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GLBTQIA+ PROJECTS

 

14.1 Gay Bars are relatively few and far between these days, and not only in the United States.  Once the social centers of the greater gay community (which came to include other members of the GLBTQIA+ population), gay bars have largely fallen victim to cyberculture.  Adults now meet like-minded (and often intellectually and sexually compatible) companions online through geosocial apps like Tinder, Grindr, and GROWLr (for bears, a part of the broader Meet Group).  We haven’t been able to establish whether Gruntr (for sex pigs), Grippr (for tight delights), and Groupr (for orgy-goers) are legitimate apps in the same general network, but we wouldn’t be surprised.  The under-21 crowd can freely use apps.  Many former gay bars have evolved into mainstream or neighborhood bars that are still “gay-friendly” or that stage a gay or lesbian night once a week or a trans night once a month.  Lesbian bars are even rarer than (typically coed) gay bars.  There are only about fifteen left in the whole country.    

          Big cities still have their share, of course, many of them iconic like Jacque's Cabaret in Boston, or the Boiler Room in Manhattan, Oasis in San Francisco, or The Abbey in West Hollywood, but the clientele is less exclusively gay than it used to be.  For decades, gay bars were venues in which the non-hetero crowd could meet, cruise, hold hands, and kiss in relative safety (at least after the Stonewall Uprising of 1969), often while dressed for excess.  Biker bars like The SF Eagle still attract cigar aficionados in full leather gear, and the Hole in the Wall Saloon (“open to   e v e r y b o d y  who wants to kick back for a rowdy good time”) shaves $2.00 off the price of a drink on Thursdays for shirtless men.  Until the AIDS crisis began taking its ugly toll in the 1980s, many bars allowed hookups onsite, often in dark backrooms where patrons could only feel their way through a typically sweaty crowd while disco music pounded through the building’s walls.  A few, sometimes known as “hustler bars,” featured sex workers who plied their trade in nearby parking lots or hotels.  Some were upscale affairs where wealthy gay and closeted businesspersons met for cocktails and gossip.  Either way, patrons could in effect “come out” or show support to the queer community without necessarily making a public statement.

          What memories do you have of gay bars?  Did you have your favorites?  What were they like?  How far did you have to travel to find one that made you feel comfortable?  Did you ever meet anyone interesting in one?  If so, under what circumstances?  What kind of relationship developed from the initial meeting?  Did you go back to the same bar again?  Were you ever in a bar during a raid?  They didn’t completely stop with Stonewall, especially if the owners allowed sexual activity or prostitution on the premises.  How has cyberculture changed bar culture over the last few years?  With which are you more comfortable, and why?  If you’re a lesbian, how do you feel about the demise of lesbian bars?  For trans persons, do you (or did you) go to gay bars, straight bars, or trans bars?  What was your experience?  Have straight people taken over the gay bar and made it a less queer space?  How do you feel about that?

 

 

 

14.2 Lone Wolves on the Prowl – Some GLBTQIA+ individuals still cruise for sex, in bars where that kind of activity regularly takes place, online when feasible, and in other public places like parks, malls, gyms — you name it.  Wherever people can meet, they may also hook up.  Some even enjoy sex in public and semipublic places, which is a crime in most jurisdictions.  A whole subgenre of erotica in the vein of exhibitionism has sprung up around the practice of public sex, which is by no means limited to the queer community.  It may be anonymous, even wordless: the participants need not even speak the same language.  Many meet in public and continue their sexual activity behind closed doors.  Not all queer individuals want to settle down, commit to another person, or get married.  A handful want to do those things and still cruise for casual sex on the side, and for a variety of reasons.  Some have regular casual sex partners in addition to their spouses or significant others.  Some want to play the field until the field is blown barren by the wind.  Epidemiologists coined the terms men who have sex with men (regardless of their self-identified sexual orientation) or MSM and women who have sex with women, or WSW, in the 1990s, the latter having been afford less study (but also less social stigma). Most are either married or in committed relationships but have one or more sexual partners on the side.  African American culture has given us the slang term down-low (literally meaning “in secret”) for self-identified straights who regularly have clandestine relations with members of the same sex. 

          Is sexual promiscuity a part of GLBQ culture, as many researchers once thought, or is it mostly a symptom of the social stigmatization the community has suffered for decades if not centuries?  Opinions differ.  The truth probably falls somewhere between the two extremes.  Although men are allowed greater latitude than women, society in general frowns on sexual promiscuity.  Is that ethical?  Are some people just naturally promiscuous, especially if they can find a pool partners willing to accommodate their sexual proclivities?  Should such lone wolves, including lone she-wolves, be encouraged to pursue monogamous relationships when these aren’t always satisfying or successful?  Can people find happiness in bed-hopping?  What if sexual acts are more psychologically rewarding to some than pair-bonding is to most of us?  Is promiscuity something we’re allowed to experiment with when we’re young, perhaps along with weed and shrooms, but which we should strive to outgrow by age thirty?  Are those who don’t or can’t outgrow it suffering from some sort of arrested development?  Weird Beard Press is interested in facts and fiction on the subject even if they don’t fully harmonize.  We understand that uncontrolled cruising is a fantasy lifestyle for many.          

 

 

14.3 Bisexuality: Believe It – Though the general population has become more accepting of homosexuality in recent decades, bisexuality is not as clearly understood, even by many experts and activists.  The term is defined as a romantic or sexual attraction, or orientation, toward both males and females.  In the past, many otherwise well-meaning therapists have advised bisexuals (and perhaps the bi-curious as well) that they were either “confused” about their sexuality or for various reasons unwilling to make a commitment to a gay or straight lifestyle.  Just as many straights have traditionally had trouble grokking gayness, as it were, many gays and lesbians have had the same trouble grasping the reality of bisexuality. 

          As early as 1905, Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) had suggested that infantile sexuality was rooted in an unconscious bisexuality that differentiated at the onset of adolescence, a theory that other experts challenged.  Austrian-born American psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler (1899-1962) countered in his Homosexuality: Disease or Way of Life? (1956) that bisexuality didn’t exist as such and that all self-identified bisexuals were really homosexuals.  Although subsequently discredited, Bergler’s seemingly simple and direct theory retains a hold over the popular imagination.  More controversially, American zoologist Alfred Kinsey developed the Heterosexual–Homosexual Rating Scale, later known as the Kinsey scale, to measure relative levels of sexual orientation ranging from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual), publishing his findings in 1948.  Based on information culled from 8,000 interviews, Kinsey concluded that sexual orientation lay on a continuum that was subject to change over the course of a lifetime.  Many can understand a linear development from homosexuality to heterosexuality, or vice versa, particularly during sexual maturation, but not the fluid sexuality that Kinsey identified. 

          Recent research suggests that bisexuality may be more deeply affected by environmental social factors than either heterosexuality or homosexuality, though this assessment is not without its critics.  Harvard professor Marjorie Garber (1944-  ) argues that many more if not most people would identify as bisexual were it not for sexual repression and the lack of opportunity in many families and communities.  Feminist critic Camille Paglia (1947- ) idealizes it in her 1994 collection Vamps and Tramps: New Essays.               

  

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