By Caoimhe Lyons
Cork City’s only explicitly advertised gay venue ‘Chambers’ has rebranded itself to be ‘queer-free’ so that it won’t turn off straight people going out during freshers week. This involved removing every poster, every mural, every drop of decor that might hint at queerness.
Sadly, this does not surprise any of us, as Chambers is owned by Rearden’s group, which runs numerous other venues in the city (Secret Garden, Hidden Attic, Le Cabaret). Many workers have made complaints about their treatment by Reardens, from a lack of breaks to not taking harassment towards members of staff seriously.
“A straight makeover”
The rebranding of Chambers from Mondays to Thursdays as a ‘straight’ venue was a decision that none of the Drag Queens who works there had input into, and many will lose their main source of income as a result. Krystal, a local Queen who has certainly been the loudest voice in the past few days and who has worked for Chambers for years, has said “I’ve got rent due, I’ve got bills to pay, I’ve got food to eat, and I’m literally going to struggle for the next few weeks for work now”.
None of the Queens were formally made aware of this ‘straight make-over’ and had to find out through bar staff who overheard management axing this work as to “not scare any of the customers away”. Reardens were happy to use the community for profit when it suited them, but now that they have an opportunity to make a bit extra from supposedly queasy freshers, they drop us like a hot potato.
While there are many doubts from the queer community about the safety of this space, it is the only one that exists in the city. The lack of a venue run by queer people for the community is glaring, when our community spaces are oriented around profit and rainbow capitalism, it is no surprise that the only gay bar (in name) has come to an end like this.
Reject rainbow capitalism
This is not disconnected from the recent right-wing backlash we have seen here and internationally. The Far-Right in Cork has been whipping up racism and transphobia, targeting refugees, the LGBTQ+ community and library workers for supporting the availability of books that include LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education.
To be defiantly queer contradicts the status quo that capitalism depends on. The gender norms and the nuclear family are fundamental building blocks that allow capitalism to function. Anything that champions bodily autonomy, agency and sexual liberation comes into conflict with the rigid norms of our society that expect us to put work before everything else to operate most efficiently.
To liberate ourselves and have a vibrant and, more importantly, safe community, we must oppose this rainbow washing that will always turn its back on us. We need to fight for communities, streets, workplaces, cities and towns that have the needs of ordinary people at the core. We must get the boot of the rich and their political defenders off our bodies and minds.
There will be a protest this evening 14/09/23 outside the courthouse from 9-10 pm. More information and updates on this can be found on the @corkqueers Instagram page.