Chelcea Stowers is the founder of Lesbian Social Detroit, which produces pop up events for women in the city of Detroit and the surrounding area. Stowers, a native of the Michigan city is a freelance lifestyle photographer and event curator. She started Lesbian Social in 2017 because she felt there wasn’t a lot of spaces for queer women to connect with each other. From a single pool party, the events have grown dramatically, and in the past year have connected more than 700 women in the Detroit area.
Out Traveler spoke with Stowers about the parties, and creating more spaces for the Detroit LGBTQ+ community.
Do you see your photography as complimenting your work as a party planner?
As a photographer I wanted to incorporate my skills with my events. I love capturing action and lifestyle portraits at my events that look as if you just left a personal photo session.
Tell me how Lesbian Social came about.
I hosted a pop-up pool party with a friend and everyone asked me to host another event for women. I wanted to host pop-up events at different rooftop venues in downtown Detroit and I wanted to make Detroit’s pride festival a go-to destination like Chicago, New York and Atlanta’s pride. After connecting with a mentor in the nightlife industry, he helped me build relationships with club owners and the opportunity was given me to host an event at a rooftop in downtown Detroit. Within the last year Lesbian Social events have connected over 700 women in the city of Detroit.
It sounds like lesbian parties are really taking off in Detroit. Why do you think that is?
Fresh ideas, content, and word-of-mouth marketing. Lesbian Social only hosts events once a month to keep things fresh and to help build anticipation for what Lesbian Social will do for the next event. After the events, I noticed women talking on social media about how great of a time they had. This built interest for those who didn’t know these types of events were happening around the city. Lesbian Social is also personable. At each event I’m checking in with party-goers getting feedback on what they like, what they would like to see more of, and overall if they are having a good time. Lesbian Social is providing more visibility to a community of women that exist in the city that many may not have known existed. I do believe the Lesbian Social platform on Instagram is helping bring women together from all over, rather its them resharing event posts, creating polls to interact with followers and just being a source for information.
There’s been a lot of press about lesbian bars closing down across the country and some people feel like the take-away is that lesbians aren’t looking for lesbian spaces anymore because they are accepted enough in the straight world not to need queer space. What do you think is really going on?
I think in Detroit, it’s a matter of a lack of venues. Being a part of the community for so long, there is only one venue left in the city that caters to lesbian and bisexual women. With it being 18+, it sort of leaves a void for women who are 21+ and want to get out and meet other women.
You mentioned the importance of providing a safe space for women in Detroit. What was it about other spaces that haven’t felt safe?
In the past access to venues in the downtown Detroit area was hard to navigate and our only options were smaller neighborhood bars in less desirable areas that catered to the 18+. Women 21+ didn’t have a venue that catered specifically to us. So. my idea was to create that space and do pop-up events in different venues around the city.
What is a typical Lesbian Social party like?
I always say after an event that I feel like I just walked out of the bar on the ’90’s TV show Cheers. The women that attend the events celebrate each other. Women are able to be free in expression without a sense of intimidation. You never know who you may spark up a conversation with at our events. My partner, who recently relocated from Charlotte, NC said she’s never gone to an event where women truly embraced each other in this capacity. There are women of all nationalities that attend the events and in Detroit that’s something that is uncommon.
There are men in some of the shots on your Instagram page. Are men welcome at these parties?
Yes, we allow allies of the community to attend our events. When someone isn’t sure of what type of event is going on at our hosting club, we let them know before entering that it is an LGBTQ event. But all guests are respectful of each other.
What would you like to see for Lesbian Social in the near future?
My next goal is to make Detroit’s Pride festival even bigger. I want people to travel from out of state to come to the events and get a chance to experience Detroit culture for themselves. The city gets a bad rap but for those who have visited, they love the culture and pride of Detroit. Outside of nightlife events, I look to host events around health and wellness, connecting singles, as well as planning domestic and international group trips because I love to travel.
It sounds like Lesbian Social is building a network, creating community. What would you like that community to look like in 5 years?
My main goal is to grow Lesbian Social as a staple in the community for women to come and connect. I would love for Lesbian Social to be a part in building the entertainment and nightlife scene for those in the LGBTQ community. I would also like to work with the City of Detroit in establishing a neighborhood or small district for the community that includes a variety of small businesses.