By Tatum Jenkins, Music Coordinator
Pride in Boston is a very visible month. Pride flags line the roof of the Macy’s in Downtown Crossing, events are happening all over the city, and people wear their identities with clothes and makeup. Different from the other places I’ve grown up, June is a comfortable, empowering month. And underneath all the tangible signage is a vibrant queer music scene.
Red Shaydez, a local hip-hop artist, just started being booked for pride events this year. She helped the city of Boston celebrate their Pride kick-off, performed at the 5K fundraiser Road of Rainbows, and will perform at the Trans Resistance March on the 25th. The community has welcomed her with open arms, just as it should.
“I don’t know about a queer scene, but there are queer artists here who are able to take up space in the same spaces as the heterosexual artists,” she commented. “In a way, I see it as there’s room for us, that we don’t have to create our own separate thing.” This ability to coexist and mesh with other sectors of the music scene in Boston makes being a musician, especially a queer musician, easier. As Red Shaydez has experienced this month, more doors rather than less become open in Boston when musicians embrace their identities fully.
In order for this community to thrive though, there need to be spaces for queer people to express themselves and their art. Transgender artist Ezra Furman’s favorite LGBTQ+ venue in Boston was ONCE Lounge and Ballroom in Somerville. She remarked, “I felt really welcomed by ONCE, which is very very pro-queer. I recognized that right away as the place for me, but then it closed.”
Due to the pandemic, many venues have closed in Boston, specifically queer-friendly ones. While ONCE still exists as a “virtual venue” with virtual concerts and as a promoter for other queer events, the place itself is gone.
Many gaping holes have been left throughout the city in place where there once existed hubs for queer people and musicians. However, there are still a few around that have provided indispensable senses of community and entertainment.
Club Cafe is the first place that comes to mind when I ask Red Shaydez about queer spaces in Boston, and it’s the first one I think of too. As a restaurant, club and bar, Club Cafe hosts a lot of events for the queer community, and is just a space for fun located in Back Bay. With drag trivia and karaoke nights, there are so many opportunities to engage in the local queer community.
In Jamaica Plain, Midway Cafe provides a similar service as Club Cafe. Weekly queer karaoke nights, concerts, open mics, and tribute bands fill the event listings on their website, proving the venue a vibrant space for LGBTQ+ Boston residents who aren’t near downtown. Booking all sorts of different musical acts, it’s a great space for queer people who want to get to the core of the versatility in the Boston music scene. They’ve been open since 1987, and luckily, they seem like they’ll be around for a long time to come.
For those particularly involved or interested in drag, Jacque’s Cabaret in Chinatown is the perfect place. They have shows every night of the week, including karaoke, Drag Race watch parties, open mics, and Drag Broadway.
There’s even a place to go if you like sports! Cathedral Station is a gay sports bar and pub down Washington Street. While they don’t host specific events, it’s still a safe space in Boston for queer people who want to get a drink and watch some sports.
While Boston residents have watched many queer spaces close, there is so much to hope for. Whether that’s more queer local artists coming to the forefront of the scene or more spaces opening up, the city has and will continue to provide opportunities for its LGBTQ+ population.
WAYS TO SUPPORT A MORE LGBTQ-FRIENDLY FUTURE
If you want to support queer people in Boston, organizations such as BAGLY, The History Project, and Trans Resistance MA directly work in Boston and provide essential services and support to the local LGBTQ+ population.
Find more of WERS' Pride month essay and article series here.