Saturday, June 18, 2016

Finding ‘My Most Authentic Self’:
What L.G.B.T. Spaces Mean to You

Haute Tension (High Voltage), Paris, France. Photo by G. Koskovich
Haute Tension (High Voltage), Paris

Safety. Family. Home.
After the attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, The New York Times asked readers what L.G.B.T.-friendly spaces meant to them. One of those three words, or some variation, came up in almost every response.
For many who responded, gay bars, community centers and nightclubs are their only true space of inclusion. They are venues where they can exchange glances and flirt without fear, where they can talk about attraction without stigma or reproach, and where same-sex couples can touch and kiss without worrying who might be watching.
The responses illustrate the role these places play in the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Here is a sampling of replies, which have been condensed and edited.

‘Think of the place in your life you felt most comfortable’
Jason Szekeres
Jason Szekeres, 39, Chicago
Calling them sacred spaces isn’t hyperbole. I didn’t feel like it was finally O.K. to be myself the first time I went to church, or to the movies, or the post office, or the first day of kindergarten, or my first company Christmas party. The first time I finally felt like I didn’t have to watch what I said, or police who I looked at, or feel shameful for who I was attracted to was the first time I set foot in a gay bar.
If you don’t know what we’re feeling, think of the place in your life you felt most comfortable, and safe, and loved. It’s probably the house you grew up in. Now, imagine someone burning that house to the ground with your family inside because he hates you.
That feeling you’re having is pretty close to how we feel right now.

‘A place where I would never have to come out’

Tony Schermetzler
Tony Schermetzler, 35, West Hollywood, Calif.
I found the address to Za’s in the back of a newspaper, or maybe a local magazine. The first visit I circled the block a few times, then left. The second time I parked and sat in my car for over an hour before returning home.
On the third visit, I was determined to go inside. It was about 5 p.m. when I entered, the house lights were on and the barstools where up on tables. The only person in the place was a woman cleaning behind the bar.
It’s obvious to me now that the club was closed, and naïvely I was hours early. If it were any other business, I’m sure the staff would have yelled that they were closed and to go away. Not here. In that instant, the woman knew exactly who I was. She flipped a bar stool down for me and I ordered a Diet Coke.
I’m not sure how long I stayed, but we made small talk. It was the first time in my life that I felt that there was a place for me. A place where I didn’t have be someone else. A place where I would never have to come out. She knew I was gay from the moment I walked in. I finished my Diet Coke, got up to leave, thanking my bartender. As I walked out, she yelled back to me, “You should stop back around 10 or 11.”
I did. Za’s became my place. Over the years I danced, I drank, I made friends, I kissed cute boys on the dance floor; it was the time of my life. I felt safe and loved and truly happy.

‘A passport into my own heritage’

Zohar Freeman
Zohar Freeman, 19, Toronto
For me, growing up queer in Toronto, being openly gay in high school was only partially an option. When I did come out, I received online death threats from other students in my school.
When I got my first fake ID at 17, it was like a passport into my own heritage, and into a level of safety that I didn’t know could really exist. Sneaking into gay bars, listening to ’80s hits in a dingy night club and watching drag queens lip sync meant more than just a way to pass the time; it was my way of connecting with my community and seeking out my culture.

Source: The New York Times, Michael Gold, June 17, 2016 (Read more...)

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