The Gay Bar: Where Hopes and Dreams (and Bathroom Hook-Ups) Come True

Do you remember the first time you stepped inside a gay bar or club? Of course you do. It was likely equal parts traumatizing, thrilling and sweat inducing. It might have been where you arranged your first 3-D date with an online friend, or where you met the girls who later became your lesbian posse. When gay marriage passed in New York, every queer I know ran to gather and celebrate in the streets outside The Stonewall Inn, site of the eponymous 1969 riots that launched a new era of gay rights activism. Why does so much of our culture take place in or around gay bars? Slate launched a six-part series last week examining the history, competition, implications and future of gay bar culture in our lives.

The piece discusses the relevance of gay bars in our current lives, when we don’t necessarily need to leave the house to get our daily dose of gay interaction and community, thanks to the internet and sites like Autostraddle and AfterEllen. Gay guys have Grindr, the iPhone app that’s essentially gay GPS for random hookups. Meetup offers countless opportunities to connect with gays right in your city – looking for a group of lezzies to see the final Harry Potter with Friday night? Done.

Our need for community can be met by interaction with feeds and comment streams, and our desire for niche information can be satisfied by RSS readers and email newsletters. If I can do all this in the comfort of my own home while drinking at liquor-store prices and munching on my favorite foods (instead of pretzels, the satanic snack served by every saloon in America—including gay bars), why on earth would I go to a bar?

While the number of dedicated gay bars have mostly decreased in the 4 cities (San Francisco, Manhattan, Atlanta, Seattle + Iowa) documented by Gayellow Pages from their peak in the mid-70s, lesbian nightlife has reinvented itself with party promoters such as LA’s PYT and New York’s Maggie C taking over venues and branding their own events, like Stiletto and Truck Stop.

Of course, these statistics need to be broken down into lesbian bars vs. boy/mixed bars:

Bars catering to lesbians face even greater business challenges, which is why there are so few of them. Many “gay bars,” especially outside the major urban centers, attract both male and female customers, but in big cities, far more bars cater to gay male patrons than to lesbians. According to the bar listings in the 2011-12 edition of the Gayellow Pages San Francisco has one lesbian bar, 24 indicating a mostly gay male clientele, and seven drawing both gay men and lesbians; Atlanta has two lesbian bars, 12 for gay men, and eight mixed; Manhattan has two lesbian, 28 for men, and 13 mixed; and Seattle has one lesbian, four for gay men, and six mixed.

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A handful of gay writers (Alison Bechdel, Dan Savage, Susie Bright, Pam Spaulding) share their virgin gay bar experiences which inspired our very own trip down memory lane.

Jess, Senior Entertainment Editor:

So, it was 2002 and I was uncomfortably out to just a few people and still in the phase of doing all things related to gay on my own. I had just finished watching Chasing Amy for the 15th time and decided that I had to go to Meow Mix that night to see if Guinevere Turner was still introducing the singers on stage.

Anyway, I get there and was disappointed to see that while there was definitely a gay/rocker vibe, there were also A TON of straight people milling around in baggy jeans and over-sized t-shirts. This is a lesbian bar, right? Meow Mix. What’s up with the abundance of  hetero couples milling around? So, I remember chatting with a few people and leaving mostly disappointed by the overall lack of gayness involved. I would later go to XL, a gay boy club in Chelsea to see Jai Rodriguez (Angel in RENT) perform his cabaret show and that did NOT disappoint. It was basically Babylon come to life and it was everything I wanted it to be.

Laneia, Executive Editor:

I’d been out for a few months and was living in a city where I knew absolutely no one — not even myself. After searching for lesbian bars in the area, I found the one nearest my house and concluded that I’d just go, alone, which is totally out of character.

Going out to bars or clubs or really anywhere at all was something that I didn’t have much experience with, due to marriage and children, so I had no idea which night of the week was best, what time I should get there or even what I was supposed to wear.

I’m pretty sure I showed up at 9:00 p.m., wearing a brown sweater (you guys wtf) and the most awkward shoes I owned. I sat alone at a table for what felt like at least six years, drinking cheap beer and texting people, until other humans finally started to trickle in. Everyone was older than me and everyone was with another someone, obviously. The place was filling up and I decided I needed to go home before I burst into tears, but then a group of cute queer girls — who looked like me! (albeit better dressed) — came to my table and asked if the extra seats were taken. They were all very adorable and normal and I ended up dancing with the flirty femme who was there, I believe, to celebrate her break-up and the shorter half of the cute couple who would later invite me to a few barbecues at their sweet little house where there was a tiny puppy named Turtle. One time we even went to Dairy Queen for ice cream.

So see? Even the most hellaciously humiliating and uncomfortable nights can result in cute girls, puppies, and frozen treats.

Rachel, Senior News Editor:

The first time I ever went to a gay bar I had fairly recently turned 21, and I went to the Friday evening ‘ladies night’ at a mediocre regular bar. I was going with my friend and her new girlfriend, who I hadn’t really met before this outing and the whole night was partially meant for me to be introduced to her. The club we went to has since become fixed in my head as a sort of depressing place, as it has been consistently only kind of okay every time I’ve been there, but at the time it seemed like it could maybe be exciting? I think the fantasy (for all of us) was that we would enter this giant room full of cool, fun, cute gay girls and think to ourselves “Wow, I had no idea there were so many of us in this city, this is so great, these are my people! I LOVE BEING GAY.”

In actuality it was a pretty small crowd, even though it was like 11:00 p.m. (which is lateish in Boston). Everyone seemed to have come with a group of friends, and there was no real ‘mingling.’ My friend and her girlfriend were completely obsessed with each other and didn’t pay much attention to me, so I got an overpriced drink and drank it too fast while they ignored me and then wished I hadn’t finished it so soon because I didn’t have enough money for another one. On top of all this, the new girlfriend was Israeli, and in the dark bar with loud music and both of them were pretty soft-spoken I could not for the life of me parse what her name was. It got to the point where I had reached the limit of times you can ask someone to repeat something without being weird, so I had to give up and instead spent much of the night texting my other Israeli friend, telling her my best guesses for what I had heard and getting her suggestions for what this chick’s name could possibly be.

There was a pretty sizable contingent of middle-aged women in a wide variety of hats on the dance floor, and I remember being irrationally nervous that I would run into one of my mom’s friends somehow. Moral of the story, my friend and her girlfriend moved to Israel together like five months later and I eventually found better gay bars in Boston.

Riese, Editor-in-Chief:

This is actually hard to remember! I oddly went to many gay bars way before realizing I was gay — when I was 18/19 living in NYC I went to heaps of gayboy bars with my gayboy friends. I also brunched and so forth at Ann Arbor, Michigan’s \aut\ bar, where my Mom has been hanging out since 1995, but never at night.

During Thanksgiving 2001 (I was 20) in Michigan, when my boyfriend was out of town, my lesbian roommate and her crew (mostly old friends of ours) corralled me into going to  Stilleto, a lez-bar outside of Detroit. I was sort of defensively uncomfortable. I think back then when something turned me on and I didn’t want it to, it manifested itself as disgust instead, which is what I told myself I was feeling as I gaped at the Drag King Contest from a booth and this one girl strutting around to D’Angelo. I remember feeling weird and I remember two women asking me if I had a girlfriend (I said yes, I didn’t want to be the “no, A BOYFRIEND” girl) and my friends dancing with each other while I leaned against the wall, pretending to be bored and out of place.

The first time I went to a gay bar as a gay person was probs Starlette on the last day of Pride 2005. I went with my bi-friend Chase, who I’d met on Craigslist, and who I’d keep going out with all summer, along with other girls who liked girls and also a lot of girls who mostly liked drugs, which was another thing that happened that summer.

But that night we were both really scared and new. We stood up against the wall facing the bar, not talking to each other or to anyone else. I’m 95% sure I had a lot of product in my hair and was wearing an outfit I probably copied from Shane.

I remember Chase saying, “oh my god, it’s just like The L Word” because oh my fucking god every girl in that place was so beautiful/stylish and my age. I’d never seen anything like it. But also, it wasn’t like Stiletto where strangers would actually approach you, everyone was very intimidating and busy. We didn’t even go in back, which I’d later learn was where the dancing and fun happened. We stood there for like an hour not talking to anyone.

Actually I just checked my diary (yes I keep records of everything that’s ever happened ever) to see if I could remember anything else about that night and it turns out I’m wrong, actually. My first gay bar as a gay person was like a month earlier; Nowhere, which is in the East Village and had a girl’s night on Mondays. I went there straight from work to meet a girl I’d talked to on nerve.com who was super cute. There were maybe 10 people there. Eventually we went back to my apartment.  The bar itself was unremarkable.


Tell us your first gay bar experience! Did you stand in the corner, hook up in the bathroom or leave disappointed by all the straight people?

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Jess is a pop culture junkie living in New York City. She enjoys endless debates about The L Word, Howard Stern, new techy gadgets, DVR, exploring the labyrinth of the Lesbian Internet, memoirs, working out, sushi, making lists, artsy things, anything Lady Gaga touches, traveling, puppies, and nyc in the fall. Find her on Twitter @jessxnyc or via email.

Jess has written 267 articles for us.

119 Comments

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    To briefly sum up my first gay bar experience in Boston:
    *It was the summer after turning 21
    *My ex had just dumped me (thus making me extremely emotional)
    *I met up with a girl I barely knew online
    *I hadn’t eaten all day and there was tons of pregaming and mixing of alcohol

    All the these factors led to me drunkenly dancing all over the place, spilling beer all over the dance floor, blacking out and passing out in the tiniest one stall bathroom in the world, and being carried home by lesbians that hardly knew my name.
    SO EMBARRASSING. But I learned my lesson. I like to think everyone went through that time.

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    It was the weekend after my 21st birthday. I went to the Cubby Hole with my gayboy friend. It was a Saturday night at around 11, when you can’t get 2 inches of room. After a creepy middle-aged straight man bought both my friend and I drinks, we found 2 stools in the back corner. I was wearing stilettos (which is very rare for me), and I had my heels on the stool. With vodka-cranberry in hand, I fell. I got up, not realizing that my knee was bleeding, and I started feeling really dizzy and had a really intense panic attack. Good times.

    The first gay bar I actually went to was Vlada Lounge, a gayboy bar in Hell’s Kitchen, but it was really mellow. I was also under 21 then.

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    My first gay bar..I was 22, it was my last night in SF after moving my bff there for law school (i’d never been gay west of Wichita), and we went to the lex.drank a shit ton of PBR, played pool and did business with a cute queer girl, then ended up taking home a girl on holiday from the UK.perfect.

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          you’re right. metro does always usually have a decently mixed crowd. i thought of it right away, but then realized they’re specifically listing manhattan bars.

          im just curious because i would love somewhere to go with all my gay boys that has more than 2 females there. lord knows i’ve put in my good friend fair share at the ritz and barracuda

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    so i didnt go to gay bars for a long time (despite legal age in my city being 18, and despite already knowing i was full homo), i just went to hipster bars and made out with girls there….
    anyways pretty sure i was living in toronto the first time i truly went to a gay bar. i didnt want to go out that night but it was my gaybour’s birthday and they all convinced me to come to fly, a huge gay club with about 98% men, literally.
    i came a little after midnight, told myself i was staying for ONE drink, and then going home. i had my one drink, turns out it was definetly spiked with E. i eventually wandered out of the gay bar about 7:20 am (yes, it was open that late), and on my way out the bouncer reminded me that it was mothers day……
    somewhere in between midnight and 7 am i made friends with the ONLY other not straight girl there. i made friends with her because she walked past me not wearing a shirt. or a bra. most of the men had their shirts off and i guess she decided to join in. being accidentally drugged up, i somehow thought it was appropriate to go over tell her how nice her boobs were (because they really really were!!). next thing i know we are very much hooking up in the bathroom.
    about 6 am we’re dancing and HER BOYFRIEND comes over. she introduces me to him. i shake his hand and say “its nice to meet you, im sorry for just fucking your girlfriend”. surprisingly, he was more shocked than upset.

    so yeah, first gay bar experience, slightly memorable…..
    cant believe im about to post this on the internet, hurray.

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    It was on my 21st birthday, in a small town gay bay in Sarasota called The Alley, which doesn’t exist anymore. It was a Tuesday night so no one was there. I got really drunk on a rum and coke which more accurately should be called “a rum with a drop of coke.” That Friday they had a Kathy Griffin party so my sister insisted we go back. We did. All her friends from high school were there. It was a range of people from ages 18 to 80. None of the girls seemed interested in me. I sort of don’t count this because of how unremarkable it was.

    The following year in New York I went to Cubby Hole with a few friends but we left pretty quickly because it was so crowded. We went to Stonewall where we danced and it was a lot of fun. Then this girl asked me to dance and we ended up dating for like three weeks. I prefer to call this story my “first” gay bar experience since at least something happened.

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      I loved the Alley, I still miss it even though I’m in NYC now too… weird. It was kinda clique-y though, mingling was minimal in my experience, unless you knew someone who knew someone. When Anita Beverage hosted a weekly drag show it was pretty outrageous.

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    Rachel, what are these “better gay bars in Boston” you speak of? All I know are Midway on Thursdays and Machine on alternating Saturdays. That can’t really be it, can it? How can a city as full of lady-gays as Boston, the eponymous city of “Boston marriages”, capital of the first US state to legalize gay marriage, have so few venues for queer girls to get their drink and dance on?

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      OK, so you’re right in that my two favorite bar situations are Midway and Machine. In their defense, I do think Midway is really fun, albeit not the huge industrial nightclub sexytime extravaganza that you see on TV shows. (I think that is actually why I like it though b/c I hate those?) I want to also say good things about Machine and I go fairly regularly, it is frequently described to me as “Boston’s best lesbian night,” the truth is that for some reason every fucking time I go I end up somewhere between “on the verge of blacked out” and “really just totally 100% blacked out.” So I don’t have much in the way of details. It’s pretty fun though and there are lots of girls!

      I also kind of like Guerilla Queer Bar, there are a lot of dudes but it’s a fun crowd. Also sometimes they crash really fancy places that would never ever ever let me in otherwise, and that’s kind of special. There’s also GirlSpot, which is a new thing that just started and I think it’s one Saturday a month or something? I haven’t been yet though, you’ll have to report back.

      Other Bostonians, feel free to share!

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        :) No need to defend ‘em to me, I love Midway (and yeah, it’s partly because it’s “not the huge industrial nightclub sexytime extravaganza that you see on TV shows”) and dancing at Machine is super fun.

        But together those represent only five nights in an average month..what I wonder is, are there any permanent, regular, open-most-nights girl bars? (Or dives. I like dives.) Places where every night is dyke night? It just seems like Boston oughta be big enough and queer enough to support at least one…

        There’s got to be an equation calculating how many lesbian bars/clubs a city can support, based on some combination of its population, number of colleges, amount of public transportation, estimated number of “Shane” nodes, and fauxhawk ratio. You math nerds, y’all get on that.

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        Late to this party, but one of my favorite nights in Boston is “Heroes” at TT The Bear’s every Saturday. It’s not explicitly gay but just generally queer — you have gay boys, some lesbians, and lots of people of indeterminate inclinations. People of every shape and variety.

        They play fun music and it’s never packed to capacity, and, if you don’t wanna dance, they have pool tables.

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    I went to my first gay bar in College Station, Texas just a few months ago. I went with a few of my straight friends, hoping to get all those homosexual urges out of my system for good. Well, I ended up dancing with a girl wearing a tight black top and realizing that all I wanted to do in this world was kiss that girl forever, so I announced to the entire club (drunkenly): “I’m a lesbian!” And then I added: “Oh god my parents are republicans!” and started sobbing. And then my friends and the gay boys nearby hugged me and someone gave me a dollar to give to the drag queen on stage. It was wonderful.

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    Me and my friends snuck out for Atlanta Pride last year with a story that we were going to Six Flags over Georgia. (My friend’s homophobic mom was going on about DEBAUCHERY! and how it was like Mardi Gras, and we would see things there that we could never unsee, ever.)
    We went to the Peach Mega Dance Party, We got there when it first opened, at nine. And I guess that’s not what the cool kids do, because hardly anyone else was there. We sat there for about an hour. I don’t think I’ve ever really appreciated older lesbians before, but they’re pretty brave, and can dance…well, at least better than I can. They were the first few couples on the dance floor while the rest of us sat around and waited for everyone else to start dancing. After about an hour of songs from a previous generation (I really should’ve stuck with those, easier to dance to than hip-hop), they finally opened the upstairs, which had more of a club-type atmosphere. And if anyone knows a really cute Asian girl of indiscriminate age that hit on a scared little white kid – tell her that she was really very lovely, and to PLEASE CONTACT ME SOMEHOW BECAUSE OH MY GOD WHY WAS I SO STUPID AND RAN AWAY TO MY FRIENDS?!

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    A bunch of my friends went to the only gay bar in town when I was only 18, and they were all 21. They managed to sneak me in despite me freaking the fuck out about getting caught, but all I did was spend the first half keeping them out of trouble while also dancing with the charming, shirtless gay guys because I was too nervous to actually find another queer girl to dance with. The rest of the time I stayed upstairs and watched the same drag show twice and ended up giving up most of my money for tips.

    Also, there was IHOP afterwards, because we live in Tennessee, and it’s the only thing open after two in the morning.

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    I have only ever been to clubs aimed at gay dudes because there aren’t any good ones for lesbians that I know of in Providence, where I go to school. One was a drag queen bar that my roommate and I got into free after our school’s drag show, and between the club and the drag show we lost our hearing to about 4,000 plays of Rude Boy. (Like… our ears were buzzing the entire next day.) Then we went to another one that was more Babylon-esque but still smaller, and I got uncomfortable and annoyed because a bunch of dudes were getting all up in my personal space (straight. poachers.) and I couldn’t assume that the small number of girls were gay because so many straight people go there (and straight girls go with their GBFs so they don’t get hit on, hah hah hah). Meanwhile my roommate had abandoned me for a boy he was about to engage in 24/7 Lady Gaga-heavy texts with.
    Sooo… I still have not had a good gay club experience! Also I do not dance or drink, so. There’s not much for me to do in a club.

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    This post is actually very personal and relevant in my coming out story. Probably the best years of my life. To surmise my experience Ill just say some key words:

    1) Tiger Heat — West Hollywood, CA before it moved to the Avalon. Back when Britney Spears would randomly show up.
    2) Madonna — “Hung Up” from Confessions on a Dance Floor ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDwb9jOVRtU ) If you haven’t heard it, its the best gay club music EVER!
    3) Vodka — any kind really but if I was feeling fancy Grey Goose
    4) Water bottles — to pour vodka and oj in them and drink it before entering the club (hey I was 18!)
    5) Table Dancing — We all did it
    6) Gay Boys
    7) Bisexual Girls
    8) Clueless boyfriend (future ex) at home.

    There you go! The best years of my life. Well before I 21 at least.

    You brought back happy memories.

    <3 <3 <3 <3

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    After many months of tagging along with them to gay men clubs, my gaggle of gay boys decided they wanted to take me out in thanks for putting my supreme wingman skills to good use. They had concocted a plan to find me (apparently many) ladies, and then escorted me to Sisters, the only girl bar they knew of in Philly. Flanked by no less than 5 boys, I walked up to the bar and ordered the first drink I could think of: a cosmo. Couple that with my high heels, long hair and the impeccably dressed men around me and it really isn’t much of a surprise that everyone at the bar thought we were lost. Looking back, it really did look like I was a straight girl out with a bunch of baby gays who hadn’t realized that Sisters caters primarily to women. Whoops.

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    My gay older brother took me to my first lesbian bar. I was visiting him in d.c., and he was like, you need to be going to lesbian bars. so he found one and dragged my ass there. i don’t remember the name of the bar, or where it was, but i do remember that he was the only guy there, and this did not bother him at all. unlike me, i think he talked to every women in the bar.

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    I was 18, I was in high school and I went to the Gay 90’s in Minneapolis. Most. Awkward. Night. Ever. I knew nobody. I just wandered around and tried to figure out where the hell I fit in between a bunch of FABULOUS gay men and about 5 bachelorette paries. I considered myself 100% awesome because I bought a pack of cigarettes and smoked a couple outside…you know, waiting for the hottest girl there to come up to me and be all “hey there.” It didn’t happen and I ended up going back home to study for a test. Rockin.

    The End.

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    My first gay bar experience was Rain in downtown Austin, I was just visiting and happened to just have turned 18. I gotta say, it was a pretty good time. Realizing that there was this whole other world out there, it was such a great experience.

    Reise, I read about your experience at Starlette…is that somewhere in the Ann Arbor? I’m a UofM student and the best gay bar that I can find around here is Necto on Friday nights which isn’t exactly crawling with lesbians lol. Aut bar these days seems like a place for older 30-some people to go. Any recommendations for other places around here?

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    my friends and i left prom early and went to a drag show at a lesbian bar. one of my friends knew one of the performers so they let us in even though we were clearly underage. i had one sip of an alcoholic beverage. this was the only remotely bad-ass thing i did in high school.

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    Man, I remember sneaking into the gay bar in my hometown as a teenager, which is, as of this writing, the only gay bar in my state.

    I think one of the most frustrating things for me about gay bars, or at least MY gay bar, is that it’s all gay men and straight women. I’m not a hater, but every once in awhile, a lady wants a shot, you know? It’s like playing the world’s worst game of minesweeper.

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          OH MY GOD YES THE LOFT. THIS IS A MAGICAL WEBSITE.

          I grudgingly admit to going all the damn time, in the high hopes that someday there will actually be a gay girl there, and she will notice that I am wearing a rainbow scarf and am not straight, and we will rock the fuck out and have some too-expensive drinks together while kvetching about being gay in MT.

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          Oh, Montana. :) Good luck out there! I do definitely tend to up at the Loft from time to time when I’m back home and out with friends, but it can be an odd place – at times totally dead, at other times filled with a sketchy, rough crowd, etc. It is totally a scene for gay men, straight women, and folks looking to “be crazy by going to a gay bar”. Oh and couples looking for a third – every damn time I’m in that place there is a skeevy couple on the prowl. When we were there a couple of years ago, we watched a (slightly older) woman ask a girl to dance. The girl’s friends were gawking, taking photos, and giggling while their friend danced with this woman. It was so sad and reminded me why I had to get the hell out of Billings the minute I graduated from high school.

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          I’m trying to get the hell out, but I need to finish my degree so I can afford to leave Montana, where booze is practically subsidized because HOW ELSE CAN YOU LIVE HERE?

          But yeah, I’ve been approached to be a third a number of times like it is EVERY LESBIAN’S DREAM

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          You’d think it would have a gay bar, wouldn’t you? It used to, as I understand it, but it went the way of the dodo…hunted to death by Dutchmen.

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          I thought Missoula had a gay bar – maybe AmVets? Though maybe it isn’t an openly gay bar. Do you ever go to Missoula, Randi? I used to drive up there with my friends in high school to escape Billings. I definitely still love that town. I was there for a Brandi Carlile show last year and it seemed like they have a pretty robust community there.

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          I think AmVets used to have homosexy dances, but I haven’t heard of them going on for a few years now. I’m not sure though, but I know it isn’t a an openly gay bar, it might just be a bar where gay people hang.

          I go to Missoula every so often because they have some awesome drag shows, though the Loft has been hosting some really choice ones lately as well. I used to go more often, but the older I get, the less hanging out around campus with friends cruising for gay girls sounds awesome and not creepy.

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    You’d think being in San Francisco for college would make it easy to go to a gay bar, but not when you just turned 19. My first gay bar experience was at a place called The Crib. I thought it would be floor to ceiling gays and lesbians, but most of the girls were either straight, bi and not obvious, or hardcore lesbians out with their friends/girlfriends. I was of course shy and awkward, but by the end of the night I was dancing with all 200 people.

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    I was 19, and my girlfriend/roommate and I went to a lesbian bar in Spokane, WA called Spitfire (doesn’t exist anymore) with her rugby team. She and I snuck in the back, and it was the most perfect small-town bar I could imagine. Wood paneling, pool tables, and a clientele of older couples with their coupled friends… our group was easily the youngest in the place, I’m actually surprised nobody carded me.
    I wasn’t out to anyone but close friends, but I felt so happy and comfortable there. I, too, got embarrassingly drunk, but it was such an amazing night.

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    Summer after I turned 18: I made my friend (a German exchange student) drive me because I could not (and still can’t) navigate DC streets for shit. He’d never been to a gay club either, and we spent the car ride working out elaborate signals for rescue and regroup operations. Anyway, it was the first time I’d seen a concentrated group of gay people and it was awesome. My friend and I worked together looking for dance partners, and asking them on behalf of the other so as to circumvent the awkward approach- shameful retreat thing that usually happens when you go in solo.
    Bathrooms. It really doesn’t matter which one you pick now does it?
    Thus began my club phase.

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    My first gay bar experience was long before I came out. I went to a lesbian club with a few gay girls from my dorm. The most dramatic gay girls I have ever met. I ended up taking care of my friend’s ex (who she had just broken up with a week before) while my friend made out with some girl. Since I was DD I got to listen to them drunkenly fight for the two hour drive back to our university.

    While the night didn’t help me discover my gayness, it did introduce me to the wonderful world of 90s music videos. I call it a win.

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    My first gay bar experience reminds me of how much of a baaad queermo I am. It was six months ago (I’m 21, but you can drink waaay earlier in my country), when my very straight guy friends decided the shots were cheaper there, and we needed to go (they’d ‘take one for the team’).

    So yeah, I’d been dying to go for ages (my group(s) of friends was(were) mostly straight peeps, although I’m involved with queer culture as well.

    Thing is, I live in a pretty small town, so I basically *knew everyone there*. I was with all my straight friends, four of them paired up (heterosexually) and kinda heavy on the PDA. I guess the people there thought I was straight too, and having a girlfriend, I wasn’t about to go kiss a girl to prove them otherwise. It took a toll… on my soul, being mistaken for a non-queer.

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    I had been to so many gay bars and actually performed, like done burlesque at a few before I went to one all “HEY,I’m a gay too!”

    But yeah. It was last year with this girl I was hanging out with. We didn’t dance but we drank a lot and made out in the back by the bathroom and possibly maybe hooked up in the parking lot. And I feel like that’s what everyone’s first gay bar experience should be like.

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    My first gaybar experience was when I was 21, one day after I realised that I was indeed a lesbian.

    I was with the first girl I had ever had feelings for and..boy had I fallen hard. I had only known her a day and we were at a straight club in Sydney for her friends birthday. We ended up in the bathrooms and she whispered to me “do you wanna come with me to a girls night”…I was all woah YES. So we left the straight club and got in a taxi to a bar on Oxford St. As soon as we walked in past the guy at the door with his teeny tiny hat on I knew we were somewhere way more exciting!

    I was so overwhelmed because I was the only girl in there with a dress on and had long hair. ALSO this girl must have known over 85% of the girls in the place. so I felt pretty weird not knowing anyone. (looking back it makes so much more sense now as I have become much more involved in the gay scene)

    By 5am I had:

    – been pushed over by some chick
    – had a drink spilled on me by same chick
    – saved my “girl” from some random in the bathrooms
    – drank some crazy looking blue drink
    – danced my butt off
    – met about 100 people but still didn’t know anyone’s names

    and it was awesome!

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    I went to S4 (which is mostly for gay men and their straight girl besties but still with a decent amount of lesbians) with my gay boyfriend Josh (who until that night was not aware that I was a lesbian) and my extremely supportive straight best friend Stephanie. I drank for the first time and I forgot how to walk. I’m pretty sure Stephanie hit on more girls than me. I did begin my trend of hitting on girls named Shannon, though. (There’s been a Shannon 3 out of the 4 times that I’ve ever been to a gay bar. I think I’ll marry a woman named Shannon…) Shannon number 1 had a girlfriend, but she still thought I was pretty, which was the highlight of my life until I met Shannon number 2 and Shannon number 3! Good times.

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    My first experience of a gay bar was in the may of this year due to the fact that I wasn’t actually 18 until may. It literally only had about 3 straight guys in the whole lesbian bar so after drinking my overpriced drink we all went off to the pub and drank pitchers until closing time. Pretty good night overall but as far as my first experience of a gay bar goes I can’t pretend I wasn’t a little disappointed.

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    Some of my friends took me to a small gay bar in Toronto. I was about 20 years old and a bit confused about my sexuality. There were a lot of drag qeens parading and we gave a lot of money. Sadly I didn’t get to meet people and was too shy with strangers. I am more at ease with people in cafes where my hearing loss won’t be a problem there.

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    Hmmm… The first time I went to a gay bar I’m pretty sure I don’t remember – it was back when I was dating guys and I was dating this bisexual boy who was really involved in the gay community of his city, and we just went there with a few of his friends to have drinks. I don’t remember much about it to be honest, it was just like any other bar for me – and I thought I was straight at the time, and it was a mixed bar, there were as many lesbians as there were gays, so it didn’t look that different from any other bar if you didn’t pay closer attention.

    Oh wait no, that’s silly of me to say ! Actually I went to gay bars long before that – I tend to forget I’m a huge fag hag and that I have that kind of a gaydar that will scream “HOME” whenever I’m near anything gay. So yeah, even before that I used to hang out at queer/gay bars all of the time in my own city, I would bring my friends there thinking “oh this place is super cool you have to come with me there” only to realise afterwards that we were at a gay bar. Hum.

    The first time I went to a lesbian bar… This one I do remember. First off, because there aren’t that many lesbian bars over here. Like, there will be strictly gay bars, or gay friendly places, or bars with mixed crowds, but strictly lesbian places ? Not so much.

    So anyways, that was two year ago, I had just broken up with my boyfriend from before, and my best friend here had just came out, and she needed someone to go out with and I just wanted to party and since I’ve always been into the queer scene I was like “sure, I’ll come with you!”. Still pretty sure I was straight though, heh. Straight as in “I’m not into girls per se but if the right one comes along and I fall in love with her then I won’t fight it”. Sexuality is fluid, it’s about persons, etc. But still.
    I had been fighting with this for a long time. I would openly say that but within me I would think that I’d never be attracted to another woman cause that was disgusting… Very much like Riese, actually. I think the thought of being a lesbian was so scary, I so didn’t want it to be true that I went to hate instead of accepting what I was feeling or who I was.

    Aaaanyways, back to the matter at hands ! So I went to that lesbian bar with my best friend, and it was so unexpected ! There were panties hanging over the bar, loads of cute little dykes with short haircuts, the place was packed, the music was good and I was just thinking OMG I love this place. We stayed for a couple of hours but nobody was dancing yet (it was maybe midnight on a Saturday night… So that was weird).
    We had gone to a lesbian night on a boat a couple of weeks before that and I looked so obviously straight (long blonde hair, skirt, heels) that nobody approached me, so I didn’t expect it would happen there either, although I was probably wearing something else that night… I don’t really remember to be honest.
    Anyways, so after that couple of hours drinking sangria by ourselves, and seeing that everybody looked good but nobody was talking to anyone except their friends, we decided to go home… And as we were walking out of the bar, this cute chick with a pixie haircut came to us and basically convinced us not to leave and paid us shots, and her friend was super cute as well, and I ended up hooking up with her friend and following her to the club next door and spending the whole night just dancing and making out with her.

    And that’s pretty much the start of my “becoming a lesbian” path.

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    I was 19 the first time I went to a gay bar. I went with my straight roommate because we wanted to dance and it was the only place in our midwestern college town that would (a)Let us in even though we were underage and (b)wasn’t a house party. We got there godawful early and there were maybe 8 people on the dancefloor–two gay boys and a bunch of straight women. This didn’t matter to my (drunk) roommate so we danced anyway. At one point a very drunk straight girl asked us if we were lesbians, “because that would be so cute!” Roommate laughed and said no. I mumbled something about not liking labels, because I was still 90% in the closet (or so I thought–everyone else totally knew I was a lesbian, even back then).

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    Freshman year of college I was dragged to Apex in DC. I think at the time I had fun. I never went back though, and Apex has since – so I hear- closed. I remember finding out after I left that the girl I had a crush on was there and not being able to talk to her. I also remember getting back and telling my roommate where I’d been and that she reacted with “but you don’t seem like the kind of person who goes to bars.”

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    Is Diva’s really no one else’s first gay bar experience? I find that surprising, especially considering the usual nightly makeup of 40% 18 year old college students with one foot out of the closet, 40% middle-aged homo couples from Northampton, and 20% straight people who just love Drag Wars.

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      wow, i’m posting a super long time after the original question, but my first gay bar experience was as a first-year in noho. only this was 1997, and the dyke bar of choice was the Grotto, a little hole in the wall on green street next to east heaven hot tubs. there i sat with lea delaria after a show and tried to work up the courage to order an actual drink just to see if the bartender would card me; i made out with a classmate whose name i think i remember; and i heard more remixed cher and madonna than is healthy for anyone. it’s been gone for years, but it still holds a place of honor in my heart.

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    My first gaybar excursion was to a club in Providence that didn’t card very thoroughly, which was good because I was waay underage. All my friends thought it was seedy but I loved it. The DJ played a lot of Rihanna and reggaeton (Lady Gaga hadn’t invented herself yet). I climbed on top of some speakers, got hit on by a 40-something lesbian, somehow acquired a glow necklace, and tried to dance with all the pretty girls only to find out they already had girlfriends. It was pretty great.

    I hear the place is closed now, due to either liquor violations or someone pulling a gun there. But I’m thankful for my first babygay experience there.

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    The first time I went to a gay bar was on my 21st birthday. I celebrated with my friends during the day, and then a girl from OK Cupid asked me out that evening! It was the bar’s grand re-opening (Coale’s, in St. Paul – the only women-specific bar in the Twin Cities as far as I know), so there were free shots and sidecars and stuff.

    Anyway, I wore a pair of pumps that were a little too big and kept falling off, so I wore them with long pants and used book-binding tape to secure them to my feet. Luckily the bar was loud, so no one heard the crinkling noises I made when I walked! My “date” was super cute, but she had apparently invited ALL her friends (like 20-some people), so kept jumping up to greet them, texting on her phone, getting into convos that I couldn’t participate in, etc. I had some great drinks, a fabulous burger, and ended up chatting with the girl’s friends more than her. I don’t think we talked at all, actually. I had fun, but felt kind of isolated (I stayed at the bar the whole time because I absolutely cannot dance), so I went home after a few hours.

    When I got home, I ripped my pumps off and discovered that I had tape-marks as a souvenir from the evening. :D

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    I came out in my 3rd year at uni, went on the LGBT fresher’s bar crawl and met the first girl I’d ever hook up with (many, many times). She lived with my classmates and had bet them I was gay, which they wouldn’t believe. She was cute, I made lasting friends that night and went back to the bar every week after that. Now I live in a city with one terrible gay bar, and always feel nostalgic for our little gay village.

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    The first time I went to a gay bar I was 16 years old. It was a gay men’s bar and my host sister and I (I was an exchange student at the time) were the only females in that place. It was funny as hell and everyone bought us drinks :)

    The first time I went to a gay bar as a gay identified person I was 17. I was sooo excited that everyone around me was gay. GAY, GAY, GAY!!! But nobody else seemed to notice. I was all by myself and kept smiling the entire time. The older lezzies at the table next to me must have thought I was completely nuts.

    Then I went back to the straight world, trying to be a roaring heterosexual (which didn’t work out obviously). Soooo… I had a second coming out and a second first time at the gay bar. I was 20 and I went with my best gay boyfriend, who had just come out to me. We were very excited (even though it was a Tuesday at a tiny small town gay bar), which is hilarious looking back at it now :)

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    my first gay bar experience was at a mixed bar/club. the night was kind of a disaster. the whole time i was either stalking this cute girl i was terrified to talk to or being molested on the dance floor by a VERY drunk, married straight man. not an ideal situation for my first big gay night out…

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    SO.

    There’s this two story gay club in your hometown, we’ll call it “Sevennn” for the purpose of this story. They don’t card, so that’s how you got in back then. You weren’t expecting to end up there, it just kind of happened – hence the flipflops.

    Anyway, you pay the parking attendant five bucks and a cigarette to watch your car, because this club isn’t in the best area of town. This parking attendant is actually just a homeless man who walks around the lot with a bat to scare off potential theives.

    It’s secretly-BYOB, so you pass a bag of 4Lokos through a gap in the fence to a scrawny man who says it’ll be waiting upstairs for you. “Upstairs” is the balcony that overlooks tonight’s drag show.

    Once drunk, you make your way downstairs to dance. In flip flops. I KNOW. You recognize some kids from high school who you totally got that “vibe” from, but weren’t really sure about. You proceed to have a great time.

    Upon leaving, you hug the parking attendant because he did such a good job of watching the car and give him the rest of your Newports as a tip.

    YOU GUYS, THAT WAS ME.

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      HAHAHAHA the homeless man is my favorite part. I can’t get over how much that story made me giggle. Your hometown must have been a good place because I know my hometown didn’t have a single bar or club anywhere, let alone for gays.

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    I was 19. One guy in our college group was out and was fed up with always having to do straight things with us. Purely coincidentally (duh), I was the most willing to do gay stuff with him.

    We went to a mixed bar on a night that something huge was happening at the nearby leather bar. Three feet into the bar my friend disappeared into the packed crowd. Another step and a woman a full foot shorter than me and decked out in more leather / studs / uniform than I’d ever seen on one person marched up and cupped my crotch.

    I stared her down (in shock, but she didn’t know that). She shrugged and walked away. At the bar two guys I didn’t know laughed, affectionately patted my shoulder, and bought me a drink. I spent the rest of the night dancing with these guys, my friend, and their friends.

    By the summer that group of gayboys had adopted me as their official fruit fly. One of the best summers of my life.

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    CUBBYHOLE! CUBBYHOLE! CUBBYHOLE! Holy fuck.

    I basically lived there for a fortnight in September 2008. I had two weeks in New York and all I did was see Broadway shows and befriend random queers in Cubbyhole. It was glorious.

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    You guys I’m pretty sure my first gay bar experience was last year’s autostraddle rodeo disco, just sayin’. That was like, 3 days after I turned 21. I was kind of terrified to go but it turned out pretty great ;)

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      ok wait. I’m sorry. I lied. I definitely went to at least one gay bar when I was in London in the spring of 2010. (And got left behind by my gay-boy friends because I had attached myself to a cute British girl and her friends and then only made it home by a stroke of pure luck – aka I had no idea where I was and a bus pulled up that was going somewhere I knew how to walk home from…) But I think rodeo disco was my first one in the U.S.

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    My first gay bar was OZZ in Buena Park. It was 18+ and if you were 21+ you always got in for free or a reduced price. It was this makeshift restaurant/club with a full kitchen that served greasy food late into the night. The bar area was off limits unless you had the 21+ wristband to get in and order a drink. It was small, cramped, crowded but man was it a good time. Go-go dancers were wildly inappropriately while on their little go-go boxes and that’s where I first saw Rajah from RuPaul’s Drag Race.

    My first time there my friend convinced me to play wing-man and her less than subtle approach towards some girls resulted in them being really rude to us. Already awkwardly shy it didn’t help my confidence much.

    Thankfully I recovered and continued to go out, though I’m *still* very shy in bars today…which can be a hindrance here in LA’s club scene.

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    My first gay bar was Ginger’s in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Me, the newbie, versus a bar full of softball players from Prospect Park celebrating a game win. Homosexuality confirmed!

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    Oh, the memories.

    It was in my first year of college, and I was so desperate to go to a gay bar for real. My old town didn’t have one, and I was dying to finally meet other queer people. I didn’t dare to ask any of the people at my college, who I just met, to join me. (A whole different problem: we had this 600-person college and NO ONE was openly gay. Never felt really at home being queer there.) So, I asked this bisexual girl who I knew from this lameass random forum I used to hang out at to take me under her wing and take the big leap into the unknown territories known as A Gay Bar.

    We enter. I expected this radiant room, filled to the brim with all cute queer girls, all welcoming me to their secret club. Instead it’s all men, of the flaming homosexual kind that still slightly scares me a bit when they surround me in large numbers. We make our way to the back. Six 40-year-old butches on bar stools just sit there and stare at me. I feel so self conscious, as if thrown in front of a Proove Me You’re Gay Enough Council. (Of course, this is all in my head. To them, I probably radiate ‘clueless young babygay with an alternative lifestyle haircut’ from all my pores.) Me and my chaperone are the only girls under 30. We drink a bit, dance a bit, only to come to the conclusion that we’re very very bored.

    It might have been a gay bar, but in practice, it was just as boring as any other old regular bar that’s not quite your cup of tea. Needless to say, 18-year-old me was very disappointed. After that, I never really got into the habit of going to the gay bars in town. The ones here just suck. But I’m looking forward to going to ‘proper’ lesbian bars when in a bigger town/abroad. :) Baby steps, baby steps. We’ll get there.

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    I used a fake ID that looked nothing like me at all. I would circle the strip for 30 minutes trying to position chewing gum behind the gap of my two front teeth so that I had the woman’s perfect smile, if nothing else but the sex right. (Hehe, no pun intended.) My friend, who was of age, hated this preparation time that I called “getting into character.” It worked twice before I took the walk of shame at the biggest gay bar here. I’m a terrible liar so it was kind of like, “Yeah, that’s not me. Keep up the good work!”

    I got in one other time before I was legal ’cause I was with this *fine* Brazilian woman that sweet talked the doorman. She was g-g-g-gorgeous. In a town like this with a woman like that you are not doing anything without getting noticed. So it was up to her, not my McGiver tactics and chewing gum, to get me in. It went great until she disappeared to the bathroom and came out high on something, I didn’t know what. I’m not naive but I’d never seen these effects. She could have very well just lost her mind but I’m assuming pills of some sort had kicked in. It was like the twilight zone. One second I was like, “Yeah she’s with me.” And the next it was, “Hey! Isn’t she with you!? Get her out of here!” She was our driver, too! So when I stood up and fumbled around, exposing to everyone including myself how drunk I’d actually gotten, our exit was not too discrete. They take your ID’s for whatever reason when you come in and on your way out you get them back. So on our way out, since my other friend needed her legit one, we had to stop. The drag queen working the door tried to find an ID that looked like me and big shocker- there wasn’t one! There’s something about having a sweaty, tired, frustrated, drag queen with dripping make up bark at you in a dark cramped doorway that will set a fire under your butt. (On the other hand, not to be insensitive, but REALLY! She probably didn’t look much like her ID either. But I picked my battles that night.) I ran stumbling down the gayborhood streets screaming let’s go, let’s go, we have to leave immediately this night is bat shit crazy! Meanwhile leaving one behind, dragging one out, with a door-lady taking off her wig and screaming in a mans voice something about how drunk I was, served me right. Haha “We can’t be certain who the villains are ’cause everyone’s so pretty.” The Brazilian was pissed that we left her. It was a tough call but there was no way I was getting in that car with that woman no matter how sexy she was or how much she (we;) wanted to have a lesbian experience. I don’t remember how I got home though. Also, she was my neighbor so it was kind of awkward to see her on my way to the car every morning. She never admitted to anything. Kind of makes me feel crazy but I know I made the right choice for me and my homie- who had no idea any of this was going on as she was captivated by the show. Haha! She thanked me later.

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    When I was 20 I went to Sailor on Church in Toronto (although I feel like it wasn’t called that back when I went? almost 10 years ago holy shizz). I was with an extremely attractive gay classmate and his boyfriend, and a few of their equally hot friends, which I remember being almost overwhelmed by. They were just so shiny and groomed, and I remember feeling validated by one of them deeming me super-cute, cute enough to dance with (oh boy).
    Also, side-note, I met my current girlfriend at an autostraddle meetup at a gay bar, and she is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Like, autostraddle makes dreams come true, or whatever, you know?

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    Went to Pride with my mum and her gay/bi/pan/etc roller-derby teammates (they were in the parade, handing out leaflets) when I was like, 15 I’d guess? Ended up in Birmingham’s only lesbian bar (The Fox) and had my ass groped by a phantom woman.

    This year for my first out Pride my friends and I ended up in the Fox’s dance tent where no-one was dancing and everyone glared at me for some unknown reason. Shudder.

    Methinks my gay bar experiences will be saved now on for when I’m legally allowed into places and can go to Nightingales or something. Or maybe when I move to London for university. That shit is scary.

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    My first gay bar experience was pretty fun. I went to Wall St. in Columbus with my girlfriend. We met up with some friends there, played pool, had a couple of drinks, and watched other people dance. It felt great to be in an enviornment where I could hold her hand or put my arm around her and not be looked at strangely.

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    The first time I went to a gay bar was during pride in 2009. Birmingham, AL has a few gay bars but they tend to come and go pretty quickly and/or be sketchy as hell. However, the bar we went to was THE after pride place to be. It used to be a gay bar. Someone bought it, remodeled it, and turned it into a really cool and not sketchy gay/lesbian bar and club. It’s called Joe’s on 7th. It was actually perfect, and since it was pride there was such a great mix of gay and straight people. Despite living in Bible-belt central, we Birmingham has a pretty kick-ass pride and people of all shades attend and just have a blast. I moved out of the country shortly after but I really want to go back to this place when I go home to visit. It’s got a dance floor and an indoor sitting area if you want to just chill out away from the dance floor. My favorite part is the outdoor patio area. I guess I’m a typical southern girl. I love to sit outside and have a beer with friends. Overall, good experience. We’ll see how I feel when I go to an all lesbian bar by myself though. I will no doubt be scared shitless and stand against the wall trying not to look completely terrified.

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    Ah, my first gay bar experience.. feels like it was just a week ago. Oh wait, it was! Scenario: Friday night & me & a few friends were going to check out the Chicago Diner for their b.o.m.b vegetarian menu (which if youre in Chicago & a vegetarian & have not been, you are surely commiting some sort of sin). We hit up roscoes for a few drinks and left early to venture out & follow our magical buzzes to where ever their great o holy judgement may lead us. They led to Sidetrack. Can you say FAIL? If i could go back in time- I would fire you, buzz. Boys boys & more BOYS. Sexy boys pushing us (with our silly, unintersting genitalia) out of the way to go hit on other boys. So uncomfortable. And even more invisible- I could have been a bar stool for all anybody cared. Atleast I was a very drunk bar stool ;)In which case.. none of this was even remotely close to the lesbian fantasy I had played out in my head in anticipation. Le sigh* But guess what? The way I see it..
    My lesbian fantasy is bound happen one of these days heck, all i need is a drunk enough girl and a bathroom, right? Not giving up. Maybe this wednesday? Or this weekend? The plan this time around is, well, to have a plan. And research these damn chi-town bars.

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    my first gay bar adventure was during my first Pride weekend in Edmonton. All I remember is getting to the club having a grand time and then everything goes black, learned the hard way watch people with an eagle eye when they buy you a drink or they will slip a lot of E in it. I was later told I was having the time of my life.

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    The first time I went to a lesbian bar was on Saturday! It’s called ‘Le Troisième Lieu’, in Paris. Despite having heard that the gay girl scene here is pretty bad these days, it was packed, the music was good (compared to most clubs here), and there were a lot of attractive queer women around – plus, I ended up going home with the cute girl I’d had my eye on the whole night :) The bar is going to close down soon, though (recession… grr) so, hope i’m not breaking any commenting rules by posting a petition: http://www.lapetition.be/en-ligne/Petition-contre-la-fermeture-du-troisieme-lieu-10921.html I just got to Paris, they can’t shut this place down already!

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