Buffalo, New York with Christina Holdsworth
On the Western edge of New York State, you’ll find a small-town lakeside city that is mostly known for its record snowfall and savory chicken wings. But Buffalo has much more to offer than that. When New York legalized gay marriage in 2011, the Queen City quickly became a viable wedding destination for LGBTQ folks across the country. With Niagara Falls only a stone’s throw away, a bevy of original restaurants and hipster breweries to choose from, and a close-knit, welcoming LGBTQ community, Christina Holdsworth—a 33-year-old lawyer born and raised in Buffalo—is more than happy to tell you about her city.
Best part of the Buffalo LGBTQ scene:
People in Buffalo are friendly by nature and that holds true for the gay community as well. You can go to any event or bar and walk right up to someone and start a conversation. It’s also a diverse community, which is reflective of Western New York.
Worst part of the Buffalo LGBTQ scene:
At first glance, because Buffalo is so small, people might feel like there’s not a lot going on here in the LGBTQ community. But that’s not the case. You just have to know where to look and do a little more investigating that maybe you’d have to do in a bigger city.
Is Buffalo a welcoming city for LGBTQ folks?
Yes. I think you’d have to go pretty far outside of the city and Western New York to find a place that isn’t. There may be some pockets here or there but overall I think it’s incredibly welcoming.
Bar/Restaurant/Club that is a must-go-to?
There’s Ambush, which I help organize. It’s a monthly get-together where a group of LGBTQ individuals crash a straight bar or club at a different location throughout the city. And if you want a place to just chill and have a drink, there’s Fugazi. If you want to dance, there’s Funky Monkey. The gay bars are all located in one, small area called Allentown—which is full of arts and culture, live music and various restaurants—so if you go to one and you’re not feeling it you can walk over to another. It’s a close-knit LGBTQ bar community.
Describe the Buffalo LGBTQ Community in one word or phrase:
What is your favorite LGBTQ-owned businesses to frequent?
Paradise Wine in downtown Buffalo is a great place for liquor and whiskey. They support small family wineries using organic, traditional methods. Every Friday, there’s free tastings from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. They taste every wine before they buy it and it’s a cool place to hang out.
LGBTQ nightlife in Buffalo is:
A simple, easy, good time. There’s no stress involved.
For single folks, Buffalo is:
A little challenging. As a lesbian, there’s no specific lesbian bar to go to. I mean, I’m sure it’s a challenge in every city but because we’re a smaller city you end up knowing everyone. But there’s new people moving here all the time. On the plus side, being single you really can hang out anywhere because you’re just as likely to meet an eligible guy or gal in a straight bar as a gay bar. Some of my favorite straight bars that are particularly gay-friendly and you may rub shoulders with a single lady: Ballyhoo, Coco, Cafe 59. But if you want to fast track things, Ambush is really the best place to meet other gay women. I’ve had many friends meet their current significant other at an Ambush event. The women are very friendly and not too clique-y so it is easier to strike up a conversation.
Pride Weekend in Buffalo is:
Personal. There’s so much to do and so much going on. It feels like the whole city gets involved. You run into everyone—gay and straight.
While most of the events are run by the Pride Center of WNY, there are other independent groups such as Ambush which throws the Friday night dance and live music party. For those who aren’t as into the bar scene, there are events such as: the Gay5k (a 5k race in downtown Buffalo); the Big Gay Sing (which is just a gathering of LGBTQ and allies singing fun songs); a flag raising ceremony where we raise the pride flag in front of City Hall; and a gallery walk in one of the City’s most gay-friendly neighborhoods (people can stroll down the street and visit multiple art galleries to view art created by LGBTQ artists and supporters of the LGBTQ community).
Pride week culminates with the Sunday pride parade which goes down Elmwood and ends on Allen Street. Immediately after the parade, everyone heads down to Canalside—Buffalo’s waterfront spot—for the festival with live music, events and huge beer tents.
LGBTQ activism in Buffalo is:
Big. There’s a lot of people in the community who are actively involved in a variety of causes. Most of the community bonds together for certain events and rallies, including the rainbow flag-raising ceremony to kick off Pride Week, are often held in Niagara Square in front the Buffalo City Court Building and the State Courthouse. There’s also a monument commemorating the assignation of President McKinley who was killed while visiting Buffalo in late 1900, so there’s historical significance in that particular spot.
What would you tell LGBTQ individuals who are planning to visit Buffalo in the near future?
It’s a welcoming and accepting city, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask people about any events or happenings in the community. We get questions all the time from people coming to visit about Ambush. Even when we don’t have an event going on, I’ll give them a list of other places to check out.
What do you love most about your city as an LGBTQ individual?
Now that I’ve been out for so long I can honestly say that I like that it’s a smaller city and LGBTQ community. It’s really easy to meet new people. For me, it’s just big enough. It feels like a family. I also enjoy Buffalo for the weather (4 seasons); the tireless underdog spirit; the friendly people; the great food; the ethnic diversity; all the new breweries; the optimism and investment that the community.
In recent years, one of my favorite things has become the way in which our revitalization has made Buffalo, a very historic and old city, feel young again. People are excited to be here and to move back here. It’s a very exciting time to live in Buffalo, as more industries, developments, bars and restaurants spring up around the city.
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