Chapter: The changing role of gay bars in American LGBTQ+ life

In Introducing the New Sexuality Studies 4th Edition, released June 2022.

“Gay bars are iconic in part because they are the most common and accessible LGBTQ+ places, but they are in decline. About one third of gay bars closed in the 2010s, but new ones continued to open to serve their communities as one of the very few places where LGBTQ+ people can reliably encounter each other in public. Bars provide drinks, to be sure, but they are also social spaces, performance stages, sites of memory and commemoration, and instigators of local activism. This chapter describes gay bars in their diversity: as lone “outposts” of LGBTQ+ culture in small cities that serve broad regions, as bar districts that anchor gay neighborhoods, and as homes to subgroups of the broader LGBTQ+ community, which includes lesbian bars and LGBTQ+ bars that serve kink communities and/or people of color. This chapter reviews gay bars’ historic importance, longstanding critiques of bars as core institutions of LGBTQ+ life, and how gay bars, lesbian bars, and queer bars are changing to meet the challenges posed by increasing LGBTQ+ social acceptance and the rise of virtual socializing.”

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