HALIFAX, N.S. – A club in Halifax named after a character on the television show the Trailer Park Boys isn’t typically considered a gay bar.
But Bubbles Mansion was on Friday night.
Close to a hundred people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community showed up at the downtown club around midnight.
There weren’t any signs or explanations, but the crowd of people wearing white shirts socialized on the dance floor as top-40 music blasted.
The unexpected invasion was part of Guerilla Gayfare, a monthly event where people from the gay community go to a stereotypically ‘straight’ bar.
Organizer and co-founder Jeff Myles said the event isn’t meant to be hostile, but it does create exposure for the community and offers an alternative to the few venues known for being ‘gay friendly.’
“It’s more of an opportunity for a group of people who may not necessarily go to these places on their own to feel more comfortable,” said Myles. “There’s obviously the comfort and strength in numbers.”
Guerilla Gayfare started in the United States and gained a large following in cities like Austin, Texas, and Los Angeles.
The first Canadian chapter started in Ottawa and the idea spread to Halifax.
Friday’s event was the 15th time Guerilla Gayfare hit the Halifax bar scene since April 2008.
The location is always secret until the night before the event.
Friday was the first time Scott Young attended a Gayfare event and also the first time he went to a bar in Halifax other than Reflections Cabaret, a gay bar.
“I don’t go to any straight bars really. I’m kinda nervous to go. I don’t know what they’ll think or how they’ll act or what,” he said.
Myles said that while many people are accepting, the event has encountered homophobic comments.
“A lot of people take it for granted but there are still people who are opposed to the lifestyle,” he said.
Myers said there haven’t been any incidents of violence and he hopes there won’t be.
“It’s generally such a large group that it’s intimidating, to be honest. Someone who would generally bully or cause a bit of a scene might choose not to,” he said.
Alanna Felt who started a similar event in St. John’s, N.L., said it’s difficult to know how often homophobic incidents happen at bars, but that hateful language is still common, even in sober settings.
She said many people don’t want to risk a nasty confrontation.
“A lot of people will avoid places where they’re going to feel unsafe,” Felt said. “(St. John’s) is certainly not an environment where everyone is free to be open and out.”
She said that Guerilla Queerfare (it has a different name in St. John’s in hopes of being more inclusive) offers people a chance to be open about their sexuality in a safe setting.
Felt said having a dress code calls attention to the event, but also lets people celebrate their sexuality.
“A huge amount of prejudice still exists so it’s important to make ourselves as visible as possible, as often as possible,” she said.
Both St. John’s and Halifax held events on Friday that coincided with Pride Week.
Bubbles Mansion patrons in Halifax didn’t seem too concerned about the number of men dancing with other men Friday night.
Some people didn’t even know there was a special event happening.
“I don’t think anyone notices,” said bartender Samantha Cavanagh.
Although he wasn’t part of the Gayfare event, Koby Daniels was wearing a white shirt and he did notice what he called “an irregular crowd.”
“I’m straight, but I don’t mind anyone. I don’t want it to be rubbed in my face or anything, but I’m who I am and they’re who they are. Everyone is having fun,” he said.
As more and more Gayfare participants arrived at the bar, Young was looking forward to a fun night out. He wasn’t worried about anyone’s reactions.
“It’s 2009. It’s OK to be gay,” he said.