I stepped into my first gay bar about the same time the last dinosaur roamed the Earth (1974).
I was trembling with a combination of excitement and fear — fear of the unknown and excitement of the vast possibilities. Some 47 years later, and almost 35 of that spent working both in front of and behind the bar, I wonder how much, if any, things have changed? You would think that generations of flighty, flirty, over-processed boys would create different objectives.
However, from my vantage point, it seems as if I see the same things and people now as I did way back when. Not to pass judgment, because I fell headlong into the exact traps of which I speak.
The social element of drinking leads the way down the gay rabbit hole with recreational drugs a fast second. I’d like to blame the excessive excesses on youth, but unfortunately, it seems to know few age restrictions. Those are the ones who find themselves sent to “dry out” Some successfully, some, not so much. We too often watch the steady decline of our friends, feeling helpless, or often enabling them.
Then there is the constant pursuit of sex. Oh Lord, the constant pursuit! Now, I know this doesn’t apply be you, but surely you know more than one…horn dog! The person who racks up sexual liaisons like squirrels gather nuts (pun intended!) Although gone is the need for going to the bars to scratch the incessant itch, today there are a dozen ways to connect via social media apps.
Yet, the clubs still serve a purpose. There is a certain comfort and security to gathering with others who share your sensibility, and lack thereof. Though there is change in the mix, the acceptance seems to take on a broader sense. Gay, straight, bi, trans, non-binary all living together in harmony. So, maybe therein lies the change. There is a shift that, though subtle, demonstrates a movement that has, in it’s way, a positive quality that may lead to a different norm.
Plus, an education of the generations past may have created a broader acceptance of ourselves as the creative, dynamic and unique beings that we are. There is a certain joy in watching youth carry on the torch of individuality, regardless of the striking extremes it might take and assurance that there will remain a semi-constant.
The boozing and cruising will always have a place. In memories. And in decades of generations of the LGBTQIA community. Change may continue to happen in small increments. But have no fear, the party won’t die anytime soon.