giving of grants were at this time. Caminong said fundraising is something people are often afraid of or not good at and was impressed at QNF’s fundraising abilities. When we create these spaces for people to come together and break down barriers for them to come together, you end up falling in love and that courtship happens and the money comes, the volunteers come, the network comes, and QNF is at the forefront of a movement right now.

Garfold added to Caminong’s comments letting the Commission know that about $240,000 of the money QNF has raised has come directly from individuals in the community itself helping other community members survive. Some of the money came from Horizons Foundation and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (we’d like to thank our generous corporate sponsor, PLUS Products, too), but most of it came from individuals.

QNF made it clear when the Commission asked about the sharing of QNF’s content on the Entertainment Commission’s platforms and channels that QNF is a transparent organization and we consider everything we do to belong to the community itself. So everything is quite shareable.

Commissioner Ben Bleiman was impressed at QNF’s ability to engage so quickly and raise so much money. He mentioned that he is hopefulthat sometime soon we will hawe the ability to have outdoor entertainment as part of the Shared Spaces program and he expects the queer nightlife community to be a signficant part of driving such efforts.

Bleiman also acknowledged QNF’s suggestion of using outdoor and park areas for outdoor events. He gave DPH credit for doing an incredible job of keeping COVID-19 numbers low in our city and we all need to give them kudos for protecting us so well. Bleiman said it appears to him that DPH’s philosophy is to discourage people from leaving their homes. Therefore, permitting more outdoor events in more places might be challenging at this time. He admitted this was just his perception since he has not had those deep, direct conversations yet with DPH. He felt that since DPH’s overarching metric by which they judge reopenings and things like event permitting is the numbers and that primary goal likely matters to DPH over other personal or cultural needs of the community.

Bleiman expressed his hopes that DPH and the Entertainment Commission can work closely together to create safe social opportunities for residents. He felt is is worth examining with the DPH if there are ways for people to leave their homes and have small gatherings with queer nightlife performers, non-aerosal instruments, and so on, that remain safe. He said it does appear that until there is a vaccine it appears that the more extreme approach to restrictions dominates at the moment. The Entertainment Commission cares deeply about nightlife, and queer nightlife specifically, but it is important to set expectations about what might be possible in terms of gatherings in the short term.

Bleiman again lauded what QNF has done thus far. There are other groups, such as the Independent Venue Alliance, who have found fundraising a struggle and perhaps they can look to QNF for strategies.

Commissioner Thomas ended the QNF presentation portion of the meeting by saying that it is clear the Entertainment Commision is enthusiastic in figuring out how to support the queer nightlife community and that includes the workers, event attendees, event producers and promoters, and venues. She hoped that some other Commissioners would attend some of the Queer Nightlife Talks to better understand what is happening currently in the nightlife community. Attending the QNF Quaran-Tea Dance parties was encouraged.

Comissioner Thomas ended by thanking QNF again and encouraging her fellow Comissioners to read the report on the first Queer NIghtlife Talk and that it was one of the best reports she has seen from a community event.

The SF Entertainment Commission’s meetings are public record and you can view the recording of the meeting on the SFGovTV site

The QNF is looking for DJ’s!

The SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund is committed to keeping queer nightlife vibrant in the SF Bay Area throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to providing direct financial relief, we have also produced an event called Quaran-Tea both to help with fundraising and to provide space for local artists to perform. We are also looking to provide additional opportunities for exposure including launching a SoundCloud mix series. These are paid engagements.

Want to jump into the mix? Sign up here, tell us about yourself, and share a sample of your work with us. We will review, and reach out as space permits. Artists who are chosen will be compensated for their participation.

All members of the SF Queer Nightlife community are welcome to apply. Recognizing the history of white supremacy and male cisgender privilege in queer communities, we aim to prioritize women, transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary, and all queer Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

Announcing New Monthly Emergency Grants and Opportunities for Queer Nightlife Workers in the SF Bay Area

In the first months of the SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund’s operation our practice was to accept grant applications in large batch “rounds” through which we have already distributed awards for round 1 and round 2 totalling $236,490. We are quite proud of that accomplishment. That process made sense at the time. But much has changed in recent months.

Weekly fundraising totals have declined as we vie for community donation dollars rightfully being given to other projects, organizations and causes. Plus, many have fewer dollars to give right now.

Because of declining fundraising dollars and because the previous timeline for accepting applications and granting awards was often a lengthy process, we are adopting a new, refocused model awarding emergency grants on a monthly basis.

Now, our Fund’s grant awards will specifically address emergency food and medical bill needs. Applications will be due on the 10th of the month. We will then review all current grant applications and determine where the greatest need exists and what we can offer based on the Fund monies available at the time. We will notify grant award recipients on the 24th of the month with the anticipated grant amount sent to the recipient by the end of the month. The maximum grant will be $500.

We will begin this new process immediately with the first application deadline September 10, 2020.

If you are a worker in SF Bay Area queer nightlife and have an emergency food or medical need, visit our Grant Application page on which you’ll find our guidelines for applicants and application form.

In a recent Evolving as the pandemic endures post, we explained our organization’s revised purpose. We feel at this point in time it is important to prioritize women, transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary, and all queer, Black, Indigeous, and people of color. While we still intend to provide resources and opportunites to the entire spectrum of workers in queer nightlife, we strongly encourage people in these too-often marginalized demographics to apply.

Those needing assistance with rent and utilities are encouraged to visit our COVID Resources page.

We also plan to continue to financially support queer nightlife workers by paying performers and others who help us to provide virtual events for the community. Historically, we have paid DJs, hosts, facilitators, and sign language interpreters for their contributions during our online Quaran-Tea Dances and other events. We plan to continue paying for such services and hope to find other ways we can directly pay those who help contribute to the success of our events.

As recently announced at out first Queer Nightlife Talks public forum, we are investigating ways to provide knowledge sharing and job skills development to empower workers in queer nightlife in multiple ways so that they can best survive what now appears to be a pandemic with little sign of subsiding in the short term. We hope to announce such opportunities soon.

We will continue our efforts to maintain community rituals and connection with our online Quaran-Tea Dances. The next Quaran-Tea Dance will be Sunday, September 20, 2020, 4pm-7pm Pacific. Please note that we have changed the time of Quaran-Tea to accommodate those people wanting to spend daytimes outdoors.

Historian James Clifford once said “Cultures do not hold still for their portrait.” This is true for queer nightlife culture too. Change is the norm and we must adapt. Our Fund hopes to help local queer nightlife evolve and grow in new ways so that we emerge from the pandemic as strong and vibrant as possible.

To keep awarding grants and providing resources and opportunities for struggling workers in queer nightlife, your donation would be apprecated. Visit our QNF donations page.

Queer Nightlife Fund Financial Update

Since first forming in March 2020, the SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund (QNF) has been working hard to raise money to assist workers in local queer nightlife who are struggling financially due to COVID-19 and the resulting bar and venue closures.

We are proud that to date we have raised $299,699 toward this effort.

Of the $299,699 raised, $220,917 has come from individual donations, $68,783 from organization donations, and $10,000 from foundation grants.

We are especially proud that we have distributed as direct grant relief assistance $236,490 to approximately 300 recipients in need. This has taken place during our Round 1 and Round 2 distribution cycles.

Going forward, QNF is moving to a monthly emergency grant award cycle with new award and application parameters that will be announced soon in a separate post.

One of the additional ways QNF helps support queer nightlife workers is by paying them for their work done during our events such as our regular online Quaran-Tea Dance parties. Thus far we have paid performers $3,830.

As a volunteer led organization, QNF takes pride in keeping our operational costs low, with just 6.3% of monies raised accounting for expenses. Since our founding we have spent: $2,610 for supplies, subscriptions, advertising, and other operating expenses; $6,812 in financial transaction and banking fees; and $5,639 in fiscal sponsorship fees.

Our organization thrives on transparency so that the community can be sure that the money they donate to QNF is being well spent. We remain committed to proper financial oversight of the donations the community has generously contributed to helping queer nightlife workers.

Queer Nightlife Talks Launch

What makes it a party for you? On Tuesday, August 11, 2020, the SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund (QNF) hosted the first of its online Queer Nightlife Talks asking this question. QNF asked attendees at this public forum who frequent local queer nightlife what would draw them to an online or future coronavirus-safe in-person event.

The event served as a community brainstorming session with a wealth of ideas shared on how to best produce events that would meet the needs of Bay Area queer culture as they struggle with the realities of the pandemic.

More than 75 people attended with Angel Garfold of QNF and Honey Mahogany of The STUD facilitating. Media outlet 48 Hills co-sponsored the event. The audience was actively engaged in the discussion both verbally as well as in the robust sidebar chat that took place throughout the event.

QNF is all about sharing. Our mindset is information or resources that can benefit anyone in queer nightlife should be readily shared for all to use. So, in the interest of ensuring that the ideas and comments that arose at the forum are offered to the entire community as useful feedback, we are summarizing the night’s proceedings here.

We hope current and newcomer event producers can use this information to make their events successful and appeal to a wide swath of the Bay Area queer community. We believe that by brainstorming, sharing ideas, and working together, we can all be more effective and evolve more rapidly to foster local queer nightlife  as we adapt to the challenges COVID-19 presents.

The following summary coalesces the most frequently-raised  ideas and comments into high-level thematic categories. However, in the interest of providing the community with a thorough reporting on the night’s happenings for those interested in the greatest level of detail, you can find a public Google document that contains extensive notes taken from the 2-hour discussion – questions, comments and ideas.

QNF Adjusts

Angel explained that the QNF has reworked its mission. The QNF remains committed to providing resources and opportunities to promote and support those in queer nightlife in the SF Bay Area during the COVID-19 pandemic, while also embracing even greater diversity and inclusion.

Amid the reality of donor fatigue and a longer than anticipated pandemic, QNF will be awarding smaller grants for emergency needs like food and medications, and creating new opportunities for queer performers and artists to be paid for their work.

QNF will explain more about its revised mission and objectives in a future blog post.

The next online QNF Quaran-Tea Dance party was announced. It will be Sunday, September 20, 2020. 4pm-7pm, viewable on the QNF Twitch channel.

Online Platforms

There was a lot of discussion about the various online platforms used with Zoom and Twitch being the most mentioned. The censorship on these platforms and others is problematic, especially for some types of queer content audiences want. One new, smaller queer platform, Joie de Vive was mentioned that does not have such restrictions. There appeared to be consensus that our community needs platforms that better suit our needs and perhaps even owned by the queer community itself.

The Zoom breakout room feature is not being used enough, and doing so might encourage more intimate conversations and meeting new people.

The range of technological backgrounds and skill sets for those attending events as well as those looking to produce events ran the gamut from total beginner to advanced and this disparity is a problem. Everyone agreed anything that an increase in the collective technological skills of the community would be welcome.

We need versions of online platforms on which we can easily sell tickets to watch a performance or event behind a paywall.

Online Events – What People Like

The most mentioned benefit of online events was accessibility and ease of access. For those with a disability or who are unable to afford more expensive queer events and venues, online events offer a welcome ease of entry.

More than one person joked that it was nice not having to get dressed or put many clothes on to attend.

The creativity possible and artistry on display with online presentations such as with drag shows was mentioned often. 

Being able to experience a wider range of queer events because of the ease of online access is a plus.

Event platforms which provide chat functionality encourage interactivity and community.Not being able to see people in Twitch as one can with Zoom (if cams are turned on) was a downside of Twitch.

The flattening of geography and global reach of online events not only broadens the audience but provides the opportunity to book talent from across the world.

Online events can provide access for the more introverted or those dealing with social anxiety, and could serve as a bridge to eventually make them feel more comfortable coming to in-person events they might not otherwise attend. This was another vote for continuing the online experiences post-pandemic.

Online Events – What People Don’t Like

The novelty of online events has begun to wear down and producers are struggling to make money during online events. If producers can’t make money, will they have the incentive to maintain an online component once we can return to venues?

Having audiences split between Twitch, Zoom, Facebook, and so on, is problematic. People join on one platform and wonder if they are missing out on the other.

The technological savvy needed to attend events, and certainly to produce them, are hurdles.

Certain event attendees want some dedicated casual time after an event. They do not want the online event to shut down right after it is over. In lieu of holding the event open, the concept of “raiding” into other channels on Twitch or announcing during the event that they hope someone volunteers to host an after party was discussed. 


Discussions about money fell into a few categories.

Online events were doing well with donations in the beginning, but some of that is trickling off. One of the reasons may be that people don’t have the money right now.

The ease of being able to tip performers or donate to events and producers via Venmo, PayPal, or some other easy mechanism is a big plus. Venmo was mentioned most often as the payment app of choice. Having Venmo or other payment information prominently displayed during an event or performance was encouraged. Patreon was another suggested support mechanism discussed.

One of the realities of the pandemic is that those venues and spaces opening for gatherings outside have a financial barrier built in. To have a drink at a bar, you need to buy food, which makes the cost prohibitive for some. In-person events with limited attendance to ensure safety also often have a high price tag associated with them. It is important to continue to take financial challenges into consideration as future events are planned.

Many of the solutions for events inside bars and venues would cost a lot. Would these places absorb these costs, or would they be prohibitive?

Since a lot of online events are donation-based, people who can afford to pay more sometimes do and those who are unable to pay can still attend. This is especially an issue now that so many are not working.

Financial accessibility has been a big plus for online events for which you do not have to pay a cover. Most events have had a request for donation, but no one is turned away for lack of funds.

Performers should be paid for their work to the best ability of producers. This can be tricky since many events are entirely donation based.

Online Event Production

It was agreed that, for now, online events are the predominant form of event gatherings to which we must all adhere. That said, there was consensus that the wider the array of event offerings, the better.

Some of the types of online events suggested were variety shows, competition shows, DJs sets, drag shows, talent contests, open mics, fiercest webcam background contests, comedy shows, dancer performances, and live music.

Many mentioned the desire to have streaming events happening at different times throughout the week instead of just on weekends to draw in more people.

Attendance has started to go down dramatically at online events. Is that because of the good weather, online fatigue, or something else?

Many expressed enjoying the ability to sit and passively consume entertainment while others said they would like to see more interactivity with the event encouraged.

A lot of people are on Zoom events but not using their cameras, and that decreases the sense of communal engagement. While it is understood some are not comfortable on camera, increasing face time can increase a sense of community.

The ask is heavy for online production. The stress of online production is a different ballgame from real life production. Everything goes through one single conduit and if anything goes wrong with the stream the whole event is over.

There was a huge consensus that the community needs as much online production skills and resources development as possible. Skill share classes and mentorships would be welcome and QNF mentioned we are considering just such projects in the future. Shared production facilities, perhaps created in venues that are currently closed, could become production studios available to the community for free or at low cost. Partnerships could be forged that share expertise and resources.

In general, the technological savvy, infrastructure and staffing expertise for online events was considered one of the greatest hurdles to a more diverse set of producers creating events.

In-Person Event Production

People seem ready to go back to in-person events, but only once they are truly safe. Some have a lower threshold of safety requirements than others. While some would consider events in the near term that responsibly social distance and maintain reasonable safety protocols, others were hesitant to attend anything in person until the pandemic is far more resolved than it is today.

It was assumed throughout the discussion that we would not be going back inside bars and venues anytime soon. So, most of the discussion centered on using outdoor spaces for events.

Outdoor spaces with lots of air seem to be the only way to go for now. The more space and moving air, the better.

While there was a lot of great discussion about how to host live events, the legal city and state mandates that prohibit any gatherings of size must obviously be adhered to. It was acknowledged that many of the ideas being offered for real time events are for the future and not for the near term.

Safety protocols such as at the door rapid testing, presenting test results for entry, door temperature checks, drawing circles or designating spaces on the ground, creating physical barriers between pods of attendees, and creating physical barriers people wear like makeshift hoop skirts or certain types of costumes were echoed throughout the event. Mask usage could be encouraged by having a best mask contest.

Karaoke bars were mentioned as a configuration model where you each have your own individual room with perhaps no more than six people per room. That solution contains people well but would still depend on ventilation in the space too.

One thing we learned from the recent Black Lives Matter rallies and protests where people spent hours in close proximity, often shouting, was that since almost everyone wore masks it does not appear a spike in transmission was linked to those events. Distancing did not happen at the protests, but masks did. So, if masks stay on and you are outdoors it can be quite safe.

A challenge for real time events is not just spacing people out in common areas, but rather handling situations like entryways and bathrooms where people will inevitably need to share the same air space with others simultaneously or shortly after others are present.

Some events by their nature enforce social distancing. Flagging (flag dancing) or moving bicycle parties were one way to build in distancing into the nature of the event itself. Properly spaced silent discos and other creative approaches to gatherings were discussed. Perhaps drive-in shows?

Providing free masks upon request for all attendees was both a good safety measure and ensures those who forgot a mask will be protected.

Alcohol and substances spawned a lot of discussion. It was agreed that once people consume alcohol or their substance of choice, their discernment of what is safe or not often flies out the window. The need for safety monitors was paramount to making sure attendees practice safe distancing, wear their masks, and wear them properly. Do we enforce one or two drink maximums when alcohol is served?

One attendee cited a UK news report that scientists discovered that drunk people are not capable of socially distancing.

Certain types of events will lend themselves better to social distancing than others. Shows that pods of separate audience members can watch or lounge environments with chill music that foster staying in one place versus dancing and moving around were considered ideal right now. The future of nightlife in the short term is seated, at tables, or with people separated by some physical or logical barriers.

For outdoor dance parties, the spacing may have to be more than the norm since people are being highly active and likely projecting droplets as they dance. Masks will help in this regard.

Burning Man participants were mentioned as highly creative at developing unique events and configurations, and that we should tap into that creativity and experience.

When we are ready to do outdoor events, we should look to the infrastructure we already have in place locally such as McLaren Park, Garcia Amphitheater, and the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. There are a lot of outdoor spaces that might be free to use (but you do need a permit, which might cost money) and could possibly be sponsored by bars and organizations within the city. We should work with the city to help us with the resources that are already available.

We can get creative with rooftop parties, parties at the beach, and so on.

Speaking of the city, working with our local San Francisco Entertainment Commission, the Department of Public Health, the Mayor’s office and the Board of Supervisors will be important to make sure the community’s queer nightlife culture needs and ideas are taken into consideration when making policy.

Many felt that at the current locations where bars and restaurants are serving in outdoor areas the enforcement of the rules and guidelines were lax. Some places are doing a better job than others. An example was people sitting at tables not actively drinking or eating unmasked for extended periods of times and not being told they were in violation.

Once our local weather turns chilly again, will people be willing to be outside and might this hurt attendance?

Valencia Street, when it is closed off at certain times for gathering, was mentioned a few times. Social distancing does not appear to be happening and some do not have masks on at all.

Someone brought up block parties with perhaps a reserved or progressive system in collaboration with the bars. If there are block parties with stages or screens, the emcee should constantly remind people to keep their mask on when not actively drinking or eating. Maybe we could create a progressive block party associated with various bars so all the bars can benefit and help keep them in business.

The concept of “party pod,” a small group of people who hang and go out together, was a common theme for real time engagement. However, someone mentioned that the reason small groups are recommended is that then it is easier to track if there is an outbreak. So, it is not necessarily safer for people within pods, but if someone does test positive it makes contact tracing easier. But yes, pods do limit exposure and it is a good way to survive this pandemic. Nothing is zero risk. It is about risk reduction. It is not likely any of the solutions discussed during the evening will be 100% safe until there’s a vaccine or if you’re home alone doing only online events.

Our reaction to the pandemic is very much behind Europe and North Asia. They are looking at a lot of ways to deal with the pandemic a little bit post where we are at nationally. It is a good idea to look to them and see what they are doing as far as trying things out and seeing what is working or not.

Will venues need to require those entering to provide accurate contact information for contact tracing if there is an outbreak and how do we ensure that the information provided is accurate?

Hybrid Event Production

Even once the pandemic subsides, many would like to see the online component of events continue because they offer important benefits. 

As an example that illustrates what many envision as a hybrid approach to future events, post-pandemic one could produce a party in a club that could also provide a link for real-time viewing or a pin drop at an outdoor location if people wanted to meet up and dance with people.

Once we can go inside again, the costs to promoters due to reduced capacity, socially distant events are exceedingly difficult if not impossible to sustain.

Whether it was online, in person, or a hybrid, the need for a greater variety of events was often mentioned.

We might need to start with combination events. Those not comfortable joining in person can watch from home. Maybe you have a lottery. A small number of people get to attend the in-person event, and there is a virtual element to the party that people can watch and chat. Eventually you make this hybrid mindset part of the culture.

Perhaps offer some sort of incentivized engagement like an online scavenger hunt and the winners can go to a real time party.

Questions? Ideas?

If there are any questions about this summary or if you have an idea for a topic for a future Queer Nightlife Talk, contact QNF at qnf-info@sfqueernightlifefund.org.

For another insightful take on how local Bay Area nightlife culture is attempting to adapt to the times, check out the Party Radar: Necessary conversations in a time of nightlife consternation article on 48 Hills.