IS THE GAY BAR DYING: PERSONAL THOUGHTS
I came across a very interesting read tonight by June Thomas. It struck my attention because it hits home (directly). The Gay Bar…is it dying? Before I even dove into the lengthy article I already had personal views on this topic. Is it dying? YES it is. But it will never be fully dead. I’m only familiar with 2 ‘gay night scenes’ but I’m well aware it’s the same across the country.
First off, let’s talk about the Toronto gay nightlife scene. Coming directly from Toronto folks, they say “Church Street IS dying”. Even super gay club ‘Fly’ is potentially getting torn down and erected into condominiums. The gays have really spread themselves out east and west partying, hosting, promoting at ‘straight’ / mixed venues rather being faithful to the Church stomping grounds week after week(like it was years ago). They don’t abandon their local watering holes but frequent them less. Especially in big urban cities the growing acceptance of gays and lesbians allow them to mesh in heterosexual venues.
Back to my city (London, ON). Years ago, the days London had several co-existing gay bars and each night at least one of them would be packed (so the older folks say) are long gone. Present day, Cruising/meeting people can be done online/cell phones and frequenting hetero venues are far too common.
Prior to coming out straight bars were all I knew. After coming out, I still went but learned quickly what was and not acceptable at straight bars. These were all personal experiences I had in several venues in London. 1/ You can’t dance on the tables (only ladies can). 2/ You can’t dance on the stripper pole (guys will evil stare you down). 3/ You can’t dance closely with a guy (or you will get kicked out for making others feel uncomfortable). 4/ Lastly, if you or your friends act overly effeminate you risk getting fries thrown at you outside the bar or getting jumped.
Even so I still frequent straight venues. It can be a blast but you never completely feel at ‘home’. It’s really sad to admit but the way I dress, interact and dance at a straight venue is completely different than if I were to go to a gay bar. I go to straight bars mainly to dance and enjoy a different scene and types of music. Am I a coward…some would say yes, but when it comes down to it I just want to enjoy the night without drawing unwanted attention my way.
To conclude I don’t think gay bars will ever die. Especially for young folks coming out or questioning – they need a place where they can feel like they are not alone, dance how they would dance at home in the mirror, dress up in drag if that’s their thing, sing happy songs and connect with folks with similar interests. There is something fully liberating about going to a gay bar, especially the first few times. A closeted homo is not going to go to a school gay rally, they’re gonna come to a gay bar and see what it’s all about!
If you don’t get a chance to read the full article, I leave you with the last paragraph:
“I wish our taverns were more like Spanish bars, with an emphasis on socializing rather than drinking, but I still feel a lingering affection for gay bars’ stale-beer smell and their dim-lit charms. It’s wonderful to have the run of the city—to roam at will rather than stick to our own streets and safe spaces. But if the gay bar disappears, where will we learn to dance? Where will we realize that we’re not alone? Where will we go to feel normal?”
THE GAY BAR. Is it dying?
By June Thomas|Updated Monday, June 27, 2011
When the New York State Senate voted 33-29 to approve same-sex marriage on Friday, June 24, gay and lesbian New Yorkers—and some straight supporters—knew the perfect place to celebrate: They headed to the Stonewall Inn, the gay bar where, 42 years earlier, the modern gay rights movement had been born. Amid the glorious chaos of fire-eaters, drag queens, and spontaneous proposals, older gay couples walked hand-in-hand admiring the scene. The jubilation at Stonewall and on the surrounding streets was a stirring celebration of progress. But I can’t help wondering whether, as gay rights move forward, the gay bar—the place where it all began—may get left behind.
I rarely go to gay bars anymore. I’ve been in a happy relationship for 14 years with someone who rarely drinks. Bars are loud, they get going too late, and they’re packed with kids half my age. They make me feel old. But I feel bad about abandoning them. I still remember the terrifying, giddy excitement of my first forays into gay pubs and clubs, the thrill of discovering other lesbians and gay men in all their beautiful, dreary, fabulous, sleazy variety. I learned how to dance to 15-minute techno remixes under spinning disco balls, how to appreciate tacky drag shows and to show proper respect for the heroines of the pool table. Gay bars are my cultural patrimony and my political heritage. [full article]
Some memorable quotes from the article:
“Now, at least in urban centers, gay men and lesbians feel safe in scads of straight restaurants and bars. But when new options open up, what happens to the old segregated institutions? In 2007, Entrepreneur magazine put gay bars on its list of businesses facing extinction, along with record stores and pay phones.”
“Between 2005 and 2011, the number of gay and lesbian bars and clubs in gay-travel-guide publisher Damron’s database decreased by 12.5 percent, from 1,605 to 1,405.”
“I’m relieved that for my generation, gay bars are but one dish on a vast menu of leisure-time options. But I’d feel their passing far more fiercely than the loss of the neighborhood video store. Without the gay bar, gay culture and gay rights might not exist.”
“Unlike other minorities, queers don’t learn about our heritage from our birth families. Bars are our Hebrew school, our CCD, our cotillion. As activist pioneer Dick Leitsch wrote in Gay magazine in September 1970: “Gay bars … teach and enforce the ethics and rules of gay life and pass on traditions and gay culture. One learns how to make out, to use gay slang.” Bars are a place to find fellowship.”
“Although bars are public places, they offer a certain measure of privacy. For a lot of young people, even today, the gay bar is a much-needed way station on the path to coming out.”
“A closeted kid is not going to go to an LGBT youth rally at the university. What he’s going to do is come in during a drag show, sit in a dark corner after pacing back and forth in front”
“The joy of being able to flirt freely, to dance uninhibitedly, to show affection without fearing for your life is still denied in the larger world.”