A look at third places and their importance to the LGBTQ+ community


Third places are vibrant spaces where identity can be explored and expressed openly. Third places have often acted as safe spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community. The casual and neutral ground third places offer creates a space where everyone and anyone can feel welcomed, with those of similar and different identities in attendance. For decades, gay bars and clubs have been sanctuaries for many in the community to build camaraderie, foster a sense of belonging, develop social mobility, and create relationships around shared experiences.

Until recently, same-sex relationships were illegal, and anti-queer violence was rampant. In 1998, Matthew Shepard was pistol-whipped, tortured, tied to a fence, and left to die in a hate crime in Wyoming. In times past, community members could be arrested for open solicitation of queer expression as the mere gathering of homosexuals was deemed disorderly by many presiding institutions. Because of these societal pressures, many members of the LGBTQIA+ community would seek refuge in gay bars and clubs where they could openly express themselves and socialize without fear. Fortunately, laws and societal norms have changed over the past few decades, and conditions have improved for the LGTBQIA+ community.

With the closing of Tisane Euro-Asian Café, a queer safe space in the region operating for 24 years, there is currently only one LGBTQ+ bar in the Capitol Region. Chez Est has been a queer bar, restaurant, and cabaret space serving the community around Hartford for 47 years. For generations, Chez Est has been a welcoming space for the queer community, often supporting local drag queens with drag shows and events. It continues to serve as an incredible space to let loose and dance to iconically queer music while enjoying a drink with friends. The Chez Est is, without a doubt, a staple of our region. We must recognize the importance of these spaces and what they do for our community.

Third Places are where members of the LGBTQIA+ community can affirm their identities and build empathy for identities different from ours. When individuals from the community go to third places, they can find people who share racial, cultural, ethnic, linguistic, religious, sexual, and gender identities with us. Finding people with identities you recognize and identify with can be incredibly affirming. It is not just a bar but a social pillar for the community. It is of the utmost importance that this source of vibrancy and LGBTQIA+ fun is protected and supported to continue serving the regional community. While we preserve the Chez Est, we must plan and look for opportunities to bring more establishments like this to the region.

The Capitol Region has a lot to offer. We must actively plan for and develop a more robust and accessible regional nightlife market. By supporting accessible nightlife, we support the regional residents who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community and their sense of belonging here. Happy PRIDE!

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