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Why we still need our gay bars

Younger generation deserves access to safe spaces

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Club Hippo, Baltimore, nightlife, gay news, Washington Blade
Club Hippo, Baltimore, nightlife, gay news, Washington Blade

Baltimore’s Hippo nightclub is expected to close sometime after summer. (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

There’s a disturbing false parallel I’ve heard among friends, seen on social media and even read in local papers: “We have marriage equality now; we don’t need gay bars.”

The idea behind this way of thinking is simple to understand. The LGBT community is well on its way to achieving mainstream status. Queer people are everywhere. So there’s no longer any point in exclusively queer social realms, right?

Wrong.

To me, the fact that gay people have become so ubiquitous provides all the more incentive for owners of gay establishments to do everything in their power to keep their doors wide open: Their presence in neighborhoods around the country is the best way for our community to hold dear our history and preserve uniquely queer safe spaces for another generation.

That’s why it was disconcerting to hear earlier this month that the Hippo, a gay bar in Baltimore, announced plans to close its doors this fall, with a CVS opening up in its place. (Three cheers for gentrification!) And it was equally frustrating to hear that Chesapeake Pride was unable to raise enough funds to host its 10th festival this summer. As yesterday’s LGBT activists focus on their families and their marriages – justifiable things to fixate on, of course – they shouldn’t forget about the younger generation that is clamoring for public opportunities to come into their own.

Let’s take a step back. By now, the ’69 riots outside New York’s still-kicking Stonewall Inn have made their way into the textbooks, albeit in the form of a short paragraph, vivid picture or a footnote.

Since then, gay establishments have earned their place in history as lynchpin locations that showcase the gay spirit. They’re places where drag queens are treated like royalty and condoms and HIV tests are doled out and administered without stigma or shame.

The good news is that gay clubs are no longer the only places where any of this occurs. Gay clubs do, however, still have a unique purpose: They’re a haven. Feel-good stories about older gay couples tying the knot after decades together justifiably warm our hearts, but they also numb us to more depressing and less shared stories about homelessness, suicide and stigmatizing that regularly comes with being a young queer American. Those are the people that still need gay bars.

I’d be surprised if well-known gay establishments in D.C. like Cobalt, JR.’s, and Town end up following The Hippo’s lead: None of them seem to struggle to fill their barstools and dance floors.

After all, I certainly hope they don’t. I’ve lived in D.C. open about my sexual orientation for four years. And for four years, I’ve felt safe in those bars even during my own times of desperation and fear.

Decades from now, I’ll look back on my coming out and my coming of age in this city and I’ll be thankful for those places – where I have shared laughs and gossip with friends, doled out dollar bills to drag performers and, on more than one occasion, shed drunken tears after a stressful week.

For me and for many others, they are the only public spaces that have truly made me feel at home – part of an exciting community with some history behind it. And in thinking about the possibility of these establishments closing, I’m sad for those who are just coming out, for boys who prefer a bit more glitter and glamour than the average frat brother, and for people who seek out gender-neutral bathrooms to relieve themselves in peace. Gay bars protect those people.

Now, in a progressive city like D.C., hardly any gay person enjoys nights out exclusively at gay bars. Today, more than ever, rainbow flags hang outside establishments that don’t explicitly cater to a gay crowd. We might not rely on gay bars anymore to obtain an HIV screening, plan political protests or even meet a love interest.

But to truly be happy and healthy, a young generation of LGBT people needs gay bars just as much as previous generations did, even though business owners might not realize it by reading the headlines.

 

Justin Peligri is a recent graduate of George Washington University.

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41 Comments

41 Comments

  1. johnwboushka

    June 5, 2015 at 11:38 am

    Very important points. I don’t go out as often to bars as I used to — getting older — but there are more other social opportunities even in mainstream mixed settings than there were a generation ago. One suggestion to club owners: do something about parking. Make sure we can find all-night space. Get together and build a 24-hour garage with security. I think that in West Hollywood (The Abbey, which actor Timo Descamps likes on Twitter) you park in the library garage $10 a night, and that’s it — no street parking — that’s how it was in 2012. It works. The City and club owners should do the same here.

  2. Bob Amsel

    June 5, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    Traditionally, gay bars filled the need for gay people and lesbians who were unable to meet in more traditional ways than their straight counterparts. There are many more ways for everyone to meet today, including online, but the bars still serve a function. As for the writer’s comment that the Stonewall only appears in textbooks as a short paragraph isn’t necessarily accurate. A lengthy article I wrote for the Advocate many years back about the Stonewall is currently being taught on college campuses along with other social movements in the following book: http://www.amazon.com/America-Firsthand-Two-Readings-Reconstruction/dp/0312656416/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1433538025&sr=1-1&keywords=america+firsthand+2

  3. UrsusMichaelus

    June 5, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    An issue the author ignored is that disingenuous people can craft a completely fictitious or misleading persona (identity/”brand”) online, a time-wasting and demoralizing practice for those who are truly trying to engage with other LGBT people in real life. Meatspace does have a tendency to unmask poseurs, imposters and fraudsters to some degree. And there is an undeniable appeal to joining people physically in a given space/time/environment—an event, even if it’s just “the usual Friday night crowd”—that one simply can’t achieve one-to-one in cyberspace or in an online group chat.

  4. Zambos79

    June 5, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    Yes, there still needs to be gay bars. It’s nice to go into a gay bar, not have to wait in line for all of the girls to get in, pay a cover because you are a guy, and wait an exorbitant amount of time at the bar while the bartenders flirt with the girls and give them free drinks.

    It is also nice that the girls are bumping, grinding, and making out with each other to gain the attention of straight guys.

    Girls that go to gay bars go to have fun, and seem to be more relaxed. Plus, come on, where else will you get to hear a fun remix of a song you like? I was introduced an awesome Beyonce remix in a gay club and fell in love with Mr. Saxobeats in a gay club.

  5. lnm3921

    June 5, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    Sometimes you just need to be with your own and feel that you have an environment to be yourself, cruise without worrying if the person is heterosexual and be around other people like yourself and forget the heterosexual world for a while. Gay bars can be exciting, full of energy and a place to enjoy seeing other men. I like feeling comfortable about dancing with someone of the same sex without worrying about others gawking at me with disgust or disapproval. They are also a place to meet new friends that are like yourself. Stop assuming because we have marriage equality that everyone is married or has someone for that matter. Many do not.

    When our enemies bash us and attempt to discriminate or dehumanize us, going to a gay bar is a place to regain a sense of strength, sanity and remind yourself that you are not alone. There are many more like yourself. Your not just going through this on your own.

    A picture in cyberspace will NEVER replace the thrill of being around others in person. It’s a lonely place and just seeing pictures of people that maybe phony or years old will NEVER replace actually seeing a real person for who and what they are. True chemistry can’t be discovered online. It can only be known in person.

    I do agree that gay bar owners needs to put bars in places where parking is easy and secure. Expecting people to take metro to get to a bar or walk several blocks is unrealistic. We don’t all live in DC! It only hurts your business and discourages people from visiting your bar. I haven’t gone to bars anymore in particular because of this. Closing gay bars down and eliminating gay neighborhoods gives our enemies what they’ve always wanted…our invisibility. Why are you so blind to that?

    • Jim

      June 8, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      So well said Inm! I fear that too many younger gay men rely almost exclusively on social media and hook-up aps to explore who they are as gay men. I recall my first visits to a gay bar in NJ (Feathers) as a place where I could speak with someone while observing their mannerisms, social interactions with others, signs of affections, etc. And that was all part of my my gay “education” if you will. You can’t obtain that from an app.

      And while someone else on this thread mentioned how important it is for young gay men to visit gay bars, I can say the same of more “mature” gay men who are married. Gay bars can be for them a place for self-exploration and (hopefully a healthy) way to be liberated from the social constraints which hold them back from living authentic lives.

    • Randall Krause

      June 9, 2015 at 4:04 pm

      Everything in your post is the exact opposite of my experience going to gay bars. I am bisexual and transgender myself, and gay bars are about the last place I feel welcome and comfortable. I routinely get gawks and stares of disapproval. I am constantly judged for being different and not fitting in with the norms of “gay culture”. I certainly don’t meet new friends like myself. And most importantly, it’s not an environment where I can even BE myself. Too much drama. Too much prejudice. Too much backstabbing.

      In fact, gay bars are the only place where I have to pretend to be someone I’m not. It’s like going into the closet, and then being smothered to death. Yet when I’m out in the regular world, that is the only time that I can dress up and be who I am without the continual fear of discrimination and dehumanization I encounter at gay bars. When I leave the gay bars, then I’m truly free to be me. Ironic how that works.

      • lnm3921

        June 9, 2015 at 7:45 pm

        I was speaking from my experience as a gay man. The transgender and bi-sexual experience maybe different. That’s likely because gay men don’t understand transgender people any better than the heterosexual population does and do not relate to you. They too don’t feel comfortable with you. When it comes to bisexuality, many believe you’re straddling the face simply because you’re ashamed to fully come out as a gay man.
        As a gay man, I’ve experienced being unwelcomed in Lesbian bars. Some women don’t care and are fine with you being there while others will tell you to your face that it’s women’s space and you’re not wanted.
        I always experience homophobia especially from heterosexual men. I hate feeling you have to walk on egg shells in a hetero bar because some guy may get bent out of shape because your are checking him out. It’s happened to me at the gym. I hate it when hetero men work at gay bars then get angry because you flirt with them. I assume you’re gay if you’re there. It’s my space to be myself for a change.
        I just got a tote bag with my company logo on it and carried it on my shoulder and keep getting awkward looks from both men and women. If you don’t get transphobia in hetero bars and can be yourself I assume they don’t know you are transgender in general.
        You likely need to work to educate the gay community about yourselves as much as the heterosexual community. I rarely see transgender people anywhere so I can’t really get to know you.

  6. John-Manuel Andriote

    June 6, 2015 at 12:35 am

    I agree that gay bars are important entry points for younger guys finding others like themselves. That’s a huge part of our socializing as young men, and it was for me when I was young, too. My only concern is that the alcohol-saturated atmosphere is about the worst thing that gay men need who are struggling with anxiety and depression–as a disproportionate number of gay men do. Alcohol and depression and sex can be a lethal cocktail.

    • BVinLA

      July 22, 2016 at 6:44 pm

      Bars arent just for the young. Any of us can be suddenly single at any point in our life.

  7. Chip Chapin

    June 6, 2015 at 11:06 am

    Gay bars would not close if they were not losing money. The internet, DWI and a more open society are killing the business.

    • Rocky Racoon

      June 9, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      or — just having a beer bust is not enough anymore…. maybe some business that have been floating on intertia for decades need to step up their game

  8. NYCLawyer1

    June 6, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    As a someone whose 19th Birthday coincided with Stonewall, I am very disheartened by the author’s dismissal of the revolution that took place as a mere footnote to the younger generation of gays, like himself. While so much progress has been made over the past 46 years that could not have been envisioned before Stonewall shook the world, there is still much hatred, discrimination, fear and self-loathing today. Granted that there are many more ways available for gay men to meet and mingle than there were so many years ago, gay bars are far from relics of the past. They are places where gay men can socialize, relax and have fun, to be themselves and be with others like them, freely. Maybe the decline of gay bars and events like Pride in the Chesapeake area is a local phenomenon. Things may change, but there will always be a place for the gay bar

    • lnm3921

      June 6, 2015 at 11:50 pm

      It’s happening in all the major cities sadly. It appears that gentrification and the internet have both played a role in destroying gay bars, and forcing the decline of gay neighborhoods as gays are forced out by high prices and with that goes the gay bar. Gay bars are part of our culture like it or not. They’ve always been a great place to see many gay men and be seen.
      I used to live in Boston, and thirty years ago they had a wonderful gay life, a gayborhood and awesome bars full of hot men. You could cruise men on the streets and meet and find friends to have fun with in common places. We had bath houses and gay bookstores. Today, only the dive bars have remained, the gay neighborhood is gone and I can find no gay community to spend my time in when I visit. It’s awful.
      Our enemies are getting exactly what they wanted. No gay community, and no gay bars as our community becomes as invisible as it was before stonewall! Sadly gay people seem too stupid to realize it assuming hard times for the community are gone. How naïve!

    • Jack Werner

      June 7, 2015 at 3:08 pm

      I think the author was lamenting the fact that in mainstream history books Stonewall is given scant attention.

  9. Puckfair52

    June 7, 2015 at 9:11 am

    Probably the worst places I spent most of my young life that & the baths!
    Apps aren’t any better…no intimacy! A line from Boys in the Band “all that standing around & standing around & then going home alone or pissed.
    I’m not saying I didn’t have a lot of fun but fun eventually became drudgery! Bar culture is about popularity and finding him by looking across a room & hooking up and guessing at what he’s about. No dating!
    Joining the gay activists I met real people learned about them as people rather than physical objects & learned to date in other venues. If they are lucky enough youth today have gay centers with a lot of other activities and avenues to meet each other. Back in the bars we had the occasional softball league or bowling team.
    I’d like there to be bars but they are often loud places full of opportunities to be excluded. Another feature I remember I hung out with a large bar family and we were quite cruel in our A listing & z listing. Sort of like prehistoric” mean girls in a butch bar!

  10. Falconlights

    June 7, 2015 at 10:49 am

    I agree. My wife and I like to go to the local gay bar (it’s combined gay and lesbian because there really isn’t a large enough population to have lesbian AND gay bars). I think there need to still be safe spaces for LGBT people. Mixed clubs may be very nice and useful for some, but I feel a lot safer and freer in a gay bar than any mixed club.

  11. William Thomas Rogers

    June 7, 2015 at 11:35 am

    When I was younger, gay bars were the only ‘safe havens’ we had, regardless of Military and Police disapproval and ribald attempts to close them to ‘protect the community’ and ‘the solider boys’. But I can give a better reason why we will always need gay bars.

    Someplace to go where you don’t have to ‘put up’ with falling down drunken straight males AND females, whose obnoxiousness grows more and more disgusting and salacious as the night goes by. Just saying…

  12. Sean

    June 7, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Great article! And while drinking too much can be a problem, we need places where we still meet face to face. And hopefully talk to a few strangers. Isolation is the big reason for depression, I’ve observed.

  13. Chris Peterson

    June 7, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    A gay bar is what happens when me and my hubby Joseph go out with friends…Noboby cares that we are hugging,kissing,grinding whatever….love is love and this generation understands that.

    • Adam in Christ

      July 2, 2015 at 8:12 pm

      Please repent while there’s still time, Peterson…

      • Chris Peterson

        July 2, 2015 at 8:15 pm

        Adam how interesting to see you outside of charisma. ;)

  14. Daiyu Hurst

    June 7, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    By the end of 2011, the Louisville KY metro area was down to four. Now, we have nine, one of which is in New Albany, Indiana.

    But even if society changes so much that the hostility that made cloistered spaces a necessity vanishes, why would gay bars? Are country bars going out of style? Biker bars? It seems we’ll always have spaces (bars) that cater to specific clientele, because that’s just human nature.

  15. Virgoman

    June 8, 2015 at 11:31 am

    Many Gay bars in some places have become integrated and invaded by straights and others not really that friendly to our community. Knowing our bars are the most fun places to play and not boring like other places they come in and of course they are welcomed, not like we are in their bars!

    • Randall Krause

      June 9, 2015 at 4:48 pm

      Isn’t it ironic that straight people treat me nicer than gay men when I go to gay bars? I’ve gone to straight bars and felt much more welcomed and accepted than at gay bars. I think gay bars are a relic of the past, and trying to hold onto a closeted culture that is at odds with the openness that comes from being out and proud in the real world.

      • lnm3921

        June 9, 2015 at 7:52 pm

        Do they know you are transgender? Maybe they assume you are a woman and that’s why you don’t have issues with it. Bars can be noisy, dark and very busy so unless you have very masculine features, you may just blend in.
        Hey, if it isn’t for you fine, don’t go to gay bars but don’t begrudge those of us that want them that right. I spend most of my time in a completely heterosexual world and want to be myself, pursue anyone I want without judgment or scorn or look at any man I want without him freaking out or becoming hostile with me. That’s NEVER going to happen for me in a heterosexual bar!

  16. Scott Edwards

    June 8, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    I live in downtown Philadelphia (Center City) and we have a huge and vibrant Gayborhood. The city even replaced the street signs in the area with ones with Rainbow flags on them. More bars than I can count in pretty close proximity and they are thriving, expanding, remodeling, etc. The community is very visible with so many gay couples holding hands on the street and openly showing affection. The gay bars are an integral of the community and help hold the community together. The only problem with the bars is finding a place to sit at the bar (or stand anywhere without being jostled).

  17. Mitemous1

    June 8, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Please don’t forget the DC Eagle!!! One of the only leather bars that has Re-Opened after almost every city across the USA has lost their leather bars. Please support all of our gay bars, and especially the DC Eagle as it tries to build back its valued clientele and tries to keep the gay leather history alive in the nations capital.

    Mitemous1
    [email protected]

    • lnm3921

      June 9, 2015 at 8:32 pm

      I’d love to but why on earth they put that bar in an area without any parking is beyond me. Not everyone lives in DC and many people don’t want to deal with rushing to get on the metro before it shuts down to go home. I don’t want to have to pay for an expensive cab ride either. EC makes parking extremely difficult for people who don’t live in the district so that discourages people from driving into town.
      The last DC Eagle on 7th Street never had any parking after a hetero bar opened next to it making it impossible to go there. People have told me they went home because they couldn’t find a place to park.
      I am glad the DC Eagle has survived and opened a new bar but not considering parking as an integral part of that is very shortsighted. If the bar doesn’t do well, I would blame it on that.

  18. David Bridgman

    June 8, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    I understand the desire for bars or places where the “younger generation” can feel safe and secure. HOWEVER .. you cannot force a business person to keep his or her establishment open just because the younger generation needs a safe place. This is a business just like any other business and if that business is not thriving then they will shut down. I am part of the “older generation” and definitely enjoyed my younger years where I was either working in or going out to a gay bar almost nightly. But it’s changed .. if these bars would be “safe places” for the “younger generation” to go to instead of a place where everyone’s attitude is trying to out do everyone else’s attitude and if they don’t like you or think you have an attitude they want to fight. It’s not a safe place anymore .. it’s not a place where the younger generation OR the older generation can go out and feel safe and have a good time. Maybe if it got back to the way it used to be these businesses would still be around and others wouldn’t be closing due to lack of business.

  19. Patrick Kelly

    June 8, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Its a really sad day for me knowing that the Hippo will be closing its doors in the fall. My first visit to the Hippo was in the summer of 1973 I was 16 yrs old and it was the start of my openly gay life. I met many friends there .I have many great memories of dancing the night away. I met the love of my life at the Hippo in 1978 we spent the next 24 yrs together .Over the years I would stop in for a great night out with friends. The Hippo was always the best and safest place to meet new friends. Not being a drinker I loved dancing the night away. I think that when the Hippo is gone the gay community will feel the loss. I know I will. I’m just really at a loss for words that my old hang out the Hippo will soon just be a memory. Now that I’m single where’s a guy to go. Its just sad. The Hippo was in its hay day the best dance club on the east coast….Have a great day guys…

    • lnm3921

      June 9, 2015 at 8:25 pm

      I know what you mean. I came out in the 1980s in Boston, MA. It was a wonderful time. Lots of exciting gay bars with hot men, a gay neighborhood, gay bookstore, bath houses, and you could cruise and be cruised on the streets. I had gay roller skating night and a gay youth center. Many outlets to make friends.
      Today, Boston only has about a few bars, most have closed, and the ones that remain are dives. One in particular is downtown where it’s impossible to park so I never go. Most of the bars are boring and empty whenever I go. No gay neighborhood anymore as gentrification has made it too expensive for gays to live in their old neighborhood. I’ve also been told that the city discourages gay bars in the downtown area making licensing very difficult and gay activists just accept that in return for all the rights the state grants them. The Boston community is more invisible now than it ever was. In fact, I would say, what community? I can’t find it? I used to want to move back there but I feel there is nothing to move back to.

  20. cliff stewart

    June 9, 2015 at 1:32 am

    there used to be 11 bars in monterey ca now there are none

  21. Chad

    June 9, 2015 at 9:18 am

    While I agree with the core of the intent of thenarticle, I find is discouraging to be so focused on bars. The youth mentioned that “need a gay bar” are far from those that do. Homeless and suicidal youth need a safe place, away from the party. They need youth centers, shelters, group homes, and places where they can be themselves without chemical assistance. This is a new generation of LGBTQ youth, and they are more comfortable than many of us in our 30s and up were/are. The bars are still going to be there. We need to look at the bigger picture of really helping youth that are rejected.
    Also, for a group of people seeking equality so loudly, to have a stigmatized attitude about straight people is disappointing.

    • lnm3921

      June 9, 2015 at 8:16 pm

      Why can’t we have both? I was a gay youth. I wanted both a safe place away from the bar and the bars.
      You should read the horrible comments on blogs regarding gay issues like marriage equality to realize that there is still a lot of hatred for gay people in America. Just because we get laws passed to protect us or courts rule we can marry doesn’t mean attitudes have changed. Like racism, homophobia is alive and well and constantly comes back to bite us.
      I was at work yesterday and a co-worker went to a gay strip bar and all I heard were judgments on gay men from people. They didn’t know I was gay and I don’t bring it up at work so they spoke freely. It’s eye opening to see how little has really changed despite how far we have come.

  22. Randall Krause

    June 9, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    Working at two gay bars and being part of the LGBT community has only encouraged me to want to commit suicide even more than ever before. There are so many people in these environments that are hateful, and bitter, and toxic that it has cause me to question the value of my even staying alive.

  23. Peking_Duck_sd

    June 10, 2015 at 1:45 am

    I might be biased because my coming out was in the late 90s when I was turning 21 (fake ID prior), but gay bars were literally my second family. I know it’s hard for people outside of our community to understand, and maybe I’m a “stereotype” but my whole social existence revolved around gay bars and clubs. It’s where I met friends, enemies, partners, mentors, tricks, and many people who helped shaped my life. You could walk in and literally meet people of all backgrounds – doctors, scientists, drug addicts, prostitutes, closeted politicians, thieves, devoutly religious people – literally people of every walk of life who were all drawn to the bars where we could all be ourselves and meet fellow gay people. Maybe times are changing and gay bars are becoming obsolete, but I hope not. Gay bars are an important part of our LGBTQ history, and not one to be embarrassed about.

  24. Randall Krause

    June 10, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    When did I ever claim that gay men do not experiencing hate, scorn, discrimination, and violence? Your reply is remarkably hypocritical. You suggest that I should not be a victim, when you yourself are professing to be a victim because you are gay. Also, I never said I felt more comfortable in heterosexual bars. I don’t go to bars because I don’t drink, so I can’t say whether they are better or worse. All that I do know is that when I am out in the real world I get treated with more respect and appreciation than when I go into work.

    And to answer your question, I work at a gay-operated bar because it is the only dance club in town. If we had another venue where I could DJ in peace, you can rest assured I would be there in a heartbeat.

    • lnm3921

      June 10, 2015 at 8:13 pm

      I never brought up my own personal experiences with victimization until you started whining about yours concerning verbal abuse and rape. My point which you failed to grasp is that everyone deals with your issues one way or the other not just you. You came across to me as saying gay bars are terrible places because gay men make your life hell and you are treated better by heterosexuals in their bars.
      You don’t have to go to bars to drink. I don’t drink either. I got to meet other people and be in a gay friendly environment. Do I encounter assholes in gay bars? Of course, I do. But you encounter assholes anywhere you go.
      A gay-operated bar is the only dance club in town? There are no heterosexual dance clubs in all this area that you can apply for a job? If you find it so awful and can’t work at heterosexual bars assuming that would be any better for you then why don’t you consider a career change or locate to an area where you have other alternatives?
      Many people feel under appreciated and disrespected at work. It’s not just limited to working at a gay bar. I think only few people are truly happy at work. There is always someone one or something can that can make your life more difficult than you want it to be.
      I also find it ironic that you originally argued against gay bars when you make your livelihood in one. Where did you plan to go if they all closed down?
      Everyone judges everyone else wherever you go. It’s human nature. When you’re not around the people that judge you simply focus on someone else.
      I can’t believe you can’t find a trans group of people to make friends with that you can feel accepted with in this area. Just having a few friends to relate to might make all the difference in coping with it.

      • Randall Krause

        June 10, 2015 at 10:17 pm

        We have a very prominent LGBT community due to the state university. In fact, our city was the second in the U.S. to enact LGBT protections back in 1978. But some of the most influential trans people in this community are even more judgmental and cliquish than the gay men. Most of the local trans activists and/or allies that used to be really supportive of me have broken ties with me and won’t even associate with me whatsoever because I don’t fit into a rigid stereotype of trans-ness. As for the gay bar, I work there only because it is where I first came out, and I have built up a following as a DJ by working there. However, it has a longstanding reputation of alienating people (not just me, but others have boycotted the venue for this reason). This is a midwest phenomenon, apparently. Certain groups of people are very prejudiced around here even when they feign to be open-minded. It’s probably not like that in other parts of the U.S. Our city is very unusual due to its geographic location and the fact we have a college that draws thousands of students from around the world, yet we are still in the middle of nowhere. There is only one other nightclub in this city that is still open, and it attracts a hip-hop and ghetto crowd. That is not my scene. In short, I think it would be difficult to explain the entirety of the situation unless you could come here and experience it for yourself.

  25. sugarntasty

    November 29, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    Article eluding preference to whom? It’s only entertainment yes,LGBTQ society diverse “opinions” political rendering and demographics. Mention L.A and San Francisco it’s cult reverting ideal” which haven’t been reveal social disparity once. Prosperous nightlight cause strife to owners,whom didn’t own the land command by “City Hall” and BOMA reason. Disappearance of once popular attraction “cruising” watch journalism says “LGBTQ commerce opposite area of social sexual leisure. Can we blame REITS or changing attitude of American,LGBTQ society yes reside San Francisco new migrates whom identity LGBTQ. Seldom patronized “Castro” street not ideal retreat: ask Bevan Dufty and Scott Wiener reverted whom deserted “LGBTQ” Society! How passing measure to defeat “gentrification” everyone assumption majority LGBTQ,society deterred former popularity of clubs.

    Inaccurate REITS rezoning metropolitan regions,cause demise of LGBTQ clubs when owners. Lobby for protection always disfavor of mighty lobby of REITS persist never miss developments. Underwear popular in “Nordic,Berlin,Madrid and Australia” why…policies protect neighborhoods impossible. Dynamics of profits this opposition presently LGBTQ rather not attend nor support exclusive commerce. Wrong answer price out due:redevelopment into “class A” commercial realty preview “Eastbayredevloped,Skyrisecities,NYCYIMBY (forums-cities buildings),6sqft, Urbanized L.A,Curbed,Urban Toronto,Socketsite,Deezen,Archpaper,DTLA rising,Skyscrapercity,Archchute,Designboom and San Jose.Blog (new construction). Notice ratio of preserving neighborhood charade”LGBTQ…to allow social decay “well paid” parades) yeah illustration. Segregated polices,
    of gentrification which cause those not chosen to participate new economics. Recommend inquire to “LGBTQ” realtors whom silence upon,gentrified policies where losing rentals along commercial commerce!

    Displacement if LGBTQ not united where going be not assimilated,excluded
    and displaced majority cities. Mayoral candidates “Democrats” Ed Lee,Robert
    Garcia,Rahm Emanuel,Kevin Kisch and Bill de Blasio where polices of lobbying LGBTQ society? Forgotten those ambivalent using political statistics politicians where only concern about clubs and “Pride Events” which tax paid. Where is attention of private interest among,LGBTQ society abundance new
    wealth among us. Ask Ellen,Ricky Martin,Peter Thiel,Madonna,Jody Foster,
    Neil Patrick-Harris and Tom Ford,able to retain status buying homes with cash. Furthermore to endure if new generation not united going derail,once
    respected “LGBTQ” society it’s struggle clubs. Disappeared due,rising rents
    and rezoning L.A,Chicago,San Diego,NYC,Liverpool,Seattle,London and San
    Francisco where a remembrance odd LGBTQ politicians behind new policies!

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Opinions

Trend of banning books threatens our freedom

‘History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas’

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National Book Festival, gay news, Washington Blade

I knew Helen Keller was a DeafBlind activist. But, until recently, I didn’t know that some of her books were torched.

Nearly 90 years ago, in 1933 Germany, the Nazis added “How I Became a Socialist,” by Keller to a list of “degenerate” books. Keller’s book, along with works by authors from H.G. Wells to Einstein were burned. 

The Nazi book burnings were horrific, you might think, but what does this have to do with the queer community now?

I speak of this because a nano-sec of the news tells us that book censorship, if not from literal fires, but from the removal from school libraries, is alive and well. Nationwide, in small towns and suburbs, school boards, reacting to pressure from parents and politicians, are removing books from school libraries. Many of these books are by queer authors and feature LGBTQ+ characters.

Until recently, I didn’t worry that much about books being banned. My ears have pricked up, every year, in September when Banned Books Week is observed. Growing up, my parents instilled in me their belief that reading was one of life’s great pleasures as well as a chance to learn about new ideas – especially, those we disagreed with. The freedom to read what we choose is vital to democracy, my folks taught me. 

“I don’t care if it’s ‘Mein Kampf,’” my Dad who was Jewish told me, “I’ll defend to my death against its being banned.”

“Teachers should be allowed to teach it,” he added, “so kids can learn what a monster Hitler was.”

In this country, there have always been people who wanted to ban books from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by writer and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe to gay poet Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.”

In the 1920s, in the Scopes trial, a Tennessee science teacher was fined $100 for teaching evolution. (The law against teaching evolution in Tennessee was later repealed.)

But, these folks, generally, seemed to be on “the fringe” of society. We didn’t expect that book banning would be endorsed by mainstream politicians.

Until lately.

Take just one example of the uptake in book-banning: In September, the Blade reported, Fairfax County, Virginia public school officials said at a school board meeting that two books had been removed from school libraries to “reassess their suitability for high school students.”

Both books – “Lawn Boy” a novel by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by non-binary author Maia Koabe feature queer characters and themes, along with graphic descriptions of sex.

Opponents of the books say the books contain descriptions of pedophilia. But, many book reviewers and LGBTQ students as well as the American Library Association dispute this false claim.

The American Library Association honored both books with its Alex Award, the Associated Press reported. The award recognizes the year’s “10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.”

Given how things have changed for us queers in recent years – from marriage equality to Pete Buttigieg running for president – it’s not surprising that there’s been a backlash. As part of the blowback, books by queer authors with LGBTQ+ characters have become a flashpoint in the culture wars.

As a writer, it’s easy for me to joke that book banning is fabulous for writers. Nothing improves sales more than censorship.

Yet, there’s nothing funny about this for queer youth. My friend Penny has a queer son. “LGBTQ kids need to read about people like themselves,” she told me. “It’s horrible if queer kids can’t find these books. They could become depressed or even suicidal.”

If we allow books to be banned, our freedom to think and learn will be erased.

“History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas,” Keller wrote in a letter to students in Nazi Germany.

Anti-queer officials may remove LGBTQ books from school libraries. But, our thoughts will not be unshelved.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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Opinions

Thanksgiving is a time to share

Take a moment to think about what you can do to help others

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This Thanksgiving, many of us will once again celebrate with family and friends around the dinner table. Sadly at too many tables friends and family members will be missing. They will be one of the over 766,000 Americans who lost their lives to coronavirus. May the shared grief over lost loved ones cause us to try to bridge our differences and lift each other. As those of us with plenty sit down for dinner let us not forget the many in the world not so fortunate and think of what we can do to make their lives better.

In the midst of the pandemic we defeated a president who through his words and actions tore our country apart — a president who managed to poison relationships among family and friends. We elected a president who we felt would try to unite the nation. But we know that has yet to happen and the recent reaction to the not-guilty verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial shows us that. The use of race-baiting in the recent Virginia governor’s election shows us that. We still suffer from the implicit permission the former president gave to some Americans to once again give public voice to their sexism, homophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism. That didn’t suddenly end with his loss. While we cannot pretend those feelings weren’t always there it seemed we had reached a point in American society where people understood you couldn’t voice them in public without rebuke. While it will take many years to put that genie back in the bottle we need to try if we are to move forward again. Around our Thanksgiving table is a place to begin. I am an optimist and believe we can do that even while recognizing it won’t be easy.

Thanksgiving should be a time to look within ourselves and determine who we are as individuals and what we can do to make life better for ourselves, our families, and others here in the United States and around the world.

Around our Thanksgiving table we should take a moment to think about what we can do to help feed the hungry, house the homeless, and give equal opportunity to everyone who wants to work hard. Maybe even give some thought as to how we change policies causing institutional racism to ones giving everyone a chance to succeed. It is a moment to think about how we can open up the eyes of the world to understand how racism, homophobia, and sexism hurt everyone, not just those who are discriminated against.

We must renew our efforts to heal the rifts in our own families and make an effort to try to see each other in a more positive light. If we start to do that with those closest to us we might have a fighting chance to do it with others.

I recognize my life is privileged having just returned from a 14-day transatlantic cruise. My Thanksgiving weekend will be spent with friends in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and we will remember our experiences over the past year. For many it also begins the Christmas season and the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend each year Rehoboth Beach lights its community Christmas tree. So surely we will talk about what that season means to each of us.

For me each year it means thinking about which charities I can support as the requests for end-of-year gifts arrive. It is a time to think about volunteering some precious time for a cause you care about.
Wherever you live, there are many chances to volunteer and do your part to make a difference for others. The rewards of doing so will come back to you in abundance. As anyone who has helped someone else will tell you the feeling you get for having done so is wonderful.

So wishing all my friends and those of you who I may be lucky enough to call friends in the future, a very happy Thanksgiving. May this holiday find you happy, healthy and sharing peaceful times with those you love.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Commentary

Fighting for equality for decades, trans elders still face endless hardships

Lisa Oakley rejected by 60 long-term care facilities in Colo.

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transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

November 20 will mark the 22nd International Transgender Day of Remembrance, an international event honoring and commemorating the many transgender people murdered in transphobic hate crimes every year.

Since 2013, at least 200 transgender people have been murdered in the United States alone, 80 percent being Black and Latinx women. This number is undoubtedly an underestimate, as many murders go unreported and trans victims often are misgendered by law enforcement.

These murders are not isolated crime statistics. They grow out of a culture of violence against transgender and non-binary (TGNB) people that encompasses stigma, exclusion, discrimination, poverty, and lack of access to essential resources, including health care, employment and housing. 

These challenges result in early death. In Latin America, for example, it has been reported that the average life expectancy of a transgender person is only 35 years.

This climate of stigma and transphobia is particularly challenging for TGNB older people, who face extraordinary hardships due both to the cumulative impact of lifetimes of discrimination and regular mistreatment in their elder years. Due to isolation from family and greater medical and financial needs, trans older people are more likely to require professionalized elder services and care. 

Unfortunately, these services and the facilities that provide them are often either unavailable to TGNB elders, or hostile to them. A national survey of LGBTQ+ older people by AARP found that more than 60 percent of those surveyed were concerned about how they would be treated in a long-term care setting. This includes the fear of being refused or receiving limited care, in danger of neglect or abuse, facing verbal or physical harassment, or being forced to hide or deny their identity once again. 

This is a sobering reality. In October, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders filed a claim against Sunrise Assisted Living in Maine, which openly denied admission to an older transgender woman because of her gender identity. 

In Colorado, Lisa Oakley was, astonishingly, rejected by 60 long-term care facilities, which her caseworker ascribes to Lisa’s gender identity. One facility that agreed to admit Lisa would only house her with a male roommate. 

After waiting far too long for welcoming care, Lisa eventually got help from SAGE and other community supporters and found a home in Eagle Ridge of Grand Valley. Fortunately, Eagle Ridge has participated in specialized training to be LGBTQ+-welcoming. While Lisa feels welcomed at Eagle Ridge and has made friends, she has been forced to live far from a community she loves. 

These cases in Maine and Colorado are just the tip of the iceberg regarding the discrimination faced by TGNB elders. That’s why it’s so important that Congress pass the Equality Act, which would once and for all prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in key areas like employment, housing, and care and services.

And while legal progress is important, it’s not enough. TGNB elders need more equity in their day to day lives. Older transgender people are more likely to experience financial barriers than non-transgender elders, regardless of age, income and education.

They’re also at a higher risk of disability, general poor mental and physical health, and loneliness, compared to their cisgender counterparts.

These experiences have been part of everyday life for trans elders for far too long. We continue to see them struggle with the long-term effects of transphobia and violence every day. That’s why organizations like SAGE are stepping up our support for TGNB elders by investing $1 million to support TGNB-focused services and advocacy both in New York and nationwide.

And we are continually amazed by the resilience of TGNB elders, creating communities built on their strength and courage. 

Their resilience is nothing new. It dates back generations and was evident during the Stonewall Uprising. Over the years, trans luminaries like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Victoria Cruz—leaders of the modern LGBTQ+ civil rights movement—and countless others have repeatedly proved that they will not be invisible.  

We see this determination in so many programs and activities led by trans elders at SAGE. 

For example, the TransGenerational Theater Project brings together transgender people of all ages to create theater from their experiences and perspectives. These types of elder-driven programs serve as powerful reminders that transgender older people are leading their lives with resilience, creativity, and perseverance, despite the dangers they face. 

Transgender and non-binary elders have survived and fought for equality for decades. They are brave. They are strong. They are leaders. Here at SAGE, we will continue to walk side-by-side with them as we continue the fight to ensure TGNB elders get the respect, change, and acceptance they deserve.

Michael Adams is the CEO of SAGE, the world’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ elders.

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