The L Word IRL

A group that fosters unique and radical  hospitality for LGBTQ women in Birmingham

Written by Sydney Duncan

The L Word is one of those guilty pleasure television shows from the late 2000s that is regarded as both culturally groundbreaking and one we might cringe to admit we watched because of the way it framed certain issues. Look, it was a product of its time. Our love for it is complicated. But what The L Word undoubtedly got right was its portrayal of the large, tapestry community of queer women professionally and socially supporting each other in the show’s Los Angeles setting. Something that a viewer from Birmingham might have never dreamed of having for herself.

That is until two women from Mobile and Orange Beach thought, Why not?

Brit Blalock and Carmen Chambers met in 2010 in New York City and quickly became friends. Brit was attending NYU for her postgraduate degree and Carmen was finishing up at Yale and spending weekends in New York. Life would set them off in different directions across the country, but they stayed in touch. By 2015, Brit was back in the city of her undergraduate alma mater, Samford University, and finding success in her career. Carmen also made her way to Birmingham while in law school at Georgetown, interning for and eventually accepting a position at a prestigious law firm.

As Carmen was making the decision to move to Birmingham permanently, she couldn’t help but have concerns over the lack of spaces for queer women in the city. Certainly, there were gay bars, and the queer men seemed to have a robust community, but what she’d experienced in New York and D.C. just didn’t exist locally. So, in June of 2016, she called Brit about throwing a social for the queer women they did know in Birmingham. A handful of texts and emails later, and around 20 women met at Carrigan’s Public House. They named their group The Bevy. “It means a large group of a particular kind, but it’s also a happy hour pun,” explains Carmen.

Following that first meeting, a fuse was lit, and the group expanded to a Facebook page and then Instagram. They initially kept The Bevy’s online presence discreet and privately opened it to women who identified on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. At the time, Birmingham lacked a non-discrimination ordinance, so women risked losing their careers for simply being out. Today, The Bevy has grown to over five hundred and fifty members. There is a monthly happy hour every third Thursday, L-Word trivia parties, and holiday gatherings for those unable to go home for one reason or another.

While The Bevy is at its core a social experience, it also serves as an embassy to queer professionals considering Birmingham as a place to pursue their career. “For me, one of the most important aspects of The Bevy is keeping it a professional environment,” says Brit. “Having a space where everyone feels welcome is vital to its growth. There’s no clique type of thing happening.” Many members have found career paths and job opportunities because of the connections they’ve made. And, as Brit says, that’s by design. “Part of creating The Bevy has been to address the wage gap, which is very wide for women in the south. And then when you add queer women, it gets wider, and when you add queer women of color it gets even wider. The end goal has always been to combat that by finding strength in the community.”

The Bevy offers a chance to belong for someone who may be struggling to find their community. It can be a lifeline. As Carmen puts it, “You come into yourself, I think, when you’re around other queer people because you’re not the token queer at the dinner table. Your sexuality isn’t necessarily what is defining you.” She’s seen new members find deeper confidence and delight in their own authentic identities, sometimes for the first time. “It’s something special.”

In the queer community, The Bevy is garnering regional attention. Expansion chapters are in the works for New Orleans, Nashville, Mobile, Memphis, and Durham. “The dream is to one day bring these groups together, perhaps at a conference, and to inspire these women to build up and support their local queer communities,” Brit says.

When asked if, after three years, The Bevy has given Birmingham a community comparable to larger cities, like what we saw on The L Word, the answer it seems is, yes and no. Carmen and Brit agree that Birmingham’s queer scene will never be New York City’s. But what has grown and flourished in the Magic City is, they say, better. What is so distinctly Birmingham, so welcoming and Southern about The Bevy is, as Carmen says, “A unique and radical hospitality.”

Something special, indeed.

You can find The Bevy on Instagram @thebhambevy.

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