Gay Bars Aren’t Going Anywhere. They’re Just Evolving, Too

The blog site Joe. My. God. posts an excerpt from BBC News on a recurring question within the gay community. With equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people becoming ever more prevalent, will the need for gay bars still exist?

From BBC News:

It’s a Saturday night in March, unusually mild for London, and Soho is thronging with bar-hoppers, theatregoers and couples strolling along Old Compton Street. The venues are a mixture of straight, gay and anything in between. From the non-too subtle GAY at number 30, to She Bar at 23a, its basement entrance so discreet you could walk past a dozen times and still miss it. Yet tonight there’s an imperceptible difference from the Saturday before. In England and Wales the law has now changed. If you happen to meet the same-sex partner of your dreams tonight you could marry them. So with huge steps being made towards legal equality, will the notion of a separate social culture die out? Have gay bars become irrelevant?

As blog author Joe Jervis cheekily notes as his lead-in to the story, spoiler alert; they won’t. Further down in the BBC News article, we learn why that may be so:

“Laws have changed, but not all attitudes have. And no matter how liberated things have become, people still want their own space. That’s why Irish bars, sports bars, music bars are still popular, you want to mix with your own type of people.”

People do still want their own space. People do want to connect with others like them in a way where they can discuss their unique experiences and feelings or just hang out with someone else like them. This is why book clubs will specifically segment themselves around a particular group or theme. This is why hiking and biking clubs exist. Heck, this is why fantasy sports leagues exists. It’s a community they love, that other non-sports fanatics may not get. The gay community is no different. We have our own experiences; deep and trivial, that provide a common bond among us so that no matter how much equality we gain, we will still need time and space to be just amongst ourselves.

There’s also another reason that gay bars, organizations and events won’t disappear. You can’t really tell who is gay.

They gay community is called the invisible minority because there is no characteristic that outwardly identifies us as gay. We are not tagged anywhere with a pink triangle, rainbow or a shade of blue to our skin as noted title of the short story collection Am I Blue. No, we look just like everyone else. This has helped when we want to be closeted, but can be a hinderance when finding a mate. Think of all the times that you’ve met someone who may be gay and the tentive way you have tried to fish it out of them. No matter how good the gaydar is, it is not 100% accurate. Because of this we will need spaces, organizations and events that are specifically gay.

Imagine this as an illustrative example of the above point. The gay population is estimated to be somewhere between 3-10% of the population. We will take the more generous figure of 10% for the sake of this argument. You go to a plain old sports bar or plain old pub vs. a gay sports bar or gay pub that’s at its max capacity. We’ll say 120 people. 10% of 120 is 12. So now, you have to find the 12 people in the bar who are interested in the same-sex. Quite the odds if you want to have shared commentary on how hot you find such and such player, the bartender, the girl/guy in the corner who may or may not be gay. Extend that idea to a dance club; a place where people are looking for dates and mates. The club is at 300 capacity. Now you’ve got to find the 30 people who are interested in the same-sex…and hope they’ve not already partnered or have met someone already or are interested in meeting anyone at all. And remember that 10% includes both men and women. Unless you are bisexual, you will only be interested in one sex out of the 12 or 30; reducing the odds even further.

Because of the above; because the odds are not stacked in our favor in the general world, we will need to have our own little worlds, our own clubs and our own organizations in order to provide a place where we can meet and mate. True, as we gain more equality and acceptance that gay people will find mates in other ways and at younger ages: high school, college, the armed services, etc, but we’ve always managed to find each other this way before and gay bars, clubs and organizations are still around. True, social apps help us to find each other closer, but as my friends and I have discussed, and I’m sure the reader will agree, social apps can be more of a hit or miss. The chemistry created virtually sometimes doesn’t cross-over into reality. Plus, I don’t see very much turnover of guys unless I go to a completely new location. From my home to the gym to the office, the same guys on Scruff who I wasn’t interested in or who weren’t interested in me are the same guys on there two or three–or eight or nine–months down the road. Though bars tend to have their groupies they also have more of an influx of new patrons than I find on the web.

No, gay bars, clubs and organizations won’t go extinct; they will just evolve. They will evolve the same way they have in the past. From being tucked way within the the off-off-off main streets of cities in non-descript buildings known only to those in-the-know to a place where everybody knows their name. From an event that advertises only in gay-exclusive publications to a events that advertise in your city’s daily paper and general travel magazines. From clubs where people join only because that is where they felt comfortable being themselves as a gay person to joining because that’s the only place they feel comfortable being themselves as a rock climber, runner, rower, softballer, basketballer, gamer, etc. Gay bars, clubs and organizations will evolve to meet this new need, but they will always remain the same at their core; a place for us to gather.

If you’re still wringing your hands over if gay clubs will still exist, consider this: think of all the singles groups that heterosexual people have. If they make up 90% of the population and still need help finding each other, then I think we, in our little 10% grouping, have nothing to worry about.

Read the full BBC news article

See the original blog post

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