Adam Munnings: Is This A Safe Space?

Words by Adam Munnings

Does exclusion and judgment play a role in our fight for acceptance and inclusion? On first thought, one would wonder, how could these contrasting factors work hand in hand? When it comes to creating safe spaces for the queer community, especially within the framework of nightlife, I’ve experienced first hand the struggles, the magic and the contradictions that accompany this mission. 

Safe spaces are not about merely tolerating each other, they are about celebrating each other, all of our unique queer identities. They are places for unfiltered conversations, radical self expression, for curiosity and growth. Feeling safe means feeling free and ultimately, no longer misunderstood. Queerness is about so much more than sexual orientation: it is a state of mind, a seeking a title beyond patriarchal limitations. It is an ever evolving, ongoing journey both personally and politically. So who holds the keys to the gates of queerness and who is to decide who’s welcome to join?

I was asked to write about “What is a safe space in night life and how can we create it for everyone?”, but it’s the word ‘everyone’ that makes this truly challenging.  As queer people, we have been generally rejected, pushed away. This is why we tend to come together with those who are like-minded, but even within the community there’s always a blurred line between us and everyone else.

Sometimes all we want is just to be, to exist in a space where we don’t have to explain, prove or justify or defend ourselves. 

Adam Munnings, film director and co-founder of Lunchbox Candy

Club spaces have been melting pots and safe havens for queer people for decades. A place to dance, network, fall in love and even fuck. A year ago, Lunchbox Candy was born. A bi-monthly, Berlin-based club night that fuses an energetic dance floor experience, club kid culture and drag in all of its forms. Founded by my dear friend Elninodiablo, the two of us dreamt up this safe space as a gift to the queer community of Berlin. In a city like this one, where nightlife is so valued and celebrated it’s been important to us to provide something that is more. Aside from the essentials like top quality music and sound we really wanted to nurture the idea of coming together, community and freedom.

Lunchbox Candy is a queer party with queer values but what makes a queer party queer can be very subjective. This takes me back to my opening question: curating a safe space does require some filtering of punters. Door policies can be looked upon as exclusive or even discriminatory but the truth is that some people who want to engage in these spaces still struggle to practice the basic respect and understanding towards others in this shared environment. Being active members of the community, we constantly find ourselves educating others on gender, pronouns, essential parts of queer culture in our everyday lives. And yes, this can be exhausting. Sometimes all we want is just to be, to exist in a space where we don’t have to explain, prove or justify or defend ourselves. Where we can expand and engage.

Historically, queer spaces have been always very segregated and exclusive to specific subcultures within the community. Many of which could and still can force people into a mould, to fit in order to be accepted. Cis gays are pumping themselves at the gym to feel appealing and masculine enough. Female bodied allies feeling invisible and merely an accessory or fag hag. Lesbian or femme trans people feeling uncomfortable in male dominated gay spaces.

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People can look at Berlin in two ways. A hedonistic, messy symphony of self deprecating, lost souls or a liberated army of anarchy, striving for connection and a better tomorrow. 

Adam Munnings, film director and co-founder of Lunchbox Candy

I understand that in the past it was about finding your people but as we emerge out of the shadows and into the real world unapologetically this kind of segregation becomes more and more problematic. Especially when the word queer is thrown around or being tokenised to gain appeal while no extra efforts are being made to make an event safe or while the mindset of the clientele is defined by rigid, outdated views on what it should mean to be queer. Our idea of a queer safe space is breaking these boundaries and toxic judgements to celebrate a coming together of beautiful misfits.

The short moment you spend with someone at the door before letting them pass or perhaps having to politely suggest to them another party is indeed very limited. This however is the first step in creating that safe space within the club. As an organizer, this task is not only up to your crew and door selectors, but to each and every one of the staff members present at the space. 

Club goers also play a huge role in keeping a space safe. It starts with knowing our own limits and respecting ourselves especially when it comes to taking drugs. By all means, let it all hang out, girl, but don’t be that messy person who ruins it for others. At the end of the day, we are all there to have a good time.

For a moment in time you’re not reduced to a social media following, you’re not being harassed on the street, you’re not being defined by your genitals or personal style, your dance moves are your net worth and your sweat is a token of your efforts. 

Adam Munnings, film director and co-founder of Lunchbox Candy

Let’s be honest, the best parties are queer parties, but it’s hard to create the ultimate queer utopia. People can look at Berlin in two ways. A hedonistic, messy symphony of self deprecating, lost souls or a liberated army of anarchy, striving for connection and a better tomorrow. It is one of the only major influential cities where people value music and dancing as a therapeutic, transformational cultural experience. The demographic of party goers in Berlin is extremely diverse and I find the importance of having spaces where a 19 year old can share an evening with a 55 year old so valuable.

For a moment in time you’re not reduced to a social media following, you’re not being harassed on the street, you’re not being defined by your genitals or personal style, your dance moves are your net worth and your sweat is a token of your efforts. Your look can bring a smile to someone’s face and your energy, infectious. It’s the absence of shame that cultivates the sense of freedom we need. 

Love and support the spaces you find safe, because they are our tickets to freedom, even if it’s only for a night or two. It doesn’t matter if it’s your living room, office, a film set or a car ride, paying attention to the finer details that make people feel comfortable, acknowledged and accepted can only foster good.

Adam Munnings is a Tasmanian-born, Berlin-based film director and co-founder of the queer party series, Lunchbox Candy.

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