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Queer folks sharing a book

The Importance of Sober Spaces for Queer Folks

There is no denying that gay bars and nightclubs have played a pivotal role in LGBTQ+ history and the emergence of the Pride culture. For many years, it’s been the only accessible and safe space for Queer people to be themselves without fearing discrimination or violence. 

Hence, LGBTQ+ individuals in recovery from substance abuse or drug addiction struggle to express their sexuality and sobriety at the same time freely. Speaking out about their recovery from alcohol abuse or addiction could mean losing friendships and suffering from loneliness and isolation as a result.

Freedom From Addiction believes it’s possible to be queer and sober. In this article, we’ll tackle the challenges of protecting sobriety while thriving within the LGBTQ+ community and share a list of sober spaces in the country. 

Queer friends at Pride parade

Peer Pressure from the Queer Community

Due to the inherent nightlife culture in the LGBTQ+ community, alcohol and drug use have become permanent fixtures in most Queer events. While it’s not a big deal for others, LGBTQ+ people who are freshly recovering from addiction can struggle quite a bit.

“I have to constantly check myself before I go out to make sure that I’m mentally prepared,” Brandon Wallace explains in a Medium blog. “Sometimes, I have to cut out after only being there a short time; other times, it doesn’t bother me at all. It really all depends on where I am that day. But, on those days that I don’t feel strong enough, I usually just have to go to a gay AA meeting to find that social aspect.”

Queer-friendly addiction support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings used to be the only viable venues that promote being queer and sober. Unfortunately, many LGBTQ+ individuals struggling with substance abuse hesitate to seek addiction treatment since drinking, drug use, and nightlife is a cultural norm in Queer communities. Many addiction treatment centres are expanding their services to include Queer-specific programs in order to create a safe and comfortable environment for addiction help and recovery.

Given the tightly knit nature of the LGBTQ+ community, there is also a concerning amount of peer pressure among Queer folks to drink. The aggressive advertising and marketing campaigns of alcohol companies accurately targeted for the members even make it worse. 

A 2015 study from Glasgow Caledonian University surveyed LGBTQ+ participants in Scotland about their alcohol consumption. Their drinking habits were heavily influenced by the ads for alcohol use in Glasglow gay bars, featuring highly sexualized shots of half-naked people doing body shots. 

Two gay men drinking coffee

Queer and Sober Spaces in Canada

“While the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement started in The Stonewall Inn bar, there’s an increasing push for ‘sober spaces’ in our community, and not just as a way to fight alcoholism,” Daniel Villarreal writes for LGBTQ Nation.

Canada is arguably one of the most LGBTQ-friendly countries around the world. There’s now a burgeoning number of Queer cafes and organizations managing sober meetups for the LGBTQ+ community in Toronto.

There are also inclusive and sober spaces in every city that’s worth visiting and inspire you to keep going. Here are a few examples:

The Gay Village, Toronto 

Nestled in the heart of The Gay Village, Glad Bookshop is the oldest and first Canadian Queer bookstore in the world. The vintage bookshop and coffee shop first opened its doors to the LGBTQ+ community in the 1970s. It boasts the widest possible selection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, two-spirit, and queer literature.

It offers a safe and sober space where members of the community can hang out together without alcohol or drugs in the picture but still have a meaningful time together. The Sober’ry also takes place at The Glad Bookshop every month, promoting socialization among the Queer community while serving mocktails and non-alcoholic beers.

If you find yourself in The Gay Village in Toronto, you should check out other Queer and sober establishments in the area like the Sambucas, Storm Crow Manor, and Church Street Espresso. 

“The Queer Mecca”, Montreal 

Montreal claims to be “the queer mecca” of the country with its generous and diverse offerings of LGBTQ+ sober spaces that are not confined to just one neighbourhood but stretch throughout the city. Here are some recommendations on how to start exploring Queer MTL.

  • Take a gastronomic adventure by trying out cool restaurants at Le Village Gai, Montreal’s version of The Gay Village.
  • See impressive works of art at Never Apart Gallery.
  • Browse the vast collection of feminist and queer titles at L’Euguélionne bookstore.

Davie Village, Vancouver 

Vancouver is home to the biggest LGBTQ2+ population in Western Canada and the largest Pride festival in the country. It’s a must-see travel destination for Queer folks visiting British Columbia. Be sure to get a snap of yourself walking the most-photographed and iconic Rainbow Crosswalk at the intersection of Davie and Bute.

What makes Davie Village unique is that while it has an equally vibrant gay nightlife culture, it also provides a diversity of other Queer hangouts options. There are LGBTQ-friendly sports bars and bingo pubs, where you can stay queer and sober without getting pressured by the presence of alcohol. If you love books, you can also drop by the Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium for queer-centred literature and merchandise. Expand your LGBTQ history with the “Really Gay History” walking tour at Forbidden Vancouver.

Happy gay couple strolling the street with the Pride flag

LGBTQ Addiction Recovery Program

Let Freedom From Addiction help you successfully be queer and sober for life. 

Our serene treatment facility is a safe and sober space. We have a team of qualified and compassionate doctors and healthcare professionals. They are well-informed and respectful of the underlying factors that lead to substance abuse and addiction among queer individuals. 

Our LGBTQ drug addiction treatment and recovery programs use research-based therapies and provide continuing care for relapse prevention.

For more information about our LGBTQ-friendly treatments, please contact Freedom From Addiction today!


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