Eric Leven

Shared Spaces

Filed By Eric Leven | July 17, 2008 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, The Movement
Tags: coming out of the closet, gay bars, gay clubs, gay culture, New York City, queer spaces, Save the Roxy, straight culture

I ran into Aaron at Nowhere Bar and we got to talking about the whole "Save the Roxy" topic and the case for dwindling New York City nightlife. He opened up a topic which is always on our minds but easily brushed over once talk of policy, neighborhoods, liquor licenses and cabaret laws come into play.

Quite simply: The fight isn't about nightlife as much as it is about preserving our shared spaces. Despite the fact that online development is enabling non-bar types to stay in and orchestrate friendships without venturing out to the local gay bar, Aaron reminded me of the importance for gay people to be able to physically see and be around one another.

Before the internet going out was the only way to be out and many of those pre-Web men still prefer being out opposed to ordering in on the internet. Today, there's a lot of discussion about gay assimilation to the mainstream and the threat of losing our gay culture and flavor as we, the marginalized, inch our way closer to normalcy.

I come from a time period and a profession where stating, "I'm gay" is as easy as saying I prefer blue over red but for many men from either yesteryear or even today's suit and ties of the financial or business world saying "I'm gay" or being around gay people just doesn't come that easy.

Straight people get to see and interact with one another all the time. If one of their places or hang outs closes they just mosey on over to the next one. But for us, our spaces are specific and limited- we can't just move on to the next one. A space has to either already exist or be created for us, and always, by us. Nobody else will do it for us.

When boiled down Aaron's case is: Our shared spaces must remain and be protected because we're not granted the opportunity of day to day interaction. We must venture to specific places to be with our people and thus these spaces must remain open for that fact alone.

I know we've all been there- be it a wedding, or a 4th of July picnic or a family gathering where it's all so straight that we feel we have to break from it and run to our people for a sigh of relief. At the end of the day, we need these spaces to exist so we can all loosen our ties and be around those who understand us.


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I know we've all been there- be it a wedding, or a 4th of July picnic or a family gathering where it's all so straight that we feel we have to break from it and run to our people for a sigh of relief. At the end of the day, we need these spaces to exist so we can all loosen our ties and be around those who understand us.

Amen to that, Eric!

A day? I've spent months in those environments. Years.

The shared spaces thing, I dunno. Let's get a gay bar out to Carmel, Indiana, and see what happens! Because driving all the way down to Indianapolis is such a pain.

Because driving all the way [from Carmel, Indiana] down to Indianapolis is such a pain.

Oh, Alex ... try growing up in Nashville, Tennessee and trying to decide whether going to the baths is worth driving to Atlanta or Indianapolis --- go north or go south, but either way, it's a four-and-one-half hour drive ... and it's the same distance when you drive back home.

Although I don't think physical brick-and-mortar get-together spaces will ever disappear entirely, the futurists tell us that eventually our Internet connections will have bandwidth equal to or better than the human spinal cord --- about 6 megabits per second --- and at that point, true-to-life cyber-sex will be possible ... or a cyber-backrub, or cyber-kneesies-under-the-table, whatever you are into and ready for ...

I highly recommend Bruce Benderson's book "Sex and Isolation." (I do not know Mr. Benderson and have no connection to his book.) I won't try to summarize his arguments, but he talks about the loss of random of meetings between gay men (different classes, races, ages, desires, occupations, etc) when Times Square was cleaned-up, and the huge opportunities that gay men had when there were places that encouraged conversations and hook-ups.

http://www.amazon.com/Sex-Isolation-Essays-Bruce-Benderson/dp/0299223140

The Internet is a great place, but we're really missing out on the kind of companionship and discoveries that can only take place in "meat space" (meet space?), not just bars and clubs, but theaters and bath-houses, too.

My problem is that it almost always seems to be the bars. We have a high enough rate of alcoholism in our community since bars were the only spaces we had. Look how quickly the liquor companies jumped on Pride sponsorships...