Lin, Jeremy Atherton. “Gay Bar: Why We Went Out”, Little Brown and Company, 2021.
It is impossible to look at LGBTQ history without realizing the importance of the gay bar and that is just what Jeremy Atherton Lin does in “Gay Bar: Why We Went Out”.
“The gay bar has long been a place of solidarity and sexual expression–whatever your scene, whoever you’re seeking.” Yet today around the world, the bars are closing and demolishing a culture in the process. Lin looks at what the gay bar was, how he was shaped by it and the bar’s influence on gay identity. Lin writes from the personal point of view and takes us his own
transatlantic tour of the bars that marked his life and as he does we get a look at a time that was. From Hollywood in the 1970s to London to AIDS to today’s queer places, we read of what the gay bar represents throughout his life and who we are. What we really see is the connection between identity and place that takes us beyond what we have heard about Stonewall and read about the other places that many of us are unaware of that had a role in our identity and liberation.
Here are places that have been our refuges and that formed our subculture. It is the differences and similarities that created the gay movement and underlies the desire to belong. “Gay is an identity of longing and there is a wistfulness to beholding it in the form of a building…”
Lin combines his narratives with history. We read of the cultural shifts in our acceptance of gays, “of mixed bars fostered by gentrification, of queer safe spaces where rules of conduct abound sometimes in a stifling manner.” Especially interesting is that during this Covid-19 pandemic, gay bars have set up outside tables and brought their indoors out into the light. This actually shifts the aura of the mystery of what went on in the bars.
I believe that is fair to say that this is the definitive book about gay bars and what these places have been. Lin’s research is amazing and his prose is beautiful.