We seem to be at a cross roads in the gay community, with marriage equality becoming the law of the land and positive roll models, major celebrities, and even athletes coming out, our lives, like it or not, have become main stream. Straight families seem to be moving into our ‘gayborhoods’ and living and working side by side with us. For most of us, but not all, our friends and families have accepted us and some of us are starting our own families. As more and more of us come out that line that divided us seems to be getting thinner and thinner, so thin in fact you almost can’t see it anymore. It seems that when you gain more than what you had, you end up giving up ‘something’ or that ‘something’ becomes less and less relevant. The ‘something’ I’m talking about in this instance is your friendly neighborhood gay bar.
Here in North West Indiana and most specifically in Michigan City, we’ve lost the majority of our gay bars. As we are welcomed into more all inclusive establishments our community is split on whether we even need one. In the past, gay bars were a refuge from the main stream that we were not welcome in. For to many years it was not was not safe for a lot of people to come out, they would risk getting fired from their jobs or endure any number of negative reactions to living a life that was authentic to them. The gay bar was the outlet in which we could be ourselves, talk with other like minded people, see entertainment unique to our community, laugh with our friends or help them through their drama, and maybe find that companion to spend the rest of the evening with or in some cases a life. My memories of these places are bittersweet, I’ve had some good times some not so good times. I’ve had a lot of laughs in these places and yes my share of ‘hook ups.’ I was even introduced to my husband in a gay bar. It seems we’ve been together ever since.
There are a lot of different opinions why we don’t need a gay bar, but the most prevalent one seems to be the most obvious of reasons, we don’t need one because it’s so easy to ‘hook up’ these days. In an age where instant gratification enables us to ‘order’ a companion on-line as easily as you would order a Domino’s Pizza, you can have a (hopefully) hot guy over to your house in 30 minutes or less, and hopefully they are using a current profile pick. Grab your phone and hit the icon for your favorite ‘hook up’ app of choice, GRINDR, SCRUFF, ADAM 4 ADAM or the inevitable PENIS TRACKER app. and you can get that awkward, sexual hook up delivered right to your door, and if you are already having cocktails at home you are exercising good judgment by not driving, you don’t even have to leave the house to lose your self-esteem.
For those of you who don’t think we need gay bars anymore for that reason, I respectfully disagree. When you turn 21 it’s a right of passage to go into a bar for the first time, it seems even more so for that 21 year old gay man, going to see his first drag show, maybe locking eyes with that hot guy across the bar. Wrestling with the dilemma of going home with said hot guy or staying with your best straight girl friend the rest of the evening, I guess it would depend on who drove. Gay bars are needed for that one guy, we all know one. He was in a very long term relationship and managed to get through a bitter break-up. After 3 weeks of self imposed exile his friends drag him out to the bar, maybe on stripper night. He has a few drinks, someone pays for a lap dance and all the sudden he finds the strength to laugh again at least for the moment, he can go back to being depressed tomorrow. When you needed to dance, or wanted to dance. If you couldn’t dance the liquid courage would take over, you find that your body is not only following the rhythm of the music, but the rhythm of the person’s body who is suddenly grinding up against you. The older generation, the guys that were around when Stonewall happened, the start of the modern gay rights movement. Lot’s of these gentlemen are not on line, and that’s okay, but like lot’s of people they still need companionship. Sometimes just a conversation or a ‘how have you been?’ is enough, sometimes its enough because it will help another human being be less lonely for awhile.
The gay bar is and should be still be that place where we go. It should support our community just at the community supports it. To many gay bars took from the community and never gave back. I think in this age of gay centered Television shows, Campbell’s soup commercials, and marriage equality the thing that should not disappear from our collective conscience is THAT place, our place. The place with the pool table, the dart board, the place where your best friend knocked over that flaming shot of rum and almost set the table on fire. That place were the Gay Pride Flag flew proudly. That place were you would meet your friends after work.
“So when you get off later just get there. We’re all going to be there and first drink is on me, oh and I heard from a pretty credible source that guy you like is gonna be there too. Maybe you will finally ask him to dance. Anyway, we are waiting on you.” I know I’ve been waiting for my gay bar to make a come back, I have a feeling I’m waiting in vain.
…and that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake.