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Gay Bar: Why We Went Out

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The ideal is not diversity but idiosyncrasy, flamingly on display in a San Francisco street party where the activist attenders are “fabulous, unsightly, sexy, fat, a total mess”.

Furthermore, the author frequently came across as very pretentious (and at times a bit creepy, especially when he talks about not being able to follow the 'rules' of not being lecherous in a club), particularly when talking about young queer people today and their identities and safe spaces - it often sounded a lot like the right-wing 'snowflake' rhetoric that I'm sure we're all familiar with. While most people experience adolescence as a time of self-doubt, I, like many gay men, were brimming with a false sense of confidence until they encountered “the community”. I'm surprised of the X-Rated actions in the gay bars dance floor the author and his companion attended. If it wasn’t for our Struggle for Gay Rights, or the Sacrifice of the AIDS Era, Where Would You Be Today, Young Man? This book is an important addition to the lexicon of queer history, it is a homage to the importance of the Gay Bar even if it's focus is mostly on cis white gay men.Propulsive music and euphoric crowds; drag queens and go-go dancers; strobe lights, dark rooms and glory holes. It is also the story of the author s own experiences as a mixed-race gay man, and the transatlantic romance that began one restless night in Soho. This means that not only do they feel equally at home in a ‘straight’ venue, but have no compunction to engage in gratuitous PDAs outside the (mythical) protection of a bona fide gay space.

Notice to Internet Explorer users Server security: Please note Internet Explorer users with versions 9 and 10 now need to enable TLS 1. That said, there being so little cultural criticism of the gay community from the point of view of a gay Asian male, (Lin is the product of a biracial marriage) I was incredibly excited to dive into this debut work of non-fiction, believing, albeit selfishly, that it would speak to my experience. The above quote is highly indicative of Lin’s writing style: Beautifully modulated and expressive, with a knack of turning a phrase as slick as a drag queen’s nail polish. Lin’s initiation occurs in the snooty bars of West Hollywood, where everyone but him seems to be “auditioning for a toothpaste commercial”. We all have fond memories of dingy bars filled with even dodgier people where, despite the tin foil serving as decoration on the bar shelves and the ever-present whiff of disinfectant from the toilets, we came together as some kind of a community.The journey that emerges is a stylish and nuanced inquiry into the connection between place and identity—a tale of liberation, but one that invites us to go beyond the simplified Stonewall mythology and enter lesser-known battlefields in the struggle to carve out a territory. This book manages to weave together vast stories of the changing nature of queer nightlife, the joys and sorrows that it can bring, and a truly wide sense of history, but never loses its sense of fun. Despite his mercurial temperament, Lin’s aim is nobly humane: he urges habitués of the bars to look beyond the stereotypes that codify gay desire and “to see one another as multidimensional beings”. At its worst, as Sehgal notes, Lin tries to be profound and this is when the book is at its most mundane.

Or the documentary We came to Sweat about the oldest and longest running LGBT bar in Brooklyn also black owned. Of course, any reader in enforced pandemic lockdown is likely to be both highly envious, not to mention rather appalled, at the goings-on here.

However, I did very much enjoy and appreciate the gay and social history aspects of this book, and learned a lot from those sections (which were nicely documented with copious footnotes, thanks), thus the bump up to three stars. The book provides an interesting blend of personal experiences and general analysis, with historical references and examples. I found Jeremy Atherton Lin's writing to be strikingly vivid, Gay Bar made me nostalgic for experiences I've never had. Lively and dirty, intellectual and gossipy, Gay Bar is the rare book that feels both like a guilty pleasure and like it is making you considerably smarter as you read. But the overall impression is a world that is careless and easy, irreverent, and in itself a clichee of gay masculinity: here we are, we're ready to get dirty, we don't need to feel, we're teenagers high on rebellion and sex.

Lin recounts his own journey weaving a story of drag bars in Blackpool, drugs in West Hollywood, and history in the Castro, but at each stop on this journey he does so much more: he asks readers to consider what it means to be queer, what it means to have queer spaces, and what telling queer history really means. Of which the number is startling, to say the least, and engaged in with a commitment to synaesthesia and general wanton abandonment that is, well, quite alluring. Lin inhabits a place of difference, identifying as gay, but coming at it with an edge, and with the book, he tracks his experience of negotiating a perspective, and sex, in bars in LA, San Francisco, and London (where he met his husband, with whom he often cruises for sex).Elegiac, randy, and sparkling with wry wit, Gay Bar is at once a serious critical inquiry, a love story and an epic night out to remember. But there are moments when he reveals some historical facts that are important, such as the impact of AIDS, the police raids, gentrification, and diversity issues. It is a difficult thing to watch as the spaces that provided me and my community safe haven shutter and close. An impressive array of quotes, ideas and intellectual sparring from commentators, authors, academics (and one suspects just hangers-on) litter the text like glitter on a queen’s boa. Gay Bar: Why We Went Out is a 2021 creative nonfiction book by Asian-American essayist Jeremy Atherton Lin published by Little, Brown in North America and Granta in the United Kingdom.

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