Sunday, June 12, 2016

Gay Bar/Holy Ground

Gay Bar/Holy Ground
Durrell Watkins

The first time a man kissed me was in the only gay bar in the small town where I lived. Years of fun, community, and romance would soon after take place in another gay bar in another small town in the Quachita mountains. Visits to other gay bars in the Ozarks and in Northern Louisiana followed. Later, I discover a whole network of gay bars in Dallas and Fort Worth. Eventually I would find my way to gay watering holes in New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago, Tulsa, Little Rock, Houston, Austin, and of course, New York. Even in middle age, there are some gay bars that I frequent in Fort Lauderdale.
Dance clubs, cabarets, drag bars, leather bars, S&M (stand and model) bars, bar and's where my people gathered. I made friends. I felt at home. I even found my "calling" in a Country & Western bar in Dallas. I picked up a brochure about a "gay church" and my life and future was forever changed.
Gay bars were oases, safe havens, sanctuaries for people of my age cohort and older. One might call them "holy ground." We were welcome, affirmed, and celebrated to the sacred beat of "thumpa-thumpa" when other places only sought to dehumanize us. Gay bars helped us feel sexy, vibrant, worthwhile. Gay bars raised money for AIDS and other charities. Gay bars were wonderful worlds unto themselves.
In such a sacred shrine, 50 people lost their lives last night In Orlando, FL. 53 continue to fight for theirs. A sacrilege has been committed. Not only has human dignity been assaulted, but a safe place for LBGTQQIA folk has been desecrated. I hope the Queer community of Orlando will reclaim their sacred space and reconsecrate it with courage, hope, resilience, and determination. I hope that temple of queer community will serve forever as a landmark to LBGTQQIA people, and I hope the lives lost there will be remembered and that glasses will be raised in that place to honor them.
Fallen comrades, rest in peace.

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