Pride on our sleeves?

AMBER SCHADEWALD | Updated 8/17/2012

Does the GLBT scene need its own spaces, or is it ready to hit the mainstream?


Left: It's not just a teenage vampire movie anymore: Twilight is the popular new monthly lesbian night at the Kitty Cat Klub in Minneapolis. Right: Jetset in the Minneapolis Warehouse District has a laid-back vibe compared with most downtown gay clubs.

Another year, another Pride, and what's new in the Twin Cities gay scene? Well, the boy-based clubs like Jetset and the other flashy downtown joints have remained status quo. The only lesbian bar in Minneapolis, Pi, closed in November after just two years, followed by a collection of lesbian-themed club nights such as Booby-Trap and the Dollhouse -- the latter of which has already bit the dust. Meanwhile, Iowa legalized gay marriage before Minnesota could even make a move.

Outward Spiral, the only exclusively gay theater company in the state, is disbanding this summer after 14 years. The GLBT youth center District 202, formed in 1993, is ending day-to-day operations in July. At the same time, safe queer spaces can now be found everywhere from schools to corporations. While GLBT support services are still needed, it's becoming less clear where.

But these observations are only part of the story. Below the surface lies a diverse population of GLBT people with equally diverse views on the state of the community. So with one of the most popular Pride celebrations in the nation returning this weekend, what is it exactly that we in the Twin Cities GLBT community can be proud of? And where do we go from here?

Almost every major U.S. city seems to have its "gay ghetto"-- a four-block area cluttered with gay-friendly clubs, coffee bars and shops. But Minneapolis and St. Paul are relatively unique in that gay establishments are spread out across the metro, and in recent years more hangouts have adopted an unofficial "gay-friendly" reputation. The florescent rainbow sign in the window is no longer the only indication that gays are free to linger.

So maybe the broader city is ready to play host, but is the gay community ready to step outside its gay-only spaces and take ownership anywhere and everywhere it chooses to spend a night out? Is it safe to say the queer community is moving towards integration? Or is that just a step in the direction of assimilation?

"Our world is starting to shift," says Jeffry Lusiak, 32, artistic director of the disbanding Outward Spiral. "These very queer-specific spaces aren't needed anymore -- we felt our mission had been fulfilled." If Outward Spiral began with the intention of filling a gap in theater, today mainstream theaters are doing queer shows regularly, such as the Guthrie's current production of "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures." "Our stories are being told," Lusiak says.

At the same time, as the broader hetero-society's view of GLBT persons is beginning to resemble acceptance, members of the queer community are also shifting their perceptions of how the community should function and present itself. Even the concept of "pride" is evolving into a more diverse, personalized sense of self. Once an umbrella term used to encompass an entire community, pride can no longer be explained via rainbows, Cher and/or Melissa Etheridge, and grimy nightclubs.

Twilight offers a relatively mellow space for sipping wine and hanging out with other queer women.

Patrick Scully is the founder of Patrick's Cabaret, an experimental venue that has been hosting an eclectic mix of artists since 1986. Its rainbow flag flies high atop the building in the Longfellow neighborhood, marking an organization that Scully says is "not an exclusively queer place, but always a queer place." When asked if Minneapolis still needs distinctively gay spaces, Scully, 55, nods. "There are times when you build bridges and times when you need to be at home."