When I started my professional career as a DJ six years ago, I couldn't help but notice a stark difference between events for gay men and women. From the venues to the lineups, it was obvious that lesbian parties got the shaft, for lack of a better word.
More and more of our bars, parties and clubs have been fizzling out recently. In October, the Lexington Club, a staple in the San Francisco lesbian community, announced that it would be closing its doors after 18 years. Veteran West Village bar RF Lounge also shuttered last year, along with short-lived newbie The Dalloway, which was co-owned by Kim Stolz of America's Next Top Model and Amanda Leigh Dunn of The L Word.
Friday night mainstay party Truck Stop in West Hollywood cancelled in late 2014, and even the original (and controversial) "womyn's music festival" known as Mich. Fest. is calling this August their final hurrah after 40 years. These closures and cancellations aren't just a US phenomenon. Candy Bar in London: closed. Le Drugstore in Montreal... well, you get the point.
A couple at the long-running Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, which will celebrate its last hurrah this year
So what does this all mean for the tens of thousands of queer women who exist and still need a space in the nightlife world?
Even though the shuttering of so many of our parties, bars, clubs, and festivals might suggest the death of the "lesbian party," there is an encouraging counter-movement: the rise of queer-identifying female DJ collectives such as Discwoman in New York City, Daphne at Chicago's Smart Bar, Female Pressure in Berlin, and The Athena Collective in LA.
The surge of platforms like these are bringing more attention to the lack of visibility and respect for female DJs, while effectively creating spaces for queer females to express themselves and meet like-minded allies. Instead of trying to fight our ways into the "boy's club," we're creating our own.
Under this exact reasoning, I decided to create my own events company three years ago. I wanted to throw well-produced parties with diverse female talents in top-notch venues—basically, events that are on par with what everyone else seems to have. I started with a weekly parties on Wednesday, and within three months, I had my first event with over 1,200 women in attendance. The numbers spoke for themselves. Surprise! What do you know?! Girls do spend money, and they will support the scene. They just need the right ingredients to realize it's worth their time and hard earned cash. Major nightlife impresarios in New York took notice. Marquee now houses my largest party of the year—a nine-hour Pride celebration (appropriately named THE PARTY) following the NYC Pride parade on the last Sunday of June.
Women—particularly those who are of color, queer, or non-feminine presenting—need more visibility in the music and nightlife world. It seems like the only way to get the attention of notable venues, and prove that yes, we women and queers do exist in this industry—and might actually have something worthwhile to say in a young, white, male-dominated space—is to build the parties we want to see and play for.
[body_image src='//thump-images.vice.com/images/2015/06/10/who-says-the-lesbian-party-scene-is-dead-body-image-1433968086.jpg' width='960' height='639']Amber Valentine spinning at Whitney Day's NEON party at Marquee
Of course, my events are not only for the DJs, but first and foremost for women and LBTQs. We need great music, solid soundsystems, and credible venues—not just to feel "safe," but because we deserve to have high standards in our nightlife options.
This year will be a career highlight for me as I proudly present a full Pride month line-up in NYC consisting of four incredible events ranging from a party at Verboten that goes well into after-hours, the city's only outdoor pool party for women at Dream Downtown, a more intimate club night at the legendary Cielo, and the grand finale at Marquee, one of the most highly acclaimed nightclubs in NYC. Over 4,000 women will attend these events, and dance to the sounds of 12 female DJs hailing from Columbia, Sydney, Frankfurt and NYC. And the music will be done justice each night by Funktion1 systems, the very best in sonic experience.
So to those who say the lesbian party is dead, I say, think again. Now is the awakening of lesbian nightlife and the visibility of queer women in electronic music.
Whitney Day is a DJ and events producer in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.