Clare Hand is a self-described flaming London lesbian. She’s spent the last year writing about queer women’s nightlife in her city. She documents the atmosphere, music, fashions, vibe (are you going to get laid or make new mates?), and those behind the nights.
Clare decided that it wouldn’t be right to only document dyke nightlife in one city, so she packed her bags and hit the road. She’s written about the thriving scenes in New York, San Francisco, Bogota, São Paulo, Berlin, and Dublin so far; this list will keep expanding. Keep an eye on her Dyke Nightlife Diaries here.
The first thing I do when I get to a new city is Google my way to my peeps—”Queer bars in…,” “Lesbian bars in…,” “Gay bars in… .” Bogotá’s results were promising, with a lesbian nightclub called Moza and a handful of gay bars—mainly in the city’s new bustling cultural hub, Chapinero.
On Friday evening, my girlfriend and I whizzed across town in a little yellow cab to Moza. We pulled up, strode out, and discovered that Moza was no more. It closed down a while ago, explained the security guard at the (hetero) bar that stands in its wake. El Mozo (Moza’s gay brother bar) was just around the corner, so we nipped over there to find that it had vanished too.
We decided to recoup in a non-gay bar; the venue was alive with Latin rhythms and passionately Salsa dancing (straight) couples. Lone guys, their breaths sweet with aguardiente (Colombia’s national liquor; what tequila is to Mexico), came in mosquito-like droves, each on a mission to retrieve the unclaimed dames. They were all very polite and understood that a no meant no, but the heteronormative weight in this bar was a lot, especially when we’d psyched ourselves up for a night of partying with hundreds of Latin-lesbians.
We soon left and went old school. Turning on our queer-dar, we mooched around the streets looking for our peers. It didn’t take long before we stumbled across (what we decided were) three fellow lezzas. We approached and tentatively enquired about Moza and “bar gay,” while eying up the length of their fingernails, hoping to maybe find a secret lesbian bar or something of the sort.
They were very keen on the convo and spoke with us for a while about the lackluster lesbian scene in their city. Before long, the dykiest-seeming of our new crew (who’d also been the most vocal on the topic) left to go to a house party. We were left with the other two who hadn’t engaged in the gay chat so adamantly but were keen to hang out with us.
‘You want girls?” she asked enthusiastically.
We said we did, assuming we were on a gay-level. Off we hopped in a cab, which whisked us away for a good few blocks before ending up at an inconspicuous doorway in the middle of nowhere. The two security guards (who knew our chaperones) looked at us with utter bemusement. “Qué?” they said repeatedly to our guide, as if she was attempting to take a couple of wildebeest into the bar.
We ascended the mirror-covered staircase assuming we were heading up to a secret queer mecca but soon realised that we’d been taken to a brothel. Of course there’s nothing wrong with brothels—I’m all for safe spaces for sex workers to do their job—however, the vibe in this particular place was terrible; a handful of suited men, egos throbbing as they surveyed the room of scantily clad women. Everyone gave us curious looks. They held the expectation that we were either going to buy or sell sex when all we really wanted was to sip a cerveza and dance to Sylvester. We left pretty quickly, walked home and mulled over the epic failure of our big gay night out.
Let’s try again. Theatron, Bogotá’s fourteen-room superclub, is open to all, but it’s a gay club (to be precise, the largest gay club in the Western Hemisphere) at heart. At 10 p.m., we got in the 200-people queue, which wrapped around the venue’s underground car park like an anaconda. A techno bass thumped from the ceiling, and everyone jittered with excitement.
Once inside, we paid 55,000 pesos ($17) and were given a little plastic cup for unlimited drinks all night. This is a common thing in Colombian clubs, and it has a really positive effect on the atmosphere inside; money and exchange are removed from the space, and no one risks being plunged into an existential crisis when checking their bank balance the next morning.
We roamed around the venue bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and concluded that this isn’t really a venue. It’s a village that offers sanctuary to thousands of pleasure-seeking people every week. Staff orchestrate the space meticulously; herding flocks of people, keeping stairways free and churning out mixer-after-mixer.
You’d probably need a week in the venue to really get to grips with it. House music played in the central open-air area. It’s designed like a town centre, with elevated DJ decks in the middle and cocktail bars, food stores, and pubs on its outskirts. There were at least ten DJs each night. They mixed countless genres in various distinctive spaces. Reggaeton played in a chapel, pop in a huge amphitheater. Donna Summers played in the psychedelic disco room, Celia Cruz is on in the salsa suite, and a DJ flew in from Berlin to take over the techno chamber.
From my observations that night, it seems that different genres attract different levels of heteronormativity. Salsa and reggaeton were all about the heteros dry-humping under the chapel’s stained glass windows. The pop room was mainly young, jubilant gay guys flailing their arms as they drunkenly serenaded their pals. Techno seemed to attract the most alternative lewks (piercings, died-hair, some fetish gear). It was the most queer space, though dominated by tanked gay guys who popped pills and de-clothed as the evening evolved.
Most people were Latin American; there were a few gringos from local hostels and only a handful of Black people. All in all, there were maybe three other queer femme couples floating around the venue. One duo had matching red and blue-dyed bobs. Another were a Mexican couple I’d sat next to on the plane to Bogotá— we clearly move in small circles.
We gravitated to the queerness of the techno roo but left at about midnight to go to (what we thought was) the women’s toilets: a pink doorway, a security guard out front, and the word “Eve” written above the door.
We figured this was a very glam entrance to a toilet as we climbed the glittery-pink staircase. When we hit the top, we realised that this was no toilet and we had accidentally discovered a secret lesbian bar. In fact, Bogotá’s only lesbian bar—period.
The space was kitschy: fuchsia pleather sofas, a hot pink bar, pop-art paintings of dykons like Ellen, Gwen, Gaga, and Ginger lined the walls. There was a pole dancing stage (that was definitely being utilised), a huge dance-floor, and the only female DJ in the building.
There were around thirty of us in there. At first we all danced in a big kumbaya asexual circle, because it was chilled and unclear who was queer and who was just enjoying the femme energy (in a good way).
As the evening evolved and the DJ started pouring more steamy Latin (Reggaeton and dancehall) rhythms over the crowd, couples started forming left, right, and centre. The space soon evolved into what can only be described as a clothed live-demo of the A-to-Z of standing lesbian sex positions. Couples new and old were absolutely going for it. It was raw, hedonistic, Sapphic magic.
Though we were effectively encased in a massive gay nightclub, the lack of door policy, safer space policy, or active prioritization at the venue’s main entrance meant that this designated area proved a godsend for us lezzas. This secret lesbian bar was the only place in the venue where a girl could kiss a girl without the fear of opening an eye to a sniveling drunk guy baring his teeth with glee. We embraced the freedom of Eve, of the secret lesbian bar.
At the front of the bar (we’d come in the side door) stood a huge metal gate, 2 meters by 2 meters (6.5 feet by 6.5 feet), with three door women saying “solo por chicas” on repeat. Most got it and moved on, but small batches of guys lurked outside the gate, lingering for five or ten minutes, standing on their tip-toes like horny meerkats, trying to sneak-a-peak in the forbidden territory.
As the clock struck 3 a.m., we pried ourselves away from Eve so we could experience more of the venue. While doing the rounds in this beautiful, sprawling village of hedonism, we stumbled across Lotus, a “solo hombres” area (presumably made to create a safer space for gay guys to explore away from the mixed crowd). It is safe to say, there were no groups of women clambering to have a look inside there.
We headed down to the techno room and spent the remaining couple of hours getting sweaty with our people. We left at 5 a.m., delighted to have found this truly unique venue, and even happier to have uncovered Bogotá’s secret lesbian bar.
Theatron Calle 58 #10-32, Bogotá, follow @theatronbogota.