Haven’t blogged in a while so firstly apologies and secondly if you are looking for a recipe post, then sorry again!!
My reason for this post is that there has been a lot of talk over the last few months in the gay community about losing treasured venues like the Black Cap, the Vauxhall tavern and various Soho bars. (I’m sure this is something that is replicated in various gay scenes thought the UK.)
I’ve been lucky to spend many hours in said venues and can count endless amazing nights and memories, all thanks to these safe spaces where we could all be ourselves.
But now I come to think about it, that’s what these places represent to me now….memories.
For many of us growing up gay we knew that to feel accepted meant moving to somewhere that had a gay scene. For most that meant moving to towns like London, Brighton, Manchester or in my case Bournemouth.
At the time going to venues like those we are losing made you feel like it was OK to be Gay. I remember going to my first gay club and having to ring a bell on a non-descript secure door and waiting to be allowed access to a place I could call home. I was so sure this was right for me that I couldn’t wait to move to this place which had a sense of community that I couldn’t find in my small village back home.
I equally remember early Pride festivals when the sense of belonging was palpable. You could see it on the faces of complete strangers that would grin hug or joke with you as if we had not a care in the world.
But then when we had finished clubbing, pubbing or Priding we had to go back to the real world, where we weren’t accepted, we weren’t all safe, where just being you wasn’t always OK.
So what’s changed?
For many of us life is completely different now. We can get married, we can adopt, we are protected in law with homophobic crimes now treated actually as crimes. Things are by no means perfect but for many of us we do feel accepted, we can feel safe, we can feel it’s ok to be ourselves.
Technology has also had a huge impact. People no longer need to meet up to feel a sense of community, like they once did, as they can find this and so much more online. From developing friendships, to arranging hookups, to joining shared interest groups (gay gooner fans, who knew!), the Internet, and more importantly mobile technology means that nobody, whether they live in a big city or a small village, has to feel isolated.
And that’s an amazing step forward from a time when we needed a bolt on the door of the gay club I was doorman at in Bournemouth during the 90s “just in case”
So what does that mean for our “community”?
Many of us are comfortable being OUT in our everyday lives. We are happy to spend time in any venue with our partners and friends without the need to find a sense of belonging in the company of our peers. That doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy spending time on the scene but it does mean that this isn’t our only option.
Add to this the ease with which people can now meet others without heading to a pub or club you can see why these venues of historic importance to the gay community are becoming just that- history.
And at the end of the day these venues aren’t community spaces, they are businesses. Some of which have seen huge drops in customer levels, with some venues only opening 3 nights a week and others offering huge discounts and deals to get people through the door. Is it not understandable then that these are struggling to remain financially viable businesses?
Rather than mourn the loss of these venues of historical importance to us shouldn’t we be recognising and redefining what community means to us now, and doing what we do best – celebrate the passing of these wonderful pieces of history?