Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Daily Email Edition

Get MN Daily NEWS delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday!


Opinion: Gay men, where are you?

Finding queer community is still essential.
Image by Noah Liebl
Opinion columnist Leo Huppke wrote about the importance of finding queer community.

During my first year at the University of Minnesota, I could count the number of other gay men I knew on a single hand. 

Maybe it was just bad luck. 

But even as I began to befriend other queer people, no matter how hard I tried, I could find no reliable way to meet gay men. Exploring my sexuality without selling myself to a dating app felt near impossible. So for my first semester of college, my romantic life was limited to the sideways glances I gave and received on the Campus Connector. 

With little sense of what I needed or how to find it, my isolation grew to the point where I considered transferring schools. Luckily I pulled through, relying on support from other queer people I met in my dorm building. 

Being gay in the U.S. may be easier than ever before, but gay men and all members of the LGBTQ+ community still face plenty of hardship. While finding community among queer people might seem less essential in an era of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Lil Nas X, it has helped me to gain confidence and pride in my sexuality — and it can help you too. 

Rick Hoops, the program coordinator for the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC), works with the GSC and provides resources and programs for queer students at the University.

“Not everybody grows up with information about queerness and what the grand myriad options are for how you can express the way that you feel about yourself,” Hoops said. “I think queer spaces in a college setting are really important for folks to come into themselves a little bit more with the support of others around them.”

The GSC, located in Appleby Hall, makes a strong effort to support trans, non-binary and BIPOC students, as well as provide resources such as vaccine clinics, legal name change clinics and programs that seek to provide fun and celebratory experiences. 

Mycall Riley, director of the GSC, noted the wide variety of needs and wants among the students he and the center try to support.

“There’s a lot of queer folks who love going out and dancing,” Riley said. “There’s other queer people who really like crocheting. There’s other queer people who like to go on nature hikes.” 

With such a broad diversity of identities and interests, no one space can adequately serve the entire queer community. Although the GSC provides plenty of opportunities and resources for queer students, I’ve found my community elsewhere, particularly in off-campus environments. 

On a recent Thursday night, I ventured out with a couple of friends to The Saloon, a gay bar in downtown Minneapolis. Wearing no expectations and a bright-orange pair of jeans, I flashed the bouncer my U Card and driver’s license, earning me a free cover and a black “x” drawn in Sharpie on each hand.

The Saloon is open seven days a week and hosts drag shows, dance shows and live music. The bar has college nights on Thursdays at 10 p.m., providing college students 18 years and older free access to a night of dancing. 

“I think it’s important for us to reach out to a younger generation to show we’re here and this is not something that is necessarily foreign or alien,” said Bobby Palmer, general manager of The Saloon. 

The diversity at The Saloon was striking in terms of race, age and gender expression. Absent were the hordes of muscled, topless young white men who have historically dominated gay bars. Here instead was a community that seemed to represent all colors of the rainbow. 

Palmer said The Saloon is working on catering to a broader section of the queer community by supporting local drag queens and artists as well as bringing in dancers with non-traditional body types. 

“I feel like it’s a place where you can be different and no one is going to bat an eye. No one’s going to even think twice,” Palmer said. 

We’ve all faced prejudice, disenfranchisement and isolation in some capacity during our lives, so what could be more liberating than dancing alongside people who have experienced similar struggles? While not for everyone, I’ve found partying in queer spaces uplifting. 

If there’s one thing we as a community are skilled at doing, it’s making space for ourselves in the world. Even places as historically oppressive as frat parties can become moments to rejoice with other queer people. 

The Twin Cities may not boast as many options as other metropolitan areas, but there are plenty of opportunities to experience queer life, from nightclubs to drag brunches to bookshops. We now have the luxury of existing in the “straight” world, but that doesn’t mean we should deny ourselves the vibrancy and support our community offers.

As college students, many of us are still struggling to understand and come to terms with our identities. I cherish my straight friendships, but I recognize I also need to surround myself with people who genuinely understand my sexuality. 

If you are queer, a community exists for you if you know where to look. We just need to help each other find it. 

View Comments (4)
More to Discover

Accessibility Toolbar

Comments (4)

All The Minnesota Daily Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Mark
    Mar 11, 2024 at 4:32 pm

    As an old gay man I highly suggest you gay boys explore some gay history. A fun way to start is a movie like The Celluloid Closet.

    And get off your phones ( that applies to all of you) and go dancing at the bars! Have fun!

  • E
    Feb 19, 2024 at 10:27 am

    Stunning and explorative. Help me find the nature ones?

  • Z
    Feb 15, 2024 at 10:55 am

    Another superb reading, Leo. This one reminds me of those rainbow bagels that were famous in 2015!

  • Gabe
    Feb 15, 2024 at 9:29 am

    Finding other gay men on campus is hard! But getting on the apps isn’t necessarily “selling yourself.” Speaking from experience, lol, they’re a fine way to make friends