I’m sitting in a cute coffee shop in Brooklyn with King Princess blaring in my headphones, a pride flag hanging nearby, and sipping on an iced-oat milk-matcha latte, of course. At this moment, I am free. Free to simply exist and write my truth, at least while I’m here visiting the city.
When I go back home to a small and conservative town, I return to the daily chore of hiding my sexuality. The task isn’t simple. Being queer entails so much more than just who I am attracted to. It’s the way I choose to dress, how I sit, the friendships I have, and of course, my coffee order with oat milk.
While I can’t fully express myself where I am from, I have found representation and a sense of community in New York City. These are the top three ways NYC’s queer culture has impacted me as a closeted lesbian, below.
How Does New York City Represent Queer Culture?
1. Pride Flags Remind Me I’m Not Alone
On my 18th birthday, I called my sister to remind her she could finally take me to Cubbyhole — a lesbian bar in Manhattan— when I visited next. But she reminded me I had to be twenty-one. My heart sank. I didn’t want to wait until then to surround myself with people like me.
But it turns out I didn’t need to go to a gay bar to find community in NYC, I just had to walk down the block.
In New York, almost every coffee shop, thrift store, and street corner can be seen with a pride flag. It is a kind reminder to any queer person that they are loved no matter their sexuality.
Every time I see a pride flag, it makes me feel seen. At first, noticing them felt almost extraterrestrial and shocking. I live in a town where I’ve never seen a rainbow flag at my local Starbucks, GoodWill, or on the outside of my family’s church. It’s not my normal.
However, after a while of seeing the rainbow flags throughout the city, it began to feel normal and made my heart fill while joy. I feel less alone.
2. I Can Dress How I Want To
Not only is New York full of rainbows, but great fashion choices too.
People dress as they wish and no one says a thing about it. At home, If I were to walk into church dressed as I wanted, people would be judgemental and I could risk being outed.
But here in the big apple, as I’m figuring myself out, I feel safe to experiment with colors, patterns, styles and more. If you ever want to explore aesthetics as a queer person, New York is the place to take inspiration from.
3. It reminds me of love
According to the New York State Department of Health, an estimated 5.1% of adults in New York identify as LGBTQ. Roughly around 798,800 people minus teens and youth. This makes NYC the queerest populated state in the U.S.
That being said, it’s no wonder that it might be easier to find love so much easier as a queer person. Coming from someone who lives in a small town, it’s hard to find queer friends and especially potential love interests. As a matter of fact, the only girl I’ve talked to romantically lives in New York City.
Love comes in all different forms — and NYC sure does show it. Since I’ve arrived, I’ve seen many queer couples holding hands, on a date or kissing on the sidewalk.
With each one, I felt a sense of hope that one day, I can have that too. It is a reminder that love is love.
New York City’s Queer Culture Makes Me Feel Seen
When I fly back to my hometown, New York City and its queer culture will still be a place I’ve found peace and safety in. And perhaps, one day, it will give me the courage to be able to live my most authentic life.
It could be for you, too.
If you or someone you know is dealing with any LGBTQ+ related concern or needs to talk to someone visit these resources: