According to lesbian activist Izzy Kamikaze, not finding your place within your own community has long been an issue. The Hirschfield Centre, founded in 1979, was Dublin’s pioneering hub for the gay community. The first of its kind in Europe, the venue largely attracted men. Newly out, Izzy would arrive to dance nights seeking community, and be told by the people on the door, “wrong night”.
At Dublin’s mainstream LGBTQ+ clubs, I’ve felt that I’m constantly attending the wrong night. Last time I attended the many-storied neon dance floor of a popular club, a woman approached me asking for a cigarette. I gave her one and asked if she was having a good night. With a wide smile, she said, “I have Covid” and flounced away. My friend and I were gobsmacked. Then I realised - she had thought I was flirting with her. To her, this was an appropriate way to ward off my advance.
Another time, my newly out lesbian cousin and I thought we’d try our chances going on the pull at a gay bar in the city centre. We came on a Friday night and were overwhelmed by the overcrowding of dancers. After a few hours, we went home without meeting any LGBTQ+ women. My cousin rolled their eyes and proclaimed, “It’s a sausage fest. Let’s not go again.” And we haven’t.
At a newer LGBTQ+ venue, I was assumed straight by a gay man. When I told my friends, they described having the same experience happen to them.
I’ve told these anecdotes countless times, but they’re only one bisexual woman’s experience of how male-dominated LGBTQ+ nightclubs have become unwelcoming. Whether it be the ridiculously expensive drinks, the overcrowding, or the glaring lack of LGBTQ+ women present. I have had enough. As a lover of all things nightlife, it pains me to see the lack of options for LGBTQ+ women to have a good night out.
I’m not the only person fed up with queer venues claiming to be inclusive, but revolving around men. Pushback against the hostility of gay Dublin nightlife has come in the shape of women’s LGBTQ+ club nights becoming increasingly popular and having queer women’s interests at their centre. I’ve spoken with organisers to get the low down on the emerging DIY(KE) scene.
Honeypot is an electronic club night and community for “gay girls and friends”. Founded by Kerry Mahony and Emma Murphy in 2022, the party is known for queer crowds and electrifying energy. The creators told me that over lockdown they had in mind a night out that put lesbians, queer women, and trans and non-binary people at the forefront . The pop-up club continually supports emerging and established female and non-binary DJs.
From Honeypot, club goers can expect sets from female, trans, and non-binary DJs, a sense of celebration, and the ability to let loose in a safe environment .
Dykon was set up in 2021 by Mafalda ‘Mafi’ Hrušková. Mafi was inspired to create Dykon to provide a safe night out for LGBTQ+ women. Dykon’s mission “is to hold exclusive events for queer women and non-binary people”. Mafi adds, “We don’t often have spaces dedicated to us. That’s what makes Dykon different and safe.”
Similar to my own experiences, Mafi says, “I’ve had very few good experiences in ‘straight’ clubs and I feel as though all the ‘gay’ clubs have become more of a tourist attraction than a safe space. I needed somewhere I felt safer and where I could fully be myself. I’ve seen similar types of events in other countries and realised Ireland was lacking in this aspect. I told I myself if no one else is going to do it, I will.”
She further elaborates, “It’s very well known that women don’t feel safe on nights out. For this reason, security and staff at Dykon are briefed in collaboration with Safe Gigs Ireland on how to keep us all safe.”
Safe Gigs Ireland is an initiative that seeks to eliminate discrimination and sexual violence in nightlife by creating a zero-tolerance environment for all forms of violence and unacceptable behaviour. This new awareness of what makes a good night out for women is inspiring to see. I’m heartened to see nightclubs adopt these policies. To add to the nightclub’s mission of inclusivity, Dykon also has a group chat for people who are attending alone so they can meet people and make friends before the event .
Multiple young gay women complain about how difficult it is to figure out if a woman is flirting or simply being nice. To combat this, Dykon has set up an initiative. When attendants step through the doors they are offered a pink or blue wristband. The blue wristband signals to other clubbers that you’re open to friendship, the pink means you’re open to flirtation.
DJ and Club Comfort organiser Roo Honeychild highlights techno club, Yamamori Tengu, as attracting a diverse scene of people. She tells me that “the Night Monitor team that came in over summer and the decision to keep bouncers out of the venue as much as possible has been a very positive development.” The club also has a unisex bathroom policy.
Having experienced the club firsthand, I can testify to the club’s welcoming environment and diverse lineups. Roo echoes this, “there’s been a concerted effort from a lot of people to foreground women and trans people and their work, especially since the end of the pandemic. It’s great that there’s a selection of queer dance parties such as Tender, Honeypot, GRACE, Strawberries, and Ethereal Skies, that can now provide a circuit for young women and queer DJs to get early bookings and be supported. That simply did not exist when I got into all of this and it was a lonelier world. For queer women, there’s been an absolute dearth of parties catered to them in Dublin for as long as I’ve been going out.”
Lunacy (@queer_lunacy) was set up in 2022 by Saturn WölfflöW. The event is a free underground event that happens under the full moon. At Lunacy, attendants can expect to dance outdoors under the stars. She details the founding of Lunacy: “I left a stand-up piano in the middle of a mural on the back wall of Bushy Park’s amphitheater last Valentine’s Day with a message saying love yourself. Self love can be very hard for a trans person during the holiday.” She details the importance of inclusivity, “I don’t think there is enough balance in any part of the world for womxn. White cis het men need to just step back and switch off the money vacuum.”
Speaking to these organisers, I found that trans-inclusivity is crucial to the ethos of these events. For Dykon, this means that gender inclusivity is implemented by a nightclub team made up of non-binary, trans, and queer women. Mafi states that “something seemingly as simple as choosing the ‘correct’ toilet can be a daunting decision for some, so changing the gendered signs to unisex has been important .”
Roo Honeychild comments that, “these spaces are only welcoming to women and trans people if they are active and uncompromising in what they do. [Club spaces] should consciously try to mitigate and make up for the dangers that we face in other clubs and in wider society. This can be challenging because there’s no rulebook that tells you the best practice in every situation. But as long as there’s enough people trying, it makes a big difference.”
All of these LGBTQ+ women’s events can be found on Instagram. So long as the innovators keep organising, LGBTQ+ young women will continue to have a space to meet, kiss, and fall in lust.
THE GIRL’S ROOM
The Girl’s Room (@thegirlsroomirl), began in 2022, and sets out to replicate the experience of empowerment felt in a women’s bathroom on a night out. The Girl’s Room aims to create a safe space for women to express themselves freely. Collaborating with Safe Gigs Ireland, the club night is exclusively for women and non-binary people.