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Be You Be Q – One Night in Da Nang’s first queer bar

It was the promise of a drag night that drew you out of Da Nang’s official ‘tourist zone’ and brought you to Q-barLGBT (Queer) Community Bar. You leave the entanglement of lights, mopeds and smells unique to Vietnam behind a busy highway that acts as a portal between two distinct atmospheres; Things become considerably more residential. You wonder if this is going to be another situation where google maps leads you astray

You spy a warm, purple, glow amongst a quiet leafy street. You enter an open plan living room, garnished with evidence of queer pride. Somewhere cozy, familiar. A space to feel safe in. Even as an empty bar and the queer part of your identity that’s been overlooked for the last couple of months, feels able to bloom.

Two beers in and the bar fills with a vibrant gathering of people. Suddenly you’re surrounded by drag kings, queens and their supporters, eager for the night to kick off. When it does, the living room aesthetic of the bar morphs into a space you imagine is reminiscent of an underground drag night somewhere in Brooklyn. It’s fresh, but also a familiar landscape connected to queer spaces around the world.

It’s difficult to find the words to describe how it feels to stumble upon a queer space as a non-binary, queer person, especially in an area of the world where these are few and far between. You’re struck by a feeling of weightlessness; you’ve glided into an ocean where there’s the mutual feeling that everyone speaks the same language and shares similar understandings when it comes to genders and sexualities. Knowledge bases that are unspoken or unheard of in the broader world you find yourself in. This is why spaces like Q bar are important; they’re the opportunity for anyone that may feel any part queer the chance to meet others like them and exist as a part of a majority in a predominately heteronormative world.

Q bar is a moving testament to the ethos that many queer bars are founded on; to provide a space for queer people to mingle with one another.  Drinks are affordable, and on weeknights the music is low enough to be able to have a conversation with anyone else sitting around the bar. Open since December, the bar has quietly served friends of the incredibly charismatic owners Zac and Ben, alongside a constant stream of travelers and expats.

Zac is the kind of person that invites conversation, essential to how others connect with this little queer microcosm in Da Nang. Everyone that enters the bar on a quiet night is on a first name basis with him.

Speaking to Zac, the bar he started with his partner Ben is a passion project you can tell has been pursued with love and care. Their intention was to create the kind of bar they’d like to go to in Da Nang and bring together queer people that lived in the city. The bar is the first of its kind in Da Nang and currently attracts more foreigners than locals. Zac notes that this is potentially due to the fact that all spaces are considered ‘safe’ for queer Vietnamese people, with social attitudes being fairly nonchalant about sexual identity.

Yet, Q bar has left an impression amongst its tourist clientele that has spread beyond Da Nang. Zac recalls someone coming into the bar who had heard about it before coming to Da Nang from a friend somewhere in Europe.

It’s Zac’s hope to bring more locals to the bar. One obstacle that he and Ben have is that they’ve chosen to keep the space relatively lowkey. This is to avoid people coming to the bar and expecting a more stereotypical ‘gay’ space that gay men frequent for sex. He also is determined for the bar to be inclusive of all identities under the queer umbrella; every Thursday the bar hosts a ‘lady’s night’ aimed at queer audiences often let out from standard queer spaces that clearly target cis-gendered, male, clientele.

Q bar stands as a beautiful example of a space trying to bring together a queer community, which it will continue to do even if it takes time for knowledge of the space to spread.

On my last night in Da Nang I had the pleasure of putting the world to rights with Zac, sipping one of his fantastic mango margarita’s (lady buddy margarita as it’s called). We covered capitalism, climate change and other general things, as customers trickled into the bar and greeted him. Leaving for what was the last time (at least for the next couple of years), I was left with that small comforting kindle of hope that despite the fact that the world seems to be heading in a terrifying direction, spaces like Q bar exist. It’s a wonderful bar that exists in conflation with the values prioritised by those in power in the world, run by people who are an example of an alternative world we could all live in if we got better at caring and accepting one another.

Q Bar Da Nang information:
Address: 40 An Dương Vương, Da Nang, Vietnam
Tel: 036 833 4818
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/qbardanang1

Vic Saule
Vic Saule
Vic is a writer, researcher and DJ from Australia who has made their home in Manchester. They’re passionate about queer spaces such as the club, electronic music and the questioning of binaries. Some of their other rambles can be found at Instagram
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