Last night, I had an itch to go out and have some fun with drinks and music. A rarity for me, considering the last time that I went to a club or a bar was at least a year ago. However, I wanted to re-visit a place of my youth which leads me to believe it was also a look back within myself to see how much I have changed over the years.
The Bonham Exchange was my very first gay club experience and I was just 18 years old. Now that I am 33 years old, it is crazy to imagine that it was nearly 15 years ago that I first walked the halls of this very historic building in Downtown San Antonio, just steps away from the Alamo.
The place itself has not changed one bit. It was almost as someone took a picture of my gay youth and hung it on the wall for me to gaze at whenever I’d like. But, there was a stark difference in the type of crowd last night when compared to the days of my youth.
I can remember when Gay clubs were gay clubs and straights were almost nowhere to be found. Today, the club is full of straight guys trying to pick up on vulnerable girls but not only does that annoy the girls, it bothers the hell out of us older gays. It didn’t seem to bother the young gays as much.
I can remember when the Gay Club (including the Bonham) was our holy retreat from the straight dominant culture and world in which we lived every day of our lives. It was the one place that us gays knew we could go without offending or making someone else uncomfortable with the way we express our sexuality.
A Gay club was like sacred ground that once we walked into the building, we absolutely knew that we could be free and open without judgement from a society who thought we were freaks or pervs. Unfortunately, all that has changed now and I suppose some of that change is due to the progress of our society.
Last night, I couldn’t help but feel judged by some of the staring gazes of men who were arm tied with their wives and girlfriends. They weren’t dancing and didn’t appear to be enjoying themselves. They stood there in our sacred space, watching us while we tried to pretend this was still a Gay retreat.
I also felt afraid to be open about making advances towards some of the guys there as you just couldn’t be sure who was gay and who was there to “pick up chicks”. When I was young, there was almost zero chance of offending someone by making a pass at them in a Gay club and there was also a high chance of going home with someone that night.
All of this makes me wonder, will we ever have another place that us gays can retreat to, to get away from a straight dominated society? I’d like to hope so as my heart truly misses the real Gay clubs of the past. However, with the advent of technologies such as Grindr, the young gays may just not find a need for them anymore.
It has always been a dream of mine to own a Gay bar or club. Who knows? Maybe one day I will get to have my very own Gay club and I swear to you now, there will be a sign posted on the door that says something like this “This is a Gay Club. If you are uncomfortable, stay out. If you offend any of us here, you will be forced to leave”