Until about three years ago, as a gay man, I had never had any contact with the gay scene. I grew up in the countryside, the nearest gay bar was approximately 300 miles away and was shit, finding a gay lifestyle magazine or place to hang out was as simple as finding a needle in a haystack, whilst it was on fire...
It didn't get entirely better when I ditched the countryside and moved to University. Instead of choosing somewhere with a thriving city gay scene I followed my academic heart and went with somewhere much quieter. The only gay bar in town was a place called The Little John, situated so close to the main nightclub in town and with drinks at such a low prices that if every person who did walk through its doors was actually gay I would therefore be the happiest man IN THE ACTUAL WORLD.
So as I hit my early twenties I realised that I had never really jumped into the gay scene at all, and as a single guy I was starting to think that I was missing some sort of essential life 'event' or stage - such as getting married, or having a Bar Mitzvah, or being confused by everything to do with taxes. This feeling was exacerbated by the fact that seven years after coming out I had never had a boyfriend, or really many gay friends, and all attempts to connect with others was not all working. Grindr was too pervy, Gaydar was bizarre, dating websites felt too 'middle-aged' and weird and I couldn't stand the waiting-until-your-friend-introduced-to-someone-that-you-find-out-is-gay opportunity (if there was one). I also could also not do the "oh there isn't a gay scene here" argument, any more, considering that I had since moved to London and the nearest gay bar is approximately 350 metres from my house.
So I decided to give it a go, and you know what the feeling I got from each one that I went to? Uncomfortable. Each pub and club that I went into made me feel uncomfortable. Maybe it was because I wasn't experienced enough and I hadn't found the 'proper' venues or the venues that suited me? I tried again with some other bars. Nope. They were the same. Not my music, not my type of look, but I felt that I ought to keep going until I found one that was right for me. So I kept going, and I kept going, badgering friends to go with me as well as riding through listing magazines in the hope that I would jump through a random front door and into f*cking Narnia but nothing ever came through. They all felt and looked the same. They all had the same deals, did the same drinks, played the sort of same music and felt different, and segregated, and weird.
From writing such an an argument I can almost guarantee the response. "Well if you don't like the gay scene then just AVOID it SIMPLE." It is not as clear as that. For me, visiting gay bars aren't just a destination where you would go to pick out guys (although, trust me, that would be nice), but it is also a place that you can sort of feel some sort of connection to other people who happen to be gay too. As we make up only 10-99% of everyone out there (according to what a number of scientists and hopefuls believe) and we are spread across the country when we are born there aren't many opportunities when our paths cross and we're together.
But even though more and more people are 'coming out' these days because of (hopefully) a more tolerant environment for them, meaning that there are more varied characters and personalities being added to the pot all the time who are willing to go and try out these places, there still continues to be just an incredibly linear scene for absolutely everyone - younger camp loud venues that are LOUD and PROUD and have sparkly drink and cocktails, slightly seedy old man pubs with more men standing outside than actually inside and then bars and clubs that have are sort of a balance somewhere in between - places that aren't that distinctive in their own right. Gay society has changed so fundamentally in the last fifteen years, why hasn't the gay scene that caters for them?
Whats worse is that there's still this still this sort of stigma attached for many of those 'coming out': that you have to like a certain type of music, that you must have an interest in loud colours and designs, and generally you have to act 'LOUDER', be 'BOLDER' and have 'LOADS OF CONFIDENCE ON A NIGHT OUT'. Whilst of course I can't blame the gay community at all for the hurtful abuse that gay people may get on a daily basis by idiotic, small-minded arrogant feckless idiots, and whilst I am absolutely fine with people who are 'LOUDER' and 'BOLDER' and have 'LOADS OF CONFIDENCE ON A NIGHT OUT', the linear nature of the gay scene that continues to promote itself doesn't necessarily help distance away the stereotype for those who don't feel that they are those qualities at all. There doesn't have to be a change to these places at all, there just as well as them needs to be much more of a variety to what is already out there.
Of course writing such an argument the immediate response would be either "WHAT A STUPID STATEMENT. What sort of gay scene do you propose instead?!?!". Quite honestly, I don't know. Just some venues that generally as creative and as diverse as other venues for their straight mates but a place where gay guys, such as myself, can still go to and feel comfortable and connected. A place that doesn't have to have semi-naked men with their torsos exposed the whole time. As well as this I don't know... an actual place that doesn't have to play Kylie, Lady Gaga or Madonna every THIRD SONG as if we didn't we'd all be arrested, that doesn't have to have the singers One Direction or Joe McElderry every weekend at 'touching' distance from the front. Don't banish these places, just have more than just them.
But, of course this is just coming from my track record. I might have missed many needles within many haystacks that have been on fire. If you have seen any, and you reckon that it will help change my mind about this, please let me know. I'll make sure that I give it a try.
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