The Next Round: What happens after you change your drinking?

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Queers Without Beers team by Tim Boddy

Can you be queer and sober?

Can you be queer and sober? The answer, of course, is yes. You can be absolutely anything that you want to be. Perhaps a better question is: can you easily be queer and sober? As we learn from our panel discussion which was recorded during our Mindful Drinking Festival in October 2021, being queer and being a drinker can be inextricably linked. Linking our drinking to such a crucial part of our identity can cause problems when we feel ready to ditch the booze.

A really important branch of what we do at Club Soda is that we run Queers Without Beers. It’s an organisation that we set up in around 2016 which hosts a series of alcohol-free LGBTQI+ social events as well as an active online community. Being as February is LGBT+ History Month in the UK, we wanted to revisit this important conversation about navigating being queer and sober. This discussion panel is chaired by Queers Without Beers’ trustee Scott Pearson, also known on Instagram as @proudandsober.

What is Queers Without Beers?

Queers without Beers is a charity set up by Club Soda for members of the community who are queer and sober. It’s a social space for LGBTQI+ people of all persuasions to socialise without it revolving around booze. Club Soda works in conjunction with other UK charities to bring Queers Without Beers’ monthly events to different parts of the UK.

  • In London, Club Soda joins up with LGBT Mental Health & Wellbeing Charity London Friend
  • In Manchester, the Queers Without Beers activities are organised by Club Soda and the LGBT Foundation
  • Our newest Queers group is in Bristol, where LGBT+ Alcohol & Drug Support charity PRISM are our partners

Why is the discussion around being queer and sober so important?

I had no exposure to a gay community growing up. So when I started going out partying at 18 or 19, I associated alcohol with the scene. ‘I’m out. I’m with gay people. And everyone’s drunk. So this is me now. I’m gay. And I drink and so the two go hand in hand.’

Tom Davis

Alcohol use is often a large part of the LGBTQ+ social scene that many of our panel, and indeed many of our community members, were introduced to. Gay bars have historically been the heart of queer communities, and a safe place for freedom of expression and celebration where perhaps places outside of the bars haven’t always been as welcoming.

While the social aspect of being part of the queer community is crucial for our sense of identity and belonging, its underpinning with booze culture can be problematic for those who are changing their drinking.

I think alcohol works in two ways in the queer community; we drink in order to socialize. But you often drink to deal with strong emotions…and if you’ve not been able to live your authentic self, particularly from a very young age, then you begin to self-medicate your emotions through doing that. And rather than doing the emotional development that we need, we do all of that through the lens of drinking.

Laura Willoughby, Club Soda

It’s all about creating spaces where it’s okay to be who you are. And to feel that being queer and sober and not uncomfortable being either of those things is really important. Queers Without Beers is all about is normalizsng being out as an LGBTQ+ person and not drinking and that being totally okay.

Find more topical discussions on the Club Soda Podcast

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