Even the most jaded of after-hours ravers probably haven’t seen this pricing scheme before: for women, entry to Dagger is $5 at the door before midnight and $10 after; meanwhile it’s $15 all night for “homo cys dudes” and $50 all night for “str8 cys dudes.” Those covers are actually enforced, and yet the people at the monthly party’s latest installment were still easily a third male-presenting.
Don’t get me wrong: Saturday’s party felt like a drunken, queer Bikram Yoga class. Condensation opaqued the mirrors surrounding the dance floor. Carefully curated outfits were soaked through and sticking to sweat-beaded bodies that swayed and ground together as the wet skin of friends and strangers met with little resistance. In the back room people stood in clusters or lounged on couches, the red embers of cigarettes dotting the crowd and making the balmy air heavy with smoke. It’s doubtful that any legit establishment could get away with the smoking, or an interior so clearly begging for industrial air conditioning. Everyone complained about the heat, but that didn’t seem to make anyone leave; the place was shoulder-to-shoulder packed from shortly after midnight to 3:30 a.m., and the party didn’t die until 11 a.m.
Dagger is one of the few parties in New York that aims to make space for the queer lesbian community in particular. This past Saturday saw that latest installment of the monthly party held at a venue in Brooklyn that’s left unnamed so as to protect the space. The party has a rotating, diverse list of female-identified DJs, many of whom have their own queer parties or are regular DJs at other parties. A few people on Saturday told me that they really liked Dagger in particular because they felt like it was a good cross-section of different NYC lesbian communities.
At the same time, plenty of gay guys are going to this lesbian party. That doesn’t surprise Nico Fuentes, who is a regular at Dagger and other events at the venue. “It’s because they want a slice of the cake too,” said Fuentes, who works in fashion and told me the venue is starting to grab the industry’s attention. “They want to be where the actually fucking cool people are. Which is the fucking dykes and the trans girls.”
Parties like Dagger that cater specifically to queer women are few and far between, but are important in that they create a safe space for femme queer women and trans women, who are often marginalized and victimized. A report by the Human Rights Campaign and the Trans People of Color Coalition (last updated August 26) lists that at least 19 transgender people were murdered this year, already up from the 14 of 2014. Another report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs points out that, “In addition to the alarming percentage of homicides of transgender women, transgender women were almost twice as likely to experience sexual violence.”
Reported statistics on violence are of course limited to the number of people who actually report instances of abuse, which might be lessened by the attitude of police officers toward transgender people. The same report also found that 27.36 percent of transgender people who reported incidents to the police were met with hostile attitudes, 25.37 percent with indifferent attitudes and 42.26 percent reported that the police were courteous.
Fuentes said, “If you go to the bodega that’s right on the corner, right next door, the fucking old codger of a man just totally despises everybody, but he can’t say anything because he gets so much business on those nights. And he just mean mugs everybody, and everybody’s like, ‘la la la.’ The looks and the judgement and the gawking, all of it is right next door, which is like our lives.”
But Dagger and the venue itself offers what Fuentes described as a liminal space—a threshold, a queer world encapsulated within a party at a sweaty DIY-venue where people can feel safe while being themselves. “What I love about the queers or spaces where there’s a lot of queer people is that you don’t gotta worry about heteronormative behavior or politeness. That’s what I really appreciate about Dagger, is the really sweaty hot make-outs with everybody that’s hot. Where you’re both just like drowning in your sweat because literally everybody is just as sweaty as you.”
Intrigued? Better get to the next Dagger quickly. As Fuentes pointed out, “To me, a really fucking good party or like a series of parties, has its expiration date. End it while it’s hot. You don’t ever want to have a party that’s in the shitter at the end. Because it can get too big, where it’s no longer fun and it’s no longer what it started out being.”