A lack of upscale and safe venues for the LGBTQ community in South Bend, Indiana, has spawned the creation of the Guerilla Gay Bar movement. The now monthly event began in December of 2012, and has been occurring ever since.
The Guerrilla Gay Bar movement started with a mere 40 people in attendance, according to the South Bend Tribune, and has grown into a widely popular event, with nearly 200 attendees during current events and attracts people from as far as Chicago, Illinois, and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The Guerrilla Gay Bar event takes place at a new location each month, and is organized by Willow Wetherall and others.
“The fact that we have something that attractive for people to drive that distance says a lot about what we’re doing,”
Due to the event’s popularity, finding new venues in the area has become difficult since its inception in 2012, but that is part of the fun of finding locations. Locations are not always held in bars, some are held in gymnasiums and other unusual locales, adding to the uniqueness of each scheduled event.
The Guerrilla Gay Bar events are typically held the second Saturday of each month, although dates may change depending on such conflicting events such as Notre Dame home games.
Wetherall claims that the Guerrilla Gay Bar movement is not about finding a spot and having a party, getting drunk, or impeding on the territory of others. Instead, it is about joining together and being comfortable with who the attendees are, whether gay or straight.
“It’s about more than just throwing a great party. We do that well, but the big goal was to put South Bend on the map as a welcoming city. For some, it felt like we were living in Notre Dame’s shadows. We wanted, no question, that people could be out and feel comfortable and safe in South Bend.”
In addition, Wetherall has claimed that the local bar scene is lacking when it comes to the LGBTQ crowd, according to the South Bend Voice. The few gay bars and clubs around are generally a basic bar to hang out in, leaving a void in the upscale and non-smoking gay bar scene. So, Wetherall decided to “take a straight bar and make it gay for the night,” promoting inclusion and equality.
The Guerrilla Gay Movement has a simple mission statement, with a goal of aiding in the revitalization of South Bend through positive exposure.
“… provide fun, upscale, non-smoking social events for the GLBT community and allies, expand the number of welcoming businesses in South Bend and increase the number of places that people feel comfortable being out, generate positive exposure for South Bend both regionally and nationally as a welcoming city, support LGBT causes for equality under the law and be at the forefront of South Bend’s revitalization by creating vibrant social events.”
The Guerrilla Gay Bar events not only bring the LGBTQ community together with other members of the community in a positive manner, but also allows for open discussion between all in an effort to be on the forefront of South Bend’s revitalization, while boosting the economy and introducing members to new locales they may not have visited previously.
South Bend, Indiana, has also been the host to the annual gay pride prom, an event that celebrates the LGBTQ community with a night of dance and music.
South Bend is also well known for its mayor, Pete Buttigieg, who is a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserves and spent 7 month in Afghanistan in the midst of his mayoral term, leaving the community in the hands of his deputy mayor until his return. Mayor Buttigieg also revealed that he is gay via an essay posted in the South Bend Tribune after winning his second term.
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