How to Report On A Gay Bar Arson

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
Jan. 2 2014 1:56 PM

Alleged Arson at Seattle Gay Bar Reveals Better Media Coverage of LGBTQ Community

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Neighbors' New Year's Eve celebrations were cut short on Wednesday morning.

Courtesy of Neighbors Club.

As New Year’s hangovers finally fade today, the word is spreading that Neighbors, an iconic LGBTQ community club in Seattle, was nearly lost to an alleged arson attack early Wednesday morning. According to reports, the Seattle fire department was called to the Capitol Hill-area bar about 15 minutes after midnight to investigate the incident, in which a fire was discovered on an internal staircase that had been doused with gasoline. Bar staff and patrons were able to contain the blaze with a fire extinguisher and the establishment’s sprinkler system, resulting in a safe evacuation and no injuries. Police are currently looking for a suspect, and the bar hopes to reopen soon.

In the meantime, media coverage of the event has included a heartening feature amid an otherwise upsetting—though thankfully not tragic—story: Aleksa Manila, a 10-year veteran drag performer at Neighbors, has been widely quoted on the importance of the space to the community. I have not had the pleasure of visiting Neighbors, but if it’s anything like my local haunt, drag queens are exactly the sources journalists should turn to if they want to get an accurate picture of gay nightlife, even if the artists are not always viewed as the most sympathetic of spokespeople. So kudos to the reporters who sought out Manila for comment, and a special commendation to King 5 reporter Alison Morrow for correctly referring to Manila as “she” in her story. That kind of sensitivity to queer people and culture can go a long way toward making painful stories like these a little more bearable.

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.