March 15, 2011

The Pinhook (Is Why I Leave Campus)

Last weekend I went somewhere worth gushing over. I’m talking about the Pinhook.

I was wary of going to the Pinhook because I heard it was very “homonormative.” As a femme, I equate homonormativity with the erasure of my identity. But the Pinhook is not solely homonormative. Yes, there were girls in jorts. Girls in ties and plaid button ups. Girls with alternative lifestyle haircuts and an array of v-neck shirts. But, there were also girls in tutus and dresses. Larger girls and smaller girls. Girls wearing lipstick while rocking doorknocker earrings. It was like everyone I had seen on sites like Fuck Yeah Femmes, Fuck Yeah Dykes and Genderfork was at one big party. (Everyone I had seen on OK Cupid was literally there too.) And they were dancing! Not sullenly standing against the wall or trying to wade through a blockade of gay men to find each other. No need to ask “Are you straight?” For once, I felt it.

I know this gushing might make we sound naïve or inexperienced. I’ve only been to gay clubs in San Antonio, The Triangle and New York. (I'm aware that the Pinhook is not specifically a gay club.) Even gay clubs that aren’t entirely populated by men present an obstacle to queer gals. For example, most of the women who go to Vespa are straight. When I’m feeling entrepreneurial I approach everyone I fancy. This can get tedious. My $10 cover goes towards seeing more homo PDA than I would at a Duke Selective Living Group party. It goes towards catching up with members of the Duke and UNC gaystream. Do I expect to meet other queer femmes? Not really.

The Pinhook felt like an alternate universe, a dream, a drug-infused terrarium. It was a flurry of bodies writhing to danceable music. Piercings, tattoos, glitter, binders, soft skin, tube tops, gym shorts. I was slightly buzzed but felt too drunk to walk straight or talk cohesively. To outsiders (read: Duke students) this group might have seemed impermeable. Fun to look at, not to join. Through some inspired dancing and the queerfemmeness I radiated I became part of the potent organism that lived on the dance floor. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t feeling bold. Women pulled me to them.

Now that I’ve exhausted the pros, I’ll head to the cons. The Pinhook crowd was quite white- not as white as a Portland potluck, but close. The non-white contingent was represented mostly by light-skinned ambiguous looking people and cute black guys. I knew that if I came to the Pinhook every weekend I would get bored seeing the same small group of folks over and over. I don’t know if I want to become embroiled in the gossip and drama endemic to small, tightly connected communities.

Gossip and drama. All queer ladies must deal with them eventually. Sure, I’m an upper middle class Duke student, but these are Triangle hipsters, not necessarily denizens of the Bull’s Eye. Even the most sheltered Duke student would feel comfortable walking in this neighborhood at night. Am I really afraid of pot, crafting and social justice? No. In high school this was my scene. Really, I’m afraid that by delving into Durham (not as an observer, as a participant) I’ll shake loose the foundation of the successful social life I’ve finally erected at Duke after three semesters. Hopefully I can strike a balance. Durhamite (not just Durham) friendly in theory and practice. Duke friendly too, even if nothing at Duke will ever be as queer as the Pinhook.

Crucial question: Will the second time be as great as the first? I’ll find out soon.


  1. hey V-Ray! I remember the first time I went to the Pinhook, (with Summer, Ryan, Jen and Taylor! a wonderful crew!) it was cool! It was refreshingly welcoming towards LGBTQ individuals; it was one of the only places I've ever felt like queer was the majority, and not the minority.

    and I think it's great you're encouraging people to check out venues in Durham. I wish I had done that earlier in my Duke career! it's really eye-opening and there's an expansive perspective you get from doing things off-campus as a college student.

    keep us posted!!


  2. Awesome post Veronica! So funny! Maybe I should venture out there...

  3. Anonymous: I'm going to get a contingent of Duke women to go soon. If you're interested, get at me on Facebook. (

  4. Love this and love the pinhook, although I know about the lack of diversity. It's the way that much of the queer Durham crowd is. Many of the more diverse lgbt people are more of the house party people (or such has been my experience).

    I'm glad you found a place you love! Maybe next time you can take some initiative =) (But totally no pressure)

  5. My apologies if this is ignorant, but then one time I went, on a Friday, there were about 8 people there. Is there a certain night that is [substantially] more populated with queer women?

  6. Anonymous: I honestly don't know. A dance party was specifically advertised for the Saturday I went. There may have been like 40 people? I wouldn't say I was overwhelmed by the size of the dance floor or the amount of people- more that the people where WERE queer+queer looking.


    I was so excited we went and that you finally got to come with. And it truly does vary. Sometimes I try and make it my last place of the night and it's totally empty, and other times it is more racially diverse. It's good to intentionally go there for community events & fundraisers for Durham causes and not just dance parties. That way, you get a lot more of Durham diversity.

  8. Veronica, if you want to see and meet more Black women try The CC in Raleigh. It's a dive bar with drag shows from time to time, and though it wasn't my cup of tea, it was a decent time for the Triangle. In fact, I know some girls headed there tonight...

    ...Also, down to hit up Pinhook with you whenever. Those Midtown Dickens girls basically make me swoon to the extent that I'm in it to support the space, if nothing else (oh wait, no to support queer women too...).

    As always, one should always check venues' event calendars before heading blindly into the night.

  9. "(Everyone I had seen on OK Cupid was literally there too.)" LOL. love this post and next time you go, let me know! I'd be down to join:)