Living joyously is a radical act’: why America’s gay bars still matter

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06/25/2019

The gay bar is in trouble. Fifty years after the Stonewall Inn in New York became the symbol for a new wave of gay activism, the three horsemen of the gay bar apocalypse – gentrification, assimilation and technology – have hollowed out their numbers. Rising rents have shuttered gay bars; more straight venues are “accepting” of gay patrons; and dating is something people now do with their phones. Even the term “gay bar” looks a little tired as the LGBTQ community finally comes to terms with its many rainbow stripes. Bare numbers are hard to come by, but Yelp calculates the number of gay bars listed on its service fell 16% between 2014 and 2018. It now represents just 0.8% of all bar listings. But across America – and especially in less progressive states and communities – the gay bar is as vibrant and vital as it has ever been. It’s a rallying point in times of trial and celebration. It is the pumping heart of a community that, as the Trump administration rolls back its rights, needs its own space more than it has in years.

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