Queer sanctuaries: significant third spaces

April 18, 2024

Original photograph at Barnet Pride in the Park 2023 by Sam Davis Headshot Photography edited by Exposure

Frini Bitzeni highlights the importance of LGBTQ+ safe and inclusive places

A third space is defined as a place where you can socialise outside of your first space, which is your home, and the second space which is your school or workplace.

Third spaces are vital for young people to encourage socialising, helping them thrive within a wider community. These spaces are associated with nurturing improved wellbeing and social skills, offering young people an outlet to express themselves and make friends. They are also important for creating support systems for marginalised communities and people figuring out their identities.

For LGBTQ+ young people, third spaces are super important. They help build community, providing a safe space where they can comfortably share their experiences with like-minded people. Third spaces should be both affordable and accessible to all, such as parks, reasonably-priced cafes, and free museums.

Within the borough of Barnet, a third space that many young people find important for socialising safely and freely, is the Great North Leisure Park in North Finchley. It includes a cinema, bowling alley, arcade, lido, and restaurants that are affordable and in close proximity to local schools. However, sadly, this space has recently been taken over by Regal London, a housing developer who are planning to knock down this valuable third space to build luxury apartment buildings.

As summer nears, parks become the ideal third space for young people: sunny, social and welcoming

This gentrification is happening across London much to the detriment of local communities. Young people, who can’t have their friends over, and are restricted by school rules, encounter difficulties in expressing themselves. LGBTQ+ youth are facing struggles exponentially, with limited places in their community to meet.

As summer is fast approaching, parks are an ideal third space, offering young people a free way to enjoy the sun, fresh air and potentially meet new people. Parks are a large part of London’s culture and LGBTQ+ young people use them to create community through picnics, meet-ups and events. In Victoria Park, Finchley, last summer, there was an event to celebrate Barnet Pride month. I’ve been told there was a great vibe, with local DJs, informative talks, as well as stage performances. It was organised by Inkluder, who also provide workshops, guidance and support to organisations in Barnet. Check out more about them here.

Other great third spaces include cafés and restaurants, as well as the local library or community centre. In Barnet specifically, the arts depot, Finchley Youth Centre and all the borough’s beautiful parks can be wonderful third spaces. LGBTQ+ young people create vibrant communities and deserve fabulous third spaces to grow and engage.

Growing up in Barnet, and having a safe space to explore and understand my own sexuality is so important

Another third space is the Internet, offering a platform to connect with like-minded individuals, organise events, and arrange in-person meet-ups. It’s essential to prioritise media literacy and internet safety in these interactions, of course. You can check out some safety tips here.

Although social media can be very positive, creating connection and community for LGBTQ+ young people, it can contribute to feeling isolated from the real world. The rising privatisation of our community spaces drives young people indoors, contributing to isolation and pushing them online, risking social media addiction.

For me, growing up in Barnet, understanding myself and exploring my own sexuality is so important. Third spaces like the Great North Leisure Park, local parks, libraries, and affordable restaurants provide opportunities to meet others with shared experiences. By connecting with other young people who have similar identities we can support and help each other, both in-person and online.

I need these spaces. They’re often the only place where I can meet my friends, as my home is mostly unavailable and other spaces are frequently too expensive for me and most young people.

Third spaces are vital for LGBTQ+ young people, allowing us to openly express our love and affection, with fulfilment often arising from the support and community. While these spaces may not be perfect, their value remains indispensable.

Frini studied English Literature, Art and Sociology at Woodhouse College. She is interested in creative media and being mindful of its societal impact.

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