My first visit to a gay bar was at age 19, about 6 months after coming out to myself. I was like a kid in a candy store. Who knew there were that many gay guys? I didn’t know what to think about the experience. I was horribly nervous, but that was nothing short of normal for me at the time. At my peak in my mid-twenties, I was going to three different bars a week.
I have written and rewritten this post more times than I can count. I was trying to write in a way to talk about the community as a whole. It ended up pretentious and preachy every time. On my way home today I finally figured out that I’m not speaking for everyone and I shouldn’t try. I must write it from my heart. I can’t talk for those 49 dead and 53 injured. I can only tell you how gay nightclubs made me feel.
Pittsburgh used to have a bar called Pegasus. I think it was once a week that they had under-21 night. The youngsters were separated from the drinkers and the bar. It was on one of the main streets in town and down a flight of stairs. To quote one of my favorite Hollywood actresses, “What a dump!” There are two things about gay bars that you must know. 1.) They are almost all hole-in-the-walls and 2.) they all have stupid 1 word names. I have been to more gay bars that have dumb one word names: Pegasus, Eagle, Connexions, Feathers, and Barz.
There is one thing that I can do in a gay bar that I can’t at any other bar. I can flirt with guys and know that they are of a similar sexual orientation. Actually, I can be reasonably sure that I won’t get clocked in the face if I flirt with a guy. That always gave me a sense of comfort. I was also comforted in the fact that I wouldn’t be ridiculed about my sexual orientation or really anything else. We can be snarky bitches, but I was never picked on about my hairstyle, clothing choice, etc. I don’t know why. Are we just an accepting bunch?
One peculiar thing about gay bars is how timid the guys can be. You would think that people would talk with each other with relative ease. It’s really like anyplace else. When you are interested in someone, you just can’t be shy. Inhibitions always seemed to be lower on the dance floor, especially if you were dancing on a stage in front of the DJ or wrapping yourself around a pole. I would assume that today you just text a person you find of interest in some sleazy hookup app? I don’t know.
In my mid-twenties, at my best, I would go to Connexions on Tuesdays for country line dancing night and Fridays for dancing. Most of the people in my posse didn’t line dance. I surely did not. It was hysterical to watch. I also went for the camaraderie. There were six of us that hung out and talked. Only one of the six line danced! I did go to that bar on Saturdays occasionally on dyke night [that’s what they called it], where I learned one major life lesson: don’t shoot pool with a lesbian as she will kick your ass! Friday nights, we would all get together at the same bar and drink and dance our asses off. You wanted to leave around 1:30, though, because at 1:45am, when they went to shutdown the bar, “pickup time” started. People only stayed that late to get laid.
Saturdays two of us would go to a bar called Barz. It was a good drive and was across the state line. The music was different than the same old music we heard every Friday. They always had a couple of old-timers sitting at the bar. You wanted to feel sorry for them because they had aged and looked so dejected. I learned a lot about how terribly we treat the older folks in the LGBT community. I hope that has changed.
Sunday nights I would sometimes go to a bar called Feathers. It was an absolute dump! Feathers was not air conditioned and was two stories. The bottom floor had a ceiling of about 7 feet. You would watch the exposed beams bounce up and down while the people hopped about. I saw it happen many times, so I promise that it wasn’t just a cosmo-inspired hallucination. Feathers was great on Sunday because it had the best drag show around.
Did I go out too much in my heyday? Yes. Do I miss it? Now that I think of it, yes! Are gay bars safe, comfortable spaces for members of the LGBT community? Yes. Do we still need them in these times when acceptance is probably at an all-time high? Yes. Does this post really have a point to make? Maybe.