Of Color: Nightlife

It’s dark and loud…very loud. There are random flashes of lights, matching the pulsating beat. It’s crowded around me, packed to capacity. I stand very still while everyone else is moving.

The music isn’t typically what I’d listen to, but I try to keep an open mind. I observe.

The crowd is insane. Bouncing, grinding, many chose to remove their shirts. I debate dancing, but I don’t move. I’m not sure how to jump in. I notice the cliques, small tight groups on the floor together. I came out alone tonight.

‘Loosen up,’ I tell myself. I start to sway gently to the music, real casual. I’m hoping someone will ask me to dance. It sucks standing here alone.

After a song of two of my monotonous movement, I decide to grab a drink…or two. That should help me stop thinking so much. I navigate through the hoard of party-goers to the back of the drink line.

As I stand in line, I notice how damn pretty everyone is. My clothes don’t look anything like theirs. Why did I wear this outfit?

I notice a group in front of me talking. I tell myself I could maybe laugh at one of the jokes they’re telling, or compliment one of them to segue myself into their convo.

Yet, the more I listen to what they’re talking about, I realize I’d have nothing to contribute. ‘I’d just embarrass myself’, I think.

I get my drinks and find a small corner to sit and watch. I’m mad at myself for coming out because I’m not having fun, but I know I would have beat myself up if I stayed in on another Saturday night.

I told myself I wanted to start going out, make new friends, but it wasn’t working here. No one here looks, acts or talks like me. What am I doing here?

I finish my drinks and stand up to leave. I don’t want to be here anymore.

My name is Trevor Miles, and above is my personal experience with Pittsburgh gay nightlife. I was curious how others were feeling about this, so I talked with a few other queer people of color from different areas of the city, and asked them about their experiences in white-dominated, gay nightlife spaces.


Kendall Fairly // 29 // Lawrenceville

“I don’t go to the gay bars much here due to the fact that it feels very segregated. It seems to me that you need to fit within a certain type of group or have a certain type of social advantage in order to be accepted. If you’re a black male with money and a built body then you will fit in with just about any group. If you personality presents more of an intelligent [black male] then you will be approached more. I feel that people of color are judged first by looks, and how they speak more that anything. I feel that if a group of “gays” were placed in a room but unable to see who  they were talking to, they would truly be able to connect with anyone. But for some reason, once they see the person and it doesn’t match the ideals of what they are expecting, and what their group of friends would accept, then that opportunity [is] lost. This city needs to wash away the cliques and stereotypes, embrace new and different kinds of people/personalities.Then, will we be a united group.”’


Kyran Tremaine // 27 //  Northside


“Once I started taking testosterone and passing more as a black male, I felt as welcomed as I could, being protected under basic discrimination laws knowing that the owners of these clubs would not want a racial lawsuit happening lol. But by my peers, who didn’t know me, it really felt like I didn’t belong at all. It’s already an issue being black in Shadyside with the assumption that you’re coming from Garfield, Larimer, Homewood to start trouble, you know? It also doesn’t help that, unless it’s happy hour for 5801 or Spin, that they think because you’re black, you probably can’t even afford to be in that neighborhood. I’d remember experiences where I was ignored by the bartender though I was waiting for my drink order before other patrons. Then, respectively, there’s the fact that people of color are usually subjected to a fetish. Buddy system should be common when going to the bathroom in a club/bar scene with people just to make sure your loved-ones are safe at all times. Usually I am fine when I go to the bathroom (even with being FTM trans, using the men’s bathroom, in straight clubs/bars) but with 5801 in particular, I cannot tell you how many white men tried to grope on me as I was just trying to make sure I didn’t piss on myself! Pittsburgh is still a highly segregated city as far as race/class neighborhood division, the limitations on safe LGBTQIA clubs/bars, safe Black bars, and the fact that the intersection of Black/POC/LGBTQIA safe spaces are nonexistent creates a problem. Why does Pittsburgh Pride shut down all of Downtown versus Black Pride being this nonexistent thing? White Gay Men have the money in Pittsburgh, and they are keeping that money within their own demographics.”

Brittney Chantele // 23 // Mt Washington  

“As a Pittsburgher of color, I can definitely say I’ve noticed the lack of ethnic diversity in Pittsburgh’s gay spaces. Although I’ve recently been introduced to HotMass, it appears as if there is slightly more diversity there than other gay spaces in Pittsburgh. When it comes to inclusion and drawing the ethnic LGBTQIA community into these spaces, I think it’s important for the establishments to announce their intention and their purpose as well as host events that would draw that community to the space. It’s about inclusion. It’s about feeling welcomed and safe. Establishments need to understand that and direct more focus onto that notion.”


Angelo Herd // 25 // Penn Hills

“My experience with gay culture and society is relatively new compared to most of my gay peers. I didn’t get my start into nightlife until I was 22. When I talk about my experiences with Pittsburgh’s gay scene that didn’t happen until about last year. So I’m new to it all but my eyes aren’t closed to the racism and bigotry. Personally for me my experiences aren’t as uncomfortable compared to my black friends. I will say though when I step into many of these white dominated clubs and bars the bar staff is very friendly and I don’t feel like I’m being ignored. The establishment looks nice and is usually in good shape. I will say though that I think Pittsburgh is very closed-minded and that includes the gay men. Racial tolerance is what I would call it. I don’t think the issue is the club itself but more of the people who run it. They are creating an atmosphere for racism to thrive. And it’s unfortunate because I’ve noticed many of the black men that frequent these places would rather not date their own race. That’s just crazy to me, how can you look at yourself as beautiful, but not find many of the same people with your skin complexion or features beautiful? A club cannot enact change only the people who go to these places can. A club can create a setting where it welcomes a larger, more mixed crowd though. From changing up the music, and having more non-white workers. A gay club or bar should always feel welcoming no matter the skin color.”


While interviewing people for this article, I felt a mixture of emotions. Part of me felt glad that I wasn’t some castaway on a deserted island, but that there were actually so many others who experienced what I had. However, I also felt really bad that any of us have to be left with these emotions, especially when we just want to enjoy the nightlife, and have a good time being with our community.

A few calls to actions I would give queer people of color / allies :

  1. Don’t Boycott!- Someone once told me, that to leave and remain away from place of business only makes you more invisible. Go to the space, make yourself known. Be proactive in the experience, try not to stay in the corner. You never know who may gravitate toward you.  
  2. Integrate- If you are an ally, accompany your friends of color to these places. While it doesn’t completely fix all diversity problems, know that it comforts your friend having a support group. Also, introduce your friends to each other- it’s a small city!
  3. Interact- If you frequent gay nightlife and you notice someone alone, talk to them, or invite them into your circle! This is one thing many people say is off-putting about gay bars– people don’t usually venture outside of their cliques. And remember, be kind. Everyone is from a different walk of life.
  4. Support – We must attend events, especially events of color!  When we come out in numbers, we show businesses that we are definitely here, and that we want more consistency than just one-off, specialty parties. If there is a Ball, Drag Show, or Queer dance party, we need to attend. We can push for a better nightlife experience, but first,  we’ve got to show our faces at events that already exist.
  5. Step Up – Businesses and organizations, I’m talking to you! We people of color love when you host specialty events for us, but we need more than a nice event during Black History Month. We crave something steady, a space that makes us feel welcome. We bring swag, we spend money and we like to have fun just like the rest of Pittsburgh. Don’t count us out.

This article originally appeared on QueerPgh.com. This article is preserved as a part of the Q Archives project. Please consider donating to help preserve Pittsburgh’s Queer history.