Brooklyn Photographer Chris Arnade shares five reasons why he prefers gay bars even though he’s straight.
I found my dream boyfriend in a Montreal gay bar. He was 65, wearing shorts that almost touched his knee high socks, aviator glasses, a fedora, and sipping half price Labatt’s. I called him Sunglasses Man.
He never moved, never swiveled his head to watch the gay porn playing on the bar’s TVs, never clapped for the lounge singer belting out show tunes, herself a 6’ 2” overly made up older man.
He just sat at the bar as he had for over thirty years watching the odd collection of working class men walk in and out the front door.
Sunglasses Man winked at me, I think. I am not sure though.
Whenever I leave New York City, when I find myself in smaller towns, I like to drink in gay bars.
I don’t think I am gay, I mean sexually that is.
Why then gay bars? Here are my five reasons:
- Most every gay has had to fight intolerance growing up. Especially those in rural or religious areas of the country. They understand the pain of life and have often moved beyond it. They don’t forget it though. Consequently they are some of the least judgmental people I have met. Well, except when it comes to what others wear.
- Regular bars can be depressing places. Overly loud music, overly bright lights, with angry people trying to drink away their anger, often just making them angrier. Gay men, sorry to stereotype, often have better design taste. In addition, they less often come to a bar to drink away their anger; rather they come to celebrate good times with a close group of friends.
- Sports. I don’t really care for sports. Gay bars, if they do have the games on, are respectful about not turning the sound on. Gone is the uniformity of clothes found in other bars: Loud shirts festooned with sports logos.
- Conversation. I go to bars to talk and listen to people’s stories. I never tire of hearing the courageous story of a person’s coming to grips with who they really are.
- They are just more fun. The lack of judgment allows me to try and dance unselfconsciously.
A language barrier kept me from ever talking to Sunglasses Man. I did talk to David, pictured above. He grew up in a strict religious Mexican-American family. He always knew he wanted to be a woman. For this he was beat up regularly and disowned by parts of his family. After many years they eventually accepted him for whom she is: A proud woman.
So if you want to find me in Pittsburgh, Montreal, Oklahoma City, El Paso, Charleston, Raleigh, or Atlanta go to the gay bars. I am the straight guy drinking cheap beer and listening to stories.
Really I am straight.
Guest author and photographer Chris Arnade received his PhD in physics from Johns Hopkins University in 1992. He spent the next 20 years working as a trader on Wall Street. He left trading in 2012 to focus on photography. His “Faces of Addiction” series explores addiction in the south Bronx neighborhood in New York City. This article was originally published on Chris’s Tumblir blog.