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What Do L.g.b.t. Spaces Mean To You?


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A recent New York Times article titled “Finding ‘My Most Authentic Self’: What L.G.B.T. Spaces Mean to You” posed a question. I thought it a good question to ask and I took time to think of just what answer to offer, if only for myself. Then again, I thought that it was a good question to ask here on GA as well.

 

WHAT DO L.G.B.T. SPACES MEAN TO YOU?

 

I grew up in a small town in Ohio during the 60’s and 70’s, and what I knew about being gay amounted to very little. What I did know was only what I heard, mostly overheard, from family members who often had gained the knowledge from someone else. All of the information had a scandalous quality, which, to a young boy, made it very interesting and made for big eyes, an occasional hand over mouth moment, and called for lots of giggles. And not much other thought.

 

It was when I grew into my teenage years that things changed for me (as it does for so many) and by then I knew that what I was feeling wasn’t something that could be shared. I did the girlfriend thing, it wasn’t difficult; I liked them; they were fine. I learned how to kiss. I learned how to kiss well, so I’ve been told. The few fumbling acts of actual sex with a female convinced me that this was not for me.

 

What’s a boy to do?

 

I was twenty-one when I stepped into my first gay bar, my first L.G.B.T. space. The bar happened to be located in our county seat which was only a thirty-five minute drive away. Lambda Bar was located in the ground floor of one of the downtown city buildings. The entrance was a single, nondescript door and every window (storefront size) was boarded up halfway and blacked out. The sign was a pink triangle having the bar name above it, not too big. I drove past the place during the day. I came back one night and parked, watched the place, and for the people that might come and go.

 

Finally, one night after building up the courage, I walked in the front door of my first gay bar. I walked directly into what might generously be called a closet (no pun intended). When the door closed behind me I was standing in a small square space with a sliding glass window in front of me and having a locked second door to my right. The window slid open. An older woman, in her late 40’s I later learned, stood behind the window. She looked me up and down before asking ‘You know this is a gay bar, right?’ I think there may have been a gulping sound heard coming from me, certainly a hard knot went down as I swallowed before nervously nodding my head, yes, and paying the cover charge of two dollars to get in. I didn’t care what those two dollars bought for me, I wanted out of that closet.

 

I wanted something bigger.

 

What I found inside of that bar was something bigger than I had ever imagined. The bar itself wasn’t bigger than any of the local bars in my hometown. From the front you could easily see all of the way to the back where the dance floor and a raised deejay booth was located. What was most different was that the place was packed wall to wall with people. I remember feeling overwhelmed, not a little awestruck, by the loudness of the music and even of those people that were dancing and socializing like it was the most normal thing in the world. Gravitating to the quietest corner seemed like the best move ever and there is to where I made my way. There, in the quietest corner, is where I knowingly met the first man who was just like me.

 

My kind!

 

I went back to that bar, again and again, for years. It was in Lambda Bar's second location (a few buildings away) that I met the first man I was to fall deeply in love with. I branched out and visited other bars and clubs in other cities. Every single one of those places offered me the same thing. I could be me; no hiding. What do L.G.B.T. spaces mean to me? Freedom!

 

Every time, I'm free.

Edited by Ron
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It's liberating when you have a place to go where you can feel comfortable being yourself.  I wish there were more places that gay young men, lesbians and transvestites could go without fear of ridicule or attack.  Even though some people are more accepting now, it seems the bigots and homophobes are becoming more aggressive.  

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It's liberating when you have a place to go where you can feel comfortable being yourself.  I wish there were more places that gay young men, lesbians and transvestites could go without fear of ridicule or attack.  Even though some people are more accepting now, it seems the bigots and homophobes are becoming more aggressive.  

 

I agree with you that having a place to go can be comforting. I wish more people had those places, too. Now, you're ten years older than me, you have a different perspective than I do. That perspective covers not only years but geography as well, and then there is the additional difference of self defined sexuality. What do L.G.T.B. spaces mean to you personally. If comfort alone is your answer, I think it a fine response. If you'd care to offer further insight toward the topic, it would be most welcome. In any event, I have no desire to pressure you or anyone else. Thank you for your response, Bill.

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