Closing of OKC’s Wreckroom leaves void for LGBTQ+ youth

by Robin Dorner
Editor in Chief

On July 21, 2017, Michael Baxter reopened OKC’s Wreckroom to provide a safe space for our LBGTQ youth. A place that they could call home.

This January 5, the Wreckroom danced her final dance.

“We had many struggles right from the start getting the word out that we were back,” said owner Michael Baxter. “We tried many new things to try to bring the kids in but to no avail. We just could not make it happen.”

Michael Baxter as his drag persona, Rozlyn DuBois. Photo provided.

The Wreckroom was closed for two years before Baxter revitalizing the club, which catered to LGBTQ+ youth.  said the impact of closing has been difficult for LGBTQ+ youth of OKC. Others agree.

“I think the bigger story following the close is the lack of spaces LGBTQ youth have to be themselves on a Friday and Saturday night,” said Luis Miguel Barajas. “Not having a space to be yourself can be one of the deadliest things for our youth.”

Barajas is the club’s final title holder as Topatío, winner of Wreckroom Idol Season 8. 

“In my opinion, our nonprofits should not be the only places that hold space for our youth,” Barajas said mentioning Q Space and Youth Equality Services (YES), two OKC youth support groups that are organized by OKC non-profits.

However, LGBTQ+ youth in nearby cities often find refuge in groups organized by their local non-profit community centers, such as Oklahomans for Equality in Tulsa and The Center in Wichita. OKC’s Diversity Center has plans to add youth programming, which would include a drag show, but they are currently in the organizing phase.

Baxter said part of the issues the club faced is other ways youth have for communicating and meeting their peers now. He also said the stigma of the “old” Wreckroom was a constant battle.

Baxter opened the doors to kids for free during OKC Pride 2018.

“I felt after OKC Pride we would gain momentum with the number of kids that came in and had so much fun.”

Jinkx Foss has performed at the venue as their drag persona, Venus Marie Halliwell. They said the Wreckroom provided a safe space for a lot of kids who don’t have accepting parents.

“If you go there and be yourself it gives you a sense of belonging and a family when you don’t have one. Now that it’s gone it feels like the only family we ever had is gone.

“The club was also a home and a starter for most young drag queens,” they said.

Foss said it also helped stop the under-age kids from sneaking into 21+ bars which they think helps keep the bars from getting fined or shut down if those teens are found in the bars.

“The wreck is my home forever,” said Foss.

So, what’s the solution for OKC’s LGBTQ+ youth?

“The solution is visibility to this concern in our community,” said Barajas. “Why aren’t we celebrating the lives of young queer individuals - why aren’t we making sure to the farthest reach of our ability that there is a space to be young and LGBTQ and to have a space free of judgment.”

He continued, “We all can relate to once being that individual in society no one accepted and had no place. We either were accepted and found our place. The Wreckroom was that place.”

He said the club saved many lives and that often, those who do not have a place such as the Wreckroom turn to substance abuse and suicide.

Baxter closed saying, “It was a sad day when I had to announce to my staff that I just could not afford to keep the doors open any longer,” adding that Jan 5 “was a surreal evening with laughing, crying and most of all love.”

Copyright The Gayly – February 8, 2019 @ 9:25 a.m. CST.