Helsinki LGBTQ+: Vital subcultures

View from DTM club in Helsinki
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While Helsinki is no massive metropolis, it is entirely possible to find interesting different LGBTQ+ subcultures here. We present a selection of them below.

Helsinki has a vital and colourful LGBTQ+ community that has only grown stronger in recent years. Gender and sexual diversity, intersectional feminism and inclusivity are part of today's world and these themes are visible in the events organised in the city. More traditional gay life is also alive and kicking in Helsinki. 

Activism

"Revolutions and encounters, big and small, are always done together."  

Those interested in civic participation can find interesting initiatives and workshops, for instance through the Helsinki Pride organisation. Community has power and the NGO Helsinki Pride (formerly known as Seta) has a long tradition of grassroots influencing. The association's event calendar has activities for all tastes from small gatherings to mass events reaching 100,000 participants to take action in the name of human rights and enjoy culture. There are also sub-organisations such as KVV, which is directed towards individuals living in a double marginal position as LGBTQ+ and with a disability or long-term illness. The Bi/Pan+ discussion evenings are aimed at adults identifying as bisexual or pansexual. Young people under 25 can take part in youth events. Helsinki Pride's events are primarily organised at the association's space at the Cable Factory. 

"No nazis, no discrimination, no sexism!"  

Loukko Center of Subcultures organises a great amount of events with a focus on inclusivity and DIY action. Located in Helsinki's Kallio district, the cultural space has a vegan café (but there is no obligation to buy anything), a low-barrier gallery, many kinds of workshops, a monthly feminist sewing club, and performing arts events. Loukko also offers young people and people with a lack of funds the opportunity to organise and host their own events. There is never an obligation to spend money at the events outside possible cover charges. In addition, the space also hosts events without age limits as well as free events. Loukko is committed to safer space principles and is also as barrier-free as possible.

Fetish scene

Different fetish events have also played an important role in gay culture. Such gatherings are organised in Helsinki by, e.g. MSC Finland – Tom's Club, one of the longest running LGBTQ+ organisations in Finland.

MSC Finland – Tom's Club is a fetish association for men interested in e.g. leather, rubber, uniforms and sportswear. The original name MSC Finland was changed to its current form in 1991 to commemorate the club's honorary chairman Touko Laaksonen, also known as Tom of Finland

The club hosts regular evenings with a dress code alongside thematic events such as the yearly Mr. Fetish Finland competition. MSC is part of the European network of fetish organisations ECMC. All MSC Finland members also receive the membercard of ECMC, which grants free access to the club spaces and events of the network.   

Club X in Helsinki's Vallila district is the first private BDSM club in Finland with a monthly membership plan. The club's members get to enjoy excellent facilities for their sessions, including a wide range of equipment, six private spaces (with two of them in a separate apartment), a spacious sauna and a sauna lounge. 

Erotic bondage, also known as shibari, is more and more popular also outside the kinky and BDSM circles. Helsinki Shibari organises different types of bondage events and workshops. 

Club kidz

Perhaps not instantly visibly so, but Helsinki has a lively, even avantgardist queer underground scene for everyone whose idea of a night out includes a splash of radical extravagance. Colourful club kidz collectives such as the House of Disappointments and Club La Persé are formed of familiar nighttime butterflies who run their own evenings in club venues like Kaiku and Merikerho.

For everyone interested in subcultures and marginal mayhem, a good recommendation is to turn to Helsinki's vibrant alternative drag scene. Several collectives are currently participating in drag art of the new generation. For instance, House of Auer and House of Jaahas are busy challenging traditional drag and some of its outdated models with a DIY attitude. Both collectives organise events around the city, and the best way to get to know what is happening is to join in. 

Vogue / Ballroom culture

The past decade and even longer has seen the firm establishment of voguing and ballroom culture in Helsinki. Balls and other events have been organised by the scene's pioneers such as Venla Vuoria and Virpi Kurkihovi, as well as the dancer-choreographer Roza Ahmad a.k.a. Princess Coco Ninja, and more and more newcomers are entering the scene. 

Ballroom was born in 1960s Harlem as a subculture for non-white sexual and gender minorities. The scene has become more visible in the mainstream in several waves in the past decades, most recently through the television series Pose. The pop phenomenon RuPaul's Drag's Race also owes more than just a little bit to ballroom. 

Vogue balls invite different "houses" to compete against each other. Houses are family-like systems and their members traditionally compete in categories such as imitating supermodels in Runway, or providing a hot look as Best Dressed. 

Different workshops, balls and other events are regularly seen in Helsinki, such as at the clubs Kaiku, DTM, Putte's and Ääniwalli. The Elements radio show hosted on IDA Radio since spring is also dedicated to Helsinki's ballroom scene. The best way to keep track of ballroom in Helsinki is on Facebook (e.g. the group Waacking & Voguing – Suomi-Finland).

Queer feminism / Diversity

Many members of the LGBTQ+ community feel like equality and feminism are important ideas. At the moment, many events are based on intersectional feminism and LGBTQ+ inclusivity. A good space to follow within this thinking is for instance the Loukko Center of Subcultures' website.

The Matriarkaatti collective organises regular events with the aim of having fun and also creating opportunities for underrepresented groups in the club scene. Matriarkaatti started as a feminist rap podcast and has widened its operations to include clubnights and open mic events. The open mics are specifically aimed as low-barrier performance opportunities for all female, non-binary and trans artists who make music or spoken word works in and around hip hop. 

MYÖS is a Helsinki-based DIY collective, event platform and network for underrepresented actors in the field of electronic music: DJs, producers, organisers, audiences and allies in the local club scene. The events emphasise safer space principles and respect for co-partners. You can also participate in the collective by following their announcements, or getting in touch.

QUERQ is an association that advocates sex positivity, artistic expression and personal development. Their goal is to undo taboos and stigmas, and to approach different topics with a feminist, queer and spiritual angle. The association has a space in Vallila, where the majority of events are held. 

Grown women

The Women's Evening organised by the Helsinki Pride association is open to all lesbian, bisexual and other rainbow women, with all respect given to self-definition. The evenings are attended by women of all ages, from 20-somethings to 50-somethings. There is a chance to partake in discussion and to get to know new people. Some of the meetings centre around certain topics, and some are more free opportunities to simply mingle. 

The Mummolaakso association (Granny Valley) organises events such as dances, excursions, evening meet-ups, weekend camps, theatre visits and more. The purpose of the association is to offer its members information, fun moments and opportunities to make and maintain contacts to other lesbian and bisexual women, as well as to "advance mutual solidarity and care amongst lesbian and bi women, and to offer an alternative to elderly care that is based on one's own identity". The aim is to also create a social network that can serve to assist its members in case of loneliness, illness and other crises. 

The party committee of the granny club throws dances and social evenings five to six times a year. The cultural committee organises evenings meet-ups at the space of the Feminist Association Unioni on Bulevardi, as well as theatre and exhibition excursions. 

Cruising

Sex positivity is a trendy word and concept today, and it is visible in many places, from literature to tv shows and magazine covers. Sex positivity has been a central idea in the LGBTQ+ community for decades already. In Helsinki, men who enjoy to have sex with men can find company, for instance at Sauna Vogue, the only gay sauna in Finland. Another popular meeting place is the erotic shop Keltainen Ruusu in Kamppi. In addition to all kinds of erotic supplies, "The Yellow Rose" has a cruising zone and a two-floor non-stop film viewing space. 

A tip for women is to visit the Flikkametsä sex party held at ClubX in Vallila. Flikkametsä is a "sex party for women and feminine people who are interested in women", and the event welcomes cis women, femmes, butches, domes, sub women, trans women, as well as feminine intersexual and non-binary individuals. The organisers welcome both experienced and inexperienced participants to attend, whether lesbian, bi-curious, pansexual or anything in between. Flikkametsä offers a space for encounters, play and adventure without the presence of men. The party is kinky-friendly. 

Bears

Bears are a gay subculture. Bear culture admires manly features, such as beards and a big body size. Helsinki has its own bear scene and some events specifically catering to bear men. Bear activities such as clubs, sauna evenings, brunches and more are organised by, e.g. Bear With Us Helsinki, or BWU, with a programme open to bears, the bear-adjacent, and men in general regardless of age, size or looks. The Fin-Bears association also hosts some programmes that are announced on their website. A tradition for every summer is the Bears on Board party cruise held in July, organised by the clubland pioneer DJ Mr.A.  

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While Helsinki is no massive metropolis, it is entirely possible to find interesting different LGBTQ+ subcultures here. We present a selection of them below.