Maybe it's your first time in Spokane, or perhaps you haven't been for a while. Either way, you'll find inclusivity and a spark of fun in a city that's come a long way when it comes to the LGBTQ+ scene.
Individuals no longer have to rely on a one-day-only Pride Parade or a singular gathering place like the former Dempsey’s Brass Rail. Even businesses that aren’t advertised as queer spaces such as The Tiny Tiki, Andy’s Bar & Grill, Baby Bar or Boots Bakery offer opportunities for queers to congregate, so if you’re out and about but not quite out, you have a slew of options to explore.
The powerhouses of pride are easily identifiable, starting with nYne Bar & Bistro. nYne, which operates with a club-style atmosphere. It is the top destination in the Inland Northwest to dance, a Bud Lite in your hand while belting out Celine Dion at the top of your lungs. The club goes all out decorating “to the nYne’s” for holidays, especially Halloween because no one does Halloween better than queer folk!
For a city of its size, Spokane’s drag scene is bustling. Some might argue the rowdiest of these shows is at The Blind Buck, and it’s standing-room-only for Nova Kaine and her fellow dazzling drag queens on the bar-length red carpet. Built as an add-on to the popular Globe Bar & Kitchen in 2017, “Spokane’s hetero-friendly bar” is undoubtedly on the smaller side, but you wouldn’t know it was judging from the volume of the crowd.
“Spokane is evolving, and the Blind Buck reflects that change by having a gay bar with a visible presence in the popular bar district,” said Mike Calderon, manager of the Blind Buck.
If you’ve never been to a true gay bar, the beloved Buck leaves little to the imagination with go-go dancers baring a lot more skin than you’d expect in the winter months!
Gaybies rejoice, Spokane’s LGBTQ+ scene isn’t only for 21+ partiers. The Pin has been carrying the drag torch longer than the Blind Buck, and this all-ages venue allows for more inclusivity. The Pin boasts enough regular performers to host drag king nights so that female, non-binary, genderqueer, or female-identifying people can perform as kings.
“Performing as a drag king not only scratches my artistic itch but allows me to explore my masculinity and more aspects of myself as a genderqueer person,” said Britta E., a local drag king who got their start in summer 2019.
“Overall, the Spokane scene is very welcoming and diverse,” said Britta, who performs under the stage name “Felix Cited Yastrzemski. “The monthly Amateur Drag night at The Pin provided me a bouncing board to enter the scene, but gives a space for under 21 performers, and under 18 for that matter too, since drag scenes often coincide with bar scenes.”
Providing a culture of care for young queer folk, outside of alcohol-centered activities, is what makes another organization, Odyssey Youth Movement, the shining gem in the crown of Spokane’s LGBTQ+ scene.
This nonprofit offers vital resources for ages 13-24 and is the truest of safe spaces, absent of judgment, and abundant with support for young people exploring their orientation or gender. Located in the Perry District and heading into its 28th year of operation, it offers the whole spectrum with after-school drop-in hours, a community closet to provide clothes matching gender expression, and resources for guardians.
OutSpokane, which hosts pride month celebrations including the Rainbow Festival and ever-growing pride parade, also offers resources and Queer Sounds, hosted on KYRS community radio, allows a chance to support the greater LGBTQ+ community at large without ever leaving your house.
Historically the eastern side of Washington state has been viewed as more conservative than western counterparts Seattle and Olympia. Still, Spokane is by far the shining LGBTQ+ beacon within hundreds of miles. With many events hosted in permanent year-round venues to cultivate a culture of pride, all are welcome.