Here’s Why I Go To Gay Bars

12/14/2017

istock/kzenon

I can still vividly remember the first time I walked into a gay bar; I was 24-years-old (a late bloomer), new to Chicago, and eager to explore the numerous bars in the LGBTQ+ neighborhood of Boystown. After living in small to medium sized towns downstate for my entire life, I was more than ready to venture out into the city to see what it had to offer.

That first night, as I nervously entered the bar, I was blown away; I saw and experienced things that I had never witnessed before. There were beautifully dressed drag queens, a smokey dance floor playing fantastic music, and, most amazingly to me, men and women having a great time in total comfort. Hands were held, kisses were shared, and dances were had without any worry at all.

It was amazing to me because up until that point in my life, I had never been to a place where LGBTQ+ people were able to freely be themselves. Growing up, I was barely exposed to LGBTQ+ representation, let alone spaces, so for me it was a major turning point. It also helped me to recognize how guarded I had been in my own life up to that point; at work, with friends, even when I went out to straight bars with my straight friends.

Of course, the times I go out with my friends to these straight bars, I still drink, dance and have a good time; but I never truly let my guard down. It’s probably not an issue most of these friends have ever had to think about while out at these places, but for me, a misconstrued word or action on my part could wind up creating any number of problems.

That’s why I’m not planning on stopping going to the gay bars any time soon. Yes, there is a whole host of other problems that comes with entering these bars and, as a bi man, I have experienced several of them firsthand. However, generally speaking I feel more relaxed and accepted in these spaces than I ever have at any straight bar.

Why? Because I don’t have to worry about getting called names for crushing it to some Britney Spears on the dance floor. I don’t have to fulfill any sort of dress code other than my own personal one. If I see someone I’m interested in or attracted to, I can go up to them and strike up a flirtatious conversation without fear (granted, there is still some anxiety doing that, but at least it’s just tied to the fear of rejection rather than the fear of a more volatile response). It’s a place where I can be myself and where the guard that I constantly have up can be lowered for a bit.

After a lifetime of suppression, I hope that my straight friends can understand why I like to go to these places. Or why I will go out with them for a few hours and then head over to the gay bars to meet the people who have helped welcome me into the LGBTQ+ community in Chicago. It’s the first time I’ve had the chance to fully embrace this part of who I am, and it’s an opportunity that I don’t foresee giving up anytime soon.

Blaize Stewart
Blaize Stewart is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received a BA in broadcast journalism and a MA in journalism. He currently lives in Chicago, IL and works as an influencer relations associate for a full-service influencer marketing agency called Faam and as an adjunct instructor at Robert Morris University. Additionally, he runs the LGBTQ+ blog Out Loud, a space for members to share their experiences and thoughts on current events and more.