Are Gay Spaces Necessary?

PICTURE IT, PITTSBURGH. The year was 2005 and I was bartending at RK’s Lounge, shopping at a Pleasant Present, having dinner at Sidekicks, and dancing for hours at Pegasus. I have tons of fond memories of this time as I was deeply involved with our local gay culture and fostering meaningful relationships with the people that I interacted with. These people were my “bar family.” They taught me about gay history, sex, politics, religion, how to act, how not to act and provided me with an outlet to escape conventional life and be myself.

Over the years the typical obligations of having a career, settling down, homeownership and motherhood have largely kept me out of the gay scene (mainly due to lack of free time and the inability to stay up past 8 PM), but when I look back at that “coming out” time period of my life I find myself melancholy, and starved to tap into some similar sources of gay socialization, only to find that they no longer exist in the same way.

In the last 5–10 years there has been a change in the gay social scene. Why? We can point to the mainstream acceptance of homosexuality, social media providing a virtual outlet for conversational exchange, dating up apps, urban gentrification and the seemingly entitled millennials who have no interest in paying for booze, when they can drink at home.

While the majority of these advancements are positive and long overdue, it leaves me wondering…are gay spaces necessary? Is it an outdated concept to want to be in a place among my people who have beliefs similar to mine? Is it a step in the wrong direction to want to eat and drink in an environment that lets you be who you are and not be judged (well kinda) for those expressions? Is there still a fundamental need for people to have a place where they can celebrate all the things that make them different and unpack who they are, among those who are like-minded?

KELLY KINSEY is a home cook, private caterer, and social media stalker ofall things food related.Kelly and her partner Heather are moms to two youngsters. Check out her foodie blog at ourhousecafepgh.com or follow her on Twitter or Instagram @Ourhousecafe.