While some of us just practice Dry January or Sober October, many are living a year-round low or alcohol-free lifestyle.
The non-alcohol drinks market is booming. Heritage and newcomer drink brands are lining the aisles of our grocery stores with non-alcohol products. The travel industry is taking note by stocking zero-proof options in minibars and introducing more mocktails on menus.
According to Hotels.com, one in four travellers say the top reason for drinking less on holiday is to stay in control and feel better emotionally and physically.
Surprisingly, attending sporting events was the top reason travellers said they’d be likely to reduce alcohol consumption while travelling.
Christian Parker, the New York City-based executive director of Gay & Sober, helped launch the company’s first sober party in 2009. Now, the non-profit hosts international events and an annual four-day conference. Past keynote speakers have included Marc Jacobs, Margaret Cho, and Bianca Del Rio.
Here, Parker speaks to us about what Gay & Sober are doing for the community.
How would you describe your events?
It really depends on where it’s going to be. I would say that our flagship event is in New York City on Pride weekend. From morning to night, there’s something that’s engaging, enriching, and [which] encourages connection, whether it be a run through Central Park, to rooftop yoga, to a health and wellness workshop led by a professional. At night, we give them something fun to do, like a rooftop pool party, a gay tour through New York City, or a trip around the island of Manhattan on a boat — a floating super dance party with fireworks. It’s pretty incredible.
What events do you have planned for 2024?
We have a partnership with Dollywood theme parks with a retreat in the Tennessee mountains in the autumn. And then you have Amsterdam in August for Amsterdam Pride, and London in September for an LGBTQ+ three-day event. And, of course, the New York events, which include Pride weekend and also a day on Fire Island.
Tell me about Gay & Sober’s Great Smoky Mountains Retreat Dollywood event.
The Dollywood retreat is basically a regional retreat. We have people from Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, even a few from Texas — maybe they can’t make it all the way up to New York, but they want something closer to home, and so we do an event in Tennessee. From an LGBTQ equal rights law perspective, that state is very hard on us. They’re very, very hard on us. And so, we did get a little bit of flack as to why would Gay & Sober choose to do business in Tennessee.
And we came back very strongly in believing that if ever there was an area that needed LGBTQ-affirming support and resources and events, it is that area. So, for 48 hours, we completely gay up the area. We rent two cabins in the hills, and we go to Dollywood theme park: we’ve collaborated with them for [years, so] we can go in for a very nice discount. And we basically take over the park, and it’s a beautiful experience.
What advice do you have for travellers looking to meet other LGBTQ+ people outside of alcohol-filled spaces?
Before they travel, we would recommend that they either reach out to organisations like Gay & Sober because we have a network of people all over the world that have the inside scoop on, “Hey, is there an alcohol-free safe space in that city?” We can connect them with that information.
Have you visited any dry queer venues that you loved while on your own travels?
Last August, Gay & Sober, in collaboration with the Dutch organisation, Queer & Sober, was the first-ever sober float in their canal Pride parade. Amsterdam is a party city, and I was a little concerned they’d throw champagne on us or something when they heard our name. But they were so supportive — they were applauding left and right. It was a magical [moment] — it was probably one of my favourite trips. I mean, I shouldn’t say that I liked it more than New York City Pride, but I loved it.