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QUEER WOMEN line up outside What’s Your Poison to enter Sunny Side Club’s all-sapphic singles’ night. — BRONTË H. LACSAMANA

By Brontë H. Lacsamana, Reporter

SUNNY SIDE CLUB, simply referred to by its members as “Sunny,” is a relatively new community for queer women, formed online in 2023. Its regular events, taking place almost weekly and requiring registration from attendees, are a haven for those who want to meet other women who love women (WLW), be they masculine (masc), femme, butch, trans, nonbinary, and the like. There, femme queers can flaunt their attractiveness without unwanted advances from the opposite sex, and masc and gender-neutral queers can feel comfortable being themselves without judgement.

Sunny’s gatherings come in all shapes and sizes — loud parties in clubs blaring anthems by Chappell Roan, screenings of queer-themed films like the 2023 comedy Bottoms, and even calm breakfasts at cafes where casual conversation is ideal. The number one rule is: no cis (straight) men.

Founded in November, it is a direct product of pondering where the lesbian spaces in Metro Manila have gone, spurred on by an article on the topic published by The Philippine Star in March of 2023. In the story, the likes of exclusive queer womens’ club Ámame, butch lesbian gogo bar Miss Kon, and Studio Dance Club’s monthly girls’ nights were mentioned as the only places to go.

By the end of that year, Sunny had started a community of its own.

“I made a survey on TikTok if people wanted to watch Bottoms online. I expected around 25 signups and got a hundred the next day, so there was a demand. We started looking for spaces for 12 people, and the number slowly got higher and higher every gathering, until we began entering deals with venues,” Sunny co-founder Jewel Enrile told BusinessWorld in an interview.

On May 31, the eve of Pride Month, the club welcomed hundreds of queer women throughout the night for their all-sapphic singles’ party, the venue What’s Your Poison (WYP) in Poblacion, Makati, overflowing with attendees.

Ms. Enrile gave BusinessWorld a quick glimpse of the organization behind such an event — from registration to ensure no one is under 18 or a straight man, to the planning and hosting of games and activities catering to Filipino and Gen Z lesbian culture.

“Our idea isn’t original. So many young people organize parties. There are so many collectives around Metro Manila formed from group chats on TikTok or Discord, asking ‘Gay girl ka ba? Gusto niyo ba sumali sa chat?’ (are you a gay girl and do you want to join our chat?) so it’s not original at all. We’re just an extra level of organization to it all,” she added.

Sunny co-founder Cal Lim Tolentino lamented about how she used to obsessively google “lesbian bars” and not find any. “We never actually went to one before we started this. Our events would be the first, though technically not since we don’t have a physical space,” she said.

The club’s all-sapphic singles’ night was lively and filled with dance tunes, girl anthems, and spicy dating games. But Ms. Tolentino confided that they hope to someday attend other queer womens’ events rather than be the ones hosting them all the time.

“What was around before we started were generally gay spaces, which are fun but not entirely meant for us,” added Ms. Enrile. “We went to drag clubs like Nectar and queer-friendly spaces like Today x Future, but those places primarily had gay men.”

A VARIETY OF WOMENOn the demographic of Sunny attendees, Ms. Tolentino said that the majority are women on the cusp of generations — the oldest Gen Zs (22 to 27 years old) and the youngest millennials (28 to 30 years old). Coming out of isolation, a lot of the marketing has been around helping people move on from that.

“It has a lot to do with the pandemic, because a large chunk of 20-year-olds didn’t get to party in college. They were home and never got to experience a partying culture,” she told BusinessWorld.

However, the club’s events see quite a few 30- and 40-year-olds as well, there to support and celebrate a lesbian community that didn’t exist in their youth. Yana Romero, Sunny’s marketing head, cited social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok as the reasons they’re able to contact people across a range of ages.

“We get messages and comments from those not able to join, saying they hope to catch future events. The older queers tell us that they didn’t have this and they’re happy they get to experience it with us,” Ms. Romero said.

For Ms. Enrile, the fact remains that different activities appeal to people of different ages and personalities, which is why they have parties, film screenings, book discussions, and cafe gatherings, with the morning events usually skewing to an older crowd who want to sit down and talk.

“Ideally, we want more sapphic spaces and communities to crop up so we can address more subcultures,” she said. “While Sunny does welcome nonbinary and trans people, the WLW community is so nuanced that it deserves more spaces to cater to everyone.”

One of Sunny’s inside jokes addresses this variety of women. The “masc shortage” refers to a supposed lack of masc lesbians in the Philippines, compared to femmes who seem to be everywhere. Sunny documents an abundance of all types at their events, celebrating queer women no matter their SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression).

LONG-TERM GOALSThe lesbian pride flag on the registration table outside WYP signaled to guests that they had come to the right place, but Sunny’s founders revealed that the long-term goal is to have a physical space of their own.

“It’s hard to jump around,” Ms. Tolentino said. “You have to make sure of so many things, going to different venues. A physical space would be stable.”

In the meantime, Sunny focuses its efforts on developing a strong network of queer-owned businesses through their Sunny Features on social media. Some businesses they’ve promoted range from lesbian-owned cafe Maiora Bistro on Katipunan Ave., Quezon City, to the queer travelers’ vacation rental Affordalux Staycation in SMDC Wind, Tagaytay City.

“I realized that the value of attending Sunny events, being in the Sunny Discord, and following the Sunny instagram is the resources you get. We shout out these places and we invite lesbian drag queen Tiffany Brittany to perform at our events, so that queer women can go somewhere without being discriminated [against] or feeling uncomfortable or unable to relate,” Ms. Enrile said.

Eventually, the community can transition from hosting parties to having a solid database of resources — businesses and performers, as well as queer-friendly workplaces and employers, medical clinics and doctors.

“More than supporting lesbians, it’s about having a network of people and places that will make lesbians feel safer,” said Ms. Tolentino.

She pointed out that the Filipino gay community has its own home-for-the-aged, the Golden Gays. There is no such counterpart for elderly lesbians. “It doesn’t exist, which means there’s no space for all those old lesbians. They’re scattered around. That’s probably what’s happening,” she said.

Ms. Enrile added that Sunny may be named for the happier and brighter side of the queer experience, but it is not just about parties and its goals extend far beyond Pride Month.

“We advocate for all these serious things — a physical lesbian space, a database of resources, nonprofits for queer women — disguised behind something fun. We’re trying to get our name out there.” 

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