Bye Bye Boy Bars

I read that the number of gay bars is steadily declining. Various Google searches confirmed the trend without turning up any actual numbers. Hard to know if it’s true or not, but I’m going to assume it’s a cold hard fact.

Is the same true for straight bars? I doubt it. If Athens is any indication, the demand for straight drinking spots is apparently insatiable.

Gay bars serve a different function. For as long as they have existed, gays bar have been retreats–safe harbors in a world where it most definitely was not okay to be gay. The gay bar in Lexington, Kentucky was once the center of my universe. There were periods when I hit the bar six nights a week. I put in an appearance at least once a weekend for decades. I’m guessing anyone who’s been out as long as I have has the same story.

Things are different now. Society is moving toward accepting equal rights for gays much faster than I ever would have predicted thirty years ago. Back then, we didn’t dare think of anything like marriage. We were concerned with decriminalization and discrimination issues–and more than anything else, we talked about them. And ultimately, as much as anything else, talking made a difference.

Things have changed for me, too. Unlike thirty years ago, my sexual preference just isn’t an issue among the people who know me. Thanks to several blogs, I don’t need to go to gay bars for news. Facebook doesn’t care if my friends are gay or straight. In the past fifteen years, I’ve been to a gay bar maybe a dozen times. Most of those outings took place right after I moved to Athens.

So why are gay bars closing?

Some say internet dating and hook-up sites are the cause. I don’t think so. True, they make hooking up faster and easier than ever before. But I don’t think that’s it. If it was, wouldn’t it have the same impact on straight bars?

I’ve heard gay bars did themselves in with poor service, high prices, and a tendency to ignore maintenance and repair issues. Again, this appears to be true for more than a few straight bars. We grumbled, but never stopped paying our cover charge or buying drinks.

Another explanation-the place got so sleazy even the gays quit coming–requires further study. Sleazy is such a relative term, especially when the consumption of large quantities of alcohol is involved. For me, porn watching anywhere in a bar means time to go. You might wait around for the masturbating that always follows, but I’m moving on.

I like this explanation because mostly, straight bars aren’t sleazy. Or rather, sleazy straight bars are clearly labeled as such. Seems to me there are fewer of these sleazy places around than there used to be. The sleaze factor definitely warrants further study.

My favorite theory for the demise of gay bars is that we just don’t need them anymore. The world isn’t as hostile to gays as when I came out. Yeah, there are still problems, but the winds of change are definitely blowing in the right direction, with more force than I ever would have imagined.

Farewell boy bars. I can’t imagine how different my life would be without you–for better or worse. Now when I get happy feet, I’ll select my 80’s dance music playlist, plug my iPod into the stereo, and dance like it’s 1989 in the living room in…

My Glass House