Bangkok Post

FROM FIRE-EATERS TO QUIZ NIGHTS, SHUTDOWN-HIT LGBTI EVENTS THRIVE ONLINE

- RACHEL SAVAGE THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION

From a fire-eater performing for a lesbian club night from her garden to virtual quiz nights and book clubs, LGBTI communitie­s around the world are moving online as the coronaviru­s epidemic makes it harder to get together in person.

With gay, bisexual and transgende­r people at a higher risk of mental health problems, LGBTI event organisers say they want to help them combat loneliness and anxiety as people are forced to stay inside.

Measures rolled out around the world to combat the spread of the virus range from closing bars, clubs and restaurant­s to imposing lockdowns that bar people from leaving their homes except to buy food and for emergencie­s.

“In the queer community we need that sense of community more than a lot of people,” said Mitra Wicks, who has cancelled her monthly Lez Events London club nights until further notice.

The events usually attract between 200 and 400 people, but on Saturday she tested a virtual club night with about 15 friends using a Zoom video conference, which enables participan­ts to see one another via live video. DJ Nikky G played music, while the event’s fire-eater performed in her garden and people flirted via messaging.

“This is a good opportunit­y to meet new people, to form human connection­s at a time when they’re going to be feeling lonely and worried,” said Wicks, who is planning a public, donation-based virtual party on April 4.

Members of the London-based Lez Book Club are moving to Google Hangouts to discuss Jenny Hval’s Paradise Rot and Jeanette Winterson’s Frankissst­ein.

“We wanted to make sure our community could still come together,” said organiser Eleonore Pratoussy. Hotel Gaythering, a gay-friendly hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, was forced to close its bar on March 15 and moved the regular karaoke, trivia and bingo nights online.

“We’re reinventin­g the wheel by the minute,” said co-owner Alex Guerra.

The Wednesday quiz usually has eight to 12 teams, but 34 teams from as far away as Greece and the Cayman Islands entered online, said Guerra, who reprised his role as quiz master on Instagram Live.

“I had 100% faith that my regular patrons ... were going to embrace it,” said Guerra, who made the events free but asked for donations to the karaoke and bingo hosts, drag queens Karla Croqueta and Blamie Forret.

“What I found that was amazing is that I had people that just follow our Instagram casually. They got to experience us and they’ve never been able to before.”

 ??  ?? Transgende­r beauty pageant contestant­s pose as they wear face masks during a rehearsal for the contest in Pattaya.
Transgende­r beauty pageant contestant­s pose as they wear face masks during a rehearsal for the contest in Pattaya.

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