Do we still need gay clubs?
Adam Clark and Tony Dines reflect on their night out at a straight club
Time was when us gay men were an oppressed minority. In the days before Gaydar and Grindr we had other ways of meeting each other. Gay bars and clubs played an important role in this.
20 years ago gay clubs were at the forefront of clubbing culture. Our ability to party, sometimes to excess, meant that club nights like Trade and Love Muscle in London were at the cutting edge of dance culture. We danced with abandon and created extraordinary environments of hedonism and celebration. The straight girls came with their gay friends, then the straight boys came in pursuit of straight girls…. well, some quite liked the attention from gay men too. The atmosphere at such parties was amazing. People were friendly and open. Yes, some people felt intimated by Trade’s Muscle Mary Alley, but on the whole, it didn’t matter who you were or what you were into, there was room for you.
Gradually the gay nights became less and less gay. Heaven often entertained a good many straights and some nights, such as DTPM were self-consciously “polysexual”. The shared love of dance music was more important than sexual orientation. We welcomed the changes and made many friends, gay and straight, at such places.
As gay has become more mainstream and mainstream clubs more gay, we’re left wondering if there is still a need for gay clubs and bars. Our recent experience dancing at the Electric Brixton (the club formerly known as the Fridge) convinces us that yes there is!
We went to the Electric to see Carl Cox, one of our favourite DJs, play his set. It was the first time back in the building since the days of Love Muscle, and it was a straight night. Superficially you wouldn’t have known; so many straight men now look “gay”, with great clothes and hair, and the crowd was at least 80% male. But it was oh so clear that we weren’t partying with poofs. There was certainly no hostility to us, just indifference. At gay nights past we’d receive smiles and fall easily into conversation. These straight men, mostly with groups of friends, seemed focused on themselves, the music and what few women there were. And why not? But, for us, something was missing.
It was a fun night, but it made us nostalgic for the gay clubs of yore. Having tended towards the opinion that gay clubs and bars were a leftover from a bygone age when we needed them to socialise safely, our experience at the Electric reminded us that there is something uniquely wonderful about a gay club. No iPhone app is a substitute for a gay old party.
Oh Heaven, where is thy victory. Oh, Trade, where is thy sting?
To read more about how Adam Clark and Tony Dines can help you build your esteem on the scene, see the Gay Life Coach website.
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