As gay bars continue to close at an alarming rate, a writer looks back to find out what’s being lost in this indispensable, intimate, and stylish celebration of history.
In the era of Grindr and same-sex marriage, gay bars are closing down at an alarming rate. What, then, was the gay bar? Set between Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London, Gay Bar takes us on a time-traveling, transatlantic bar hop through pulsing nightclubs, after-work dives, hardcore leather bars, gay cafes, and saunas, asking what these places meant to their original clientele, what they meant to the author as a younger man, and what they mean now.
In prose as exuberant as a hit of poppers and as dazzling as a disco ball, Atherton Lin conjures the strobing lights and the throbbing music, the smell and taste of tangles of male bodies, the rough and tender anonymous encounters, the costumes and categories—twink, top, masc, queen, tweaker, tourist, voyeur, exhibitionist—all the while tracking the protean aesthetics of masculinity and gayness. Along the way, he invites us to go beyond the simplified gay bar liberation mythology of Stonewall and enter the many other battlefields in the war to carve out space in which to exist, express, and love as a gay man.
Elegiac, sexy, and sparkling with wry wit, Gay Bar is at once a serious critical inquiry into how we construct ourselves through the spaces we inhabit and an epic night out to remember.