Looking at LAVISH with new eyes

Artwork showing the front of the bar LAVISH, posters on the walls that read (Run by straight people, for gay people), (Drag show 19+) and (London's favourite gay bar) CREDIT: NINA HEPPLEWHITE
It was in the alternative clubs there that I discovered who I was, who I could be and what I was capable of. It was in clubs like LAVISH that I found freedom and a home.

During Pride Week last year, I wrote an article about one of London’s most well-known landmarks, the LGBTQ2S+ nightclub LAVISH. The article meant a huge deal to me because I believed in LAVISH. I am fairly new to London, having lived most of life in the other London (UK), moving there as an awkward 18-year-old, who really never fit in anywhere. It was in the alternative clubs there that I discovered who I was, who I could be and what I was capable of. It was in clubs like LAVISH that I found freedom and a home.

To say the LGBTQ2S+ community holds a special place in my heart would be an understatement. The article I wrote, where I had the opportunity to interview the owner, was a love letter to what the club stood for. In this small town, LAVISH appeared to be the only visible queer club around. It was an opportunity to highlight the importance of an accessible, safe space for the queer community, especially the younger generation where club life is central to the development of their self-image and where their identity is formed.

Club life flourished along with the community as it was historically a place for gay culture to be celebrated. The dictionary meaning of the word LAVISH is: “bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities on.” I think that sums it up quite nicely. In the article I quoted the owner stating, “I don’t like to exclude anybody and there’s no point to…why exclude anybody? Punk rockers, geeks, everybody can come and be who they want to be, without judgment.”

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This message was something I wanted everyone who felt they didn’t belong, or wanted to just discover what belonging felt like, to hear and take as an invitation to a very exclusive party where they were guest of honour. I’m corny as all get out.

Then a few weeks ago, I bumped into a friend who happens to be one of the performers at the nightclub, and he said he read the article I wrote about LAVISH. Yay! I love it when people read my writing. I should have been elated and proud…I wish. He informed me that my article about the club LAVISH was far from reality, but rather a work of fiction. Recently, LAVISH was engaged to host a Western Pride event, but pulled out after they learned that drag queens would be performing at the dance. I know what you are thinking, drag queens and pride are synonymous with each other, right? The issue was that the Western Pride event was an all-ages show. The owner of LAVISH felt that potentially exposing “minors” to drag was putting them in a possibly dangerous situation. In a CBC article, LAVISH’s bar manager John Banks stated, “We don’t want to put a minor in a spot they don’t want to be in. There could be a lot of dangerous situations at an all-ages event when there is older drag or young drag and someone who is 17-years-old doesn’t want to be exposed to that.” My heart sank when I heard about this. I believed in what I wrote, that LAVISH was a safe space for all to express themselves. I also believe that a 17-year-old who can drive, go to work, go to parties, and choose a career is intelligent and mature enough to handle a drag performance. Michael Bain, also known as Woozy Dazey, said it perfectly in the article when he stated, “We’re not asking them to open all drag shows to all-ages, because that would be inappropriate, but I don’t think they should restrict all drag shows to 19+.”

Pulling drag performances entirely out of the Western Pride dance was a damaging course of action. It is irresponsible and thoughtless dramatic actions like this that put young people in harm’s way. Drag is an art form of the highest level and art is definitely something young adults should not be protected from. In fact, we all need to be protected from individuals who feel it necessary to instill this fear of artistic expression in communities.

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.