Miami's Queer Scene Making Waves in the City's Nightlife

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Anybody who’s part of Miami’s queer scene won’t hesitate to tell you that while the Miami queer community, is anything but new, recent years have certainly seen it flourish and grow beyond anyone’s expectations. Today, the city’s underground has come alive with vibrant, one-of-a-kind contributions from the queer community, defying every expectation and opening doors for a new kind of nightlife where everyone can find a place.

Shifts in the Miami LGBTQ+ Community

During the 1980s and 1990s, South Beach became a gay mecca of sorts, gracing the silver screen in films like Robin Williams’ The Birdcage. The signature pastel colorway and sandy beaches may have stayed the same, but South Beach started seeing changes in the LGBTQ+ community, with its expansion across the intracoastal waterway into Miami’s mainland.

"At the time I arrived here (in 1989), Miami Beach was quiet except for a few nightclubs and galleries," explains Danilo de la Torre, known by many in the queer and drag scene as “Adora.” Torre says, “The people felt a kind of freedom of expression. They felt like they had nothing to prove and nobody to impress — they could be totally themselves.”

A Queer Scene that Welcomes All

As it turned out, this open attitude was exactly what was needed to prompt a subtle yet seismic shift in Miami’s queer scene, nurturing it into the unique and thriving underground world it is today.

While Miami had long been accepting of the gay community, many local queer and gender-nonconforming people found it difficult to find understanding in the mainstream. For years, they had opted to abandon Miami for cities like San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. But then, it seemed that more and more were electing to stay rather than leave, deciding to create their own Miami community where self-expression in any shape or form would be welcomed.

Now, Miami’s queer scene has become a place where anyone is welcome, especially people who may have previously felt like they didn’t fit into more traditional gay spaces. A growing number of nightclubs, venues, and performers have breathed new life into the city’s nightlife, pushing traditional boundaries in performance, music, art, and fashion. It has evolved into a creative refuge for a diverse community of queer and gender-nonconforming people, welcoming the transgender community, different body types, and people of color with open arms.

Reshaping the Miami Queer Community

Jupiter Velvet, a trans-femme performer who proudly defies all expectations of what being transgender “should” look like, says, “We have full control and dominion over our performances because we belong to such a free scene — and a free scene that we created for ourselves.” Refusing to adhere to the idea that she should try to appear as a cisgender woman, Jupiter says, “I get told all the time: 'Why don't you shave? I don't understand what you are doing.’ If that's your way of thinking, then this is not the space for you. You can set your own beauty standards and own rules to live by, and you can break them if you want."

What began with a few experimental performances has gradually transformed into a flourishing queer scene in Miami, featuring a handful of regular queer events like Dollhouse Presents at Churchill’s Pub and Gramps’ Double Stubble. At these events and others like them, gender is open to experimentation – and creativity, passion, and respect aren’t just encouraged, they’re expected.

When de la Torre arrived in Miami in the late 80s, his performances as Adora were inspired by the club-kids culture of New York rather than the hyper-feminine drag culture that Miami was host to at that time. As de la Torre says, bringing this style to Miami may have initially raised some eyebrows, but he and his friends were eventually accepted as part of the scene. "We had no idea that we were setting a trend or being weird," de la Torre says. "We were just doing what was fun and what we wanted to do."

Today, the city has opened its arms to the underground community, where anything goes. As Christian Acevedo, a transgender performer, explains “It doesn't matter what your sexual orientation or gender identity is, you're accepted. You want to express yourself. People are going to appreciate that.” It’s that openness, sense of welcoming, and undeniable desire to live freely that will undoubtedly continue to propel Miami’s queer scene to new and colorful heights.

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