What Happened When I Took My Parents To Gay Bars

5/12/2018

Boystown Chicago

When you have always had something, it can be very easy to take it for granted; if you’ve never had to go without the thing in question, then how can you comprehend what life is really like without it? Recently, it became truly apparent to me that there is one thing in my life that has helped me to thrive in all areas, whether it be in my profession, education, or personal life; without it, I have no idea what kind of life I would be living, but I’m confident I would be nowhere near as happy as I am today.

This simple thing, that I so often take for granted, is the unconditional love and support of my parents.

It really hit me during their last visit to my new home in Chicago. It was the first time they were able to come up and, in addition to helping me move a bunch of heavy furniture into a very awkward and tiny space, they wanted to see what my life up here is like; this meant that a trip to Boystown, Chicago’s LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood, was added to the agenda.

This wasn’t a quick pop into the area during the dead hours for a cursory glance around either; they wanted the full Boystown experience. So, we started our night out at a popular restaurant in the area for dinner, where my mom was awestruck by an impeccably dressed drag queen and my dad had his first experience with a gender-neutral bathroom. We were barely through with our first round and they were already experiencing (and enjoying) new things.

As soon as dinner wrapped up, we began bar-hopping to some of my favorite places, and I think it is safe to say that both of my parents were continuing to cross off items on their “new experiences” list. My mom, in particular, was having a blast, chatting up a storm with guy after guy and receiving more free drinks than I ever have (or probably ever will). However, sprinkled into all of these fun and lighthearted conversations, the same questions were being brought up to me and my parents, because a lot of these men couldn’t understand how I got my parents to join me for a night out in Boystown.

Blaize and his parents

One particularly memorable moment was when one man turned to me and asked, “How did you get them to come here? What did you have to say to them to make them come to Boystown?” I was taken aback by this question; it was as if the only logical explanation as to why they were there was due to some manipulation on my end. I simply replied, “I just asked them to come,” and he stared at me with a confused look on his face, before saying, “I hope you know how lucky you are.”

I immediately thought, “Of course I do!” and continued with the conversation. But this was one of many instances that evening where men were floored that both of my parents were out and about in Boystown, with their bi son, for no other reason than to have fun and enjoy each other’s company. My mom even teared up a bit when talking to a man around my age, who told her that there was no way either one of his parents would consider stepping foot into a gay bar like they did and that he was blown away that mine did.

All these comments and conversations helped open my eyes to how exceptional my parents really are. I’m 100% sure there were moments in the evening that made them uncomfortable and I don’t think the places we visited would ever be on the agenda if I wasn’t in the picture. But they were there for me; to have fun and support the life I am building up here where I am free to be myself at all times. Both were clearly happy to be there and I was more than happy to have them there as well.

My parents have never tried to change who I am; instead they let me take risks and live life out loud, with a continuous stream of encouragement and support. They’ve never made me feel ashamed or guilty about who I am and the fact that they stepped so far out of their comfort zones to join me for a night out in Boystown is something I will never forget. I cannot thank them enough for that night, or the countless other ways they have helped me live the best life possible. I will be sure to never take what they give me for granted ever again.

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.