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For the past year, Desmond Sam has been running No Homo, a club night aiming to create an inclusive, free space for the members of New York’s LGBTQ+ community.

Having started in August 2018, the mission of No Homo was to “create more than just a safe space”, says Sam. “It was a blatant example of rebellion against the ways others try to oppress the LGBTQ+ community. It was about removing boundaries and labels within an inclusive environment that immediately makes you feel comfortable the moment you walk in.”

Since the start, the night has sent a jolt of energy through the New York club scene, with parties for Fashion Week and this year’s Pride cementing its reputation as one of the best in the city. So beloved is No Homo in fact that the Storefront Project even hosted a gallery show of some of the best photos from the first six months. With an eye on expanding the night beyond its original home at Kind Regards, we spoke to Desmond Sam as No Homo’s first birthday approaches.

When did No Homo start and why?

The first No Homo was August 2018. This was actually an idea I had for a while; I remembered in high school all the boys would use that phrase ‘no homo’ after they would do something that could be interpreted as gay. It’s nostalgic to hear those two words now cause I remember saying it too and thinking, ‘actually, yes homo I wanted to slap his ass!’

I felt like the scene was missing a queer party that wasn’t just for white cis gays. Even the parties that were supposed to be queer POC oriented lacked something, and I realised that missing piece was actual fun. I decided there needed to be a party for the black gays, the curious, and the confused to dance the night away. No Homo just seemed like the perfect answer.

What were you doing before you started it?

Before I started the party, I was still working in nightlife. I was more of a host, and I worked everywhere from Up and Down to the Museum of Sex. Any hot spot in NYC I was hosting at but No Homo helped upgrade me from just being a party host to becoming an event programmer and curator. I told myself that hosting was just going to be my side gig, but I watched queer icons like Susan Bartsch, Ladyfag and Frankie Sharp find their own lane in nightlife, and I decided I could also do the same.

What’s unique about No Homo compared to other LGBTQ+ nightlife in New York?

I’ve asked myself this a lot during this year. I go to a lot of queer parties in New York, obviously, and I’ve been going out since I was 16 years-old. The issue I always felt growing up was I couldn’t fit in with the white kids fully, and I couldn’t fit in with the black kids fully either. Then becoming a gay young adult, I realised it was the same dilemma in the gay community. No Homo is unique because it’s unapologetically queer and inclusive. In the beginning, I made sure the flyers were over the top. I use to make them myself, and I would spend days googling the most ridiculous gay photos I could find then I would hide the gayest part of the photo with a huge text block that said NO HOMO in all caps.

I would do different themes and include people from everyone corner of my life, gay or straight. I didn’t care as long as you were down to see some voguing and boys kissing. Anyone who came would immediately say they never experienced anything like it. My straight friends would come and say it was the best party they’d ever been too.

It wasn’t your regular circuit gays, it wasn’t just queens in looks, but it was a queer mosh pit of everyone. No one felt excluded, there wasn’t any VIP area, it was free and a breath of fresh air, especially compared to the pretentious and stuffy majority-white queer parties I’ve been to in the past.

What should people know before coming to their first No Homo party?

Simple; come ready for the best night of your life, and PLEASE come in a look!

Has the party changed at all since it started? How?

The party is evolving; it’s becoming more mature and structured. I think the demographic of the party is spreading, which I love as well. I see a lot of new faces at my parties.

It means soon I’ll have to start looking for bigger venues and start taking No Homo around the world. The party is building with great momentum. I am currently planning to do a No Homo in LA, and hopefully, I can get No Homo to make it’s European debut before the year is out! I think No Homo has the potential to bring queer rebels from all walks of life together under this community that we sometimes feel ostracised within.

Do you have a favourite memory from No Homo?

Wow, I have so many favourite memories. I’ve been grateful to have some of my favourite people in the universe DJ, host and attend my party. No Homo has had the pleasure of having everyone from the Clermont twins to Rickey Thompson in attendance. I think right now my favourite memory might be from the World Pride party we did this last June!

I’m always sceptical about having performers cause you just never know how they may go. For the pride party, I knew I definitely wanted a performance and who could be better than the amazing Big Klit? She’s an artist I have been a big fan of this year, especially after I saw her last performance at another queer party called Discakes. I was extremely excited to get to work with her, and her performance was one for the books! She brought a damn mouse!

Can you sum up the average No Homo night in three songs?

Cannibal by Ke$ha.

Act Up by City Girls.

Catitude by Miley Cyrus.

What’s one thing you’d change about nightlife in New York?

One thing I’d change is the need for exclusivity in nightlife. I hate the club scene because everyone wants to force themselves on a table to be seen, but they add nothing to the ambience of the party. It’s what us New Yorkers call clout chasers. If you come to a party it should be to dance, have a good time, or fuck someone; whatever it may be you should be craving an experience. I wish nightlife was more carefree.

No Homo takes places 25 July at Kind Regards.