For most of the mid-eighties, I went dancing several nights a week (which is why it is amazing that I am not better at it) and most of those nights were spent at the Bell in King's Cross, which was the alternative queer disco where the SM Dykes and some of the queerer trans people went and where I got myself into much of the worst emotional trouble I have ever been in. It was hot, it was smoky and there was always good music to dance to - odd bits of soul and indy and just plain bouncy bubblegum. People screwed in the toilets and sold fairly low standard dope to each other and somehow it was enough of a community that it annoyed me when for various complicated reasons I went through periods of unpopularity with it.
Actually, not all that complicated - an ex with a grievance exploiting transphobia by saying I had done something absolutely so terrible that she couldn't possibly tell anyone what it was, and various exes of my on-and-off lover of that period worrying about just what I had been told in bed by her when sort of asexually back involved with me between flings with them. Lesbian soap opera, don't you love it?
Some of the people from that period are still my friends and no-one is actually currently my enemy; people move out and people move on. Some of the people from that time did a lesbian erotica magazine called Quim back in the 90s - sort of 'On our backs' with odder lay-out. Quim was always more enthusiastic than actually good - I once said that I admired how they had made a principle out of separating their right to free expression from bourgeois considerations like taste or merit, but that was me being bitchy, because they always had good photographs - Del Grace, Lola Flash and so on.
And now Quim is back and I went along to a benefit. I knew the actual Quim people who were there, most of them, because they are now jaded thirty-somethings rather than the bubbly twenty- somethings they were in the day. Most of the other people there, in a Bell that has been cleaned up and remodelled during various periods of being an Italian restaurant and -horrors!- a straight venue, were young and keen and bopping.
Most of them were people I didn't know and had no reason to know - I was just there to express solidarity and be still there in spite of everything. The interesting thing, though, was how totally recognizable people I didn't know were as a continuing crowd that contains almost no specific person who used to be in it. It was like time-travelling or being in an alternate world - Ashleigh wasn't there and is in Hawaii with her restaurant and her child, but someone very like her was breaking hearts with every dance and quick snog, and baby butches were posturing, and people were drinking and smoking too much; I only realized how I don't go to such places any more when I realized, on getting home, how much my clothes smelled of other people's cigarettes....