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LGBTQ students find outlet in underserved nightlife

The UNC football team won against UVA 26 to 13 on Saturday afternoon in the 120th match up between the two teams.
The UNC football team won against UVA 26 to 13 on Saturday afternoon in the 120th match up between the two teams.

These are the only nights of the week where there are official “LGBTQ nights” in Chapel Hill.

The Library, a bar on Franklin Street, has hosted LGBTQ nights every Sunday night, sponsored by Colours N.C., since last fall.

Colours N.C., a Facebook group that focuses on the Chapel Hill LGBTQ-friendly night scene, was founded one year ago by couple Babatunde Omari Williams and Joshua Yates.

Neither Williams nor Yates are UNC students. But Williams said when they moved to Chapel Hill in 2008, they recognized that a LGBTQ space in nightlife, particularly for students, was lacking.

“We have several different LGBTQ groups on campus — (the Sexuality and Gender Alliance), the LGBTQ Center, the Kenan-Flagler LGBT group and a lot of minority groups across campus — but none of them talk to each other, really,” Williams said. “I feel like Colours N.C. is linking those groups together.”

In November, Colours intends to add more LGBTQ nightlife activity during the weekdays and on select weekend nights with the addition of Rosemary Street bar Underground Chapel Hill as a venue for LGBTQ nights.

Dave Wylie, co-owner of The Library, decided to partner with Colours N.C. last year when he realized there was a lack of representation of LGBTQ students in nightlife in Chapel Hill. “There used to be an (LGBTQ) event at the bar Deep End that was called Stir, but that ended when that bar closed,” Wylie said.

“I saw that there wasn’t anybody doing anything like that (last year), so I wanted to support the LGBT community.”

Many LGBTQ-identifying students, like Lauren Martin, the president of UNC’s SAGA, believe that LGBTQ-identifying students are not getting the same nightlife experience as straight-identifying students.

“Because the queer community is kind of small in Chapel Hill, a lot of bars don’t want to waste a Friday or Saturday night to have a gay night when people are more likely to go out,” she said.

“It’s definitely harder to access any kind of queer space to have a good time at night.”

Still, some, like Terri Phoenix, the director of UNC’s LGBTQ Center, are concerned with the safety of LGBTQ individuals who are going out at night, regardless of the venue.

According to the 2011 Campus Climate study compiled by the Provost’s Committee on LGBTQ Life, Franklin Street was listed as the most common place where LGBTQ-identifying people experienced verbal harassment and violence based on their sexual identity, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Of the students, faculty, staff and administrators surveyed, 29.7 percent cited Franklin Street as a location where this harassment has occurred.

“Heteronormitivity is alive and well,” Phoenix said. “Trust your instincts — if something feels wrong, get out.”

Martin said she believes that one thing that can benefit the LGBTQ community and Chapel Hill bars, while also bringing people of different backgrounds together, is drag.

“Drag takes a lot of money, but it does help with creating a safer, queerer space in nightlife,” she said. “It brings a huge crowd.”

Williams, who regularly performs as drag queen Da’Shawnda Laniqua Jackson, said he agrees. He and Yates work to teach new drag kings and queens everything they need to know to have a fun, safe experience on stage at performances.

“What we do with our drag kings and our drag queens in our drag show is we train them in drag class,” Williams said. “We’ll teach them how to do their makeup, we’ll teach them how to dance and we’ll rehearse songs.”

The Library hosts a drag show every third Sunday of each month. Typical LGBTQ club nights will have about 50 to 100 people in attendance, but according to Wylie, drag nights can exceed 200 attendees.

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“It’s a great avenue for people to express themselves, and it’s a lot of fun for everyone involved,” Wylie said.

Williams said Colours is trying to expand its endeavors and create more opportunities for LGBTQ community members to find more connections and safer ways to have fun.

“It bothers me to know that they have no outlet,” he said. “Having one simple outlet can positively change their day-to-day lives, and that’s what Colours is for.”

Wylie agreed.

“As much as it is a LGBT night, it’s so much more than that,” he said.

“People come to LGBT nights without judgment. They come here to have a good time.”