T he shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked was more than a nightclub—it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights. There are fewer gay bars in Madison today than there were 25 years ago, when I lived there. There are fewer gay bars just about everywhere these days. Think pieces have been written about the disappearance of gay bars queer nightclubs.
Gay people can drink anywhere they want to these days—and besides, we have hookup apps. Who needs gay bars anymore? My husband had a Stella; I had a club soda and a pot lozenge.
Pac-Man, we met up with friends, we ordered another round. "Find A Gay Bar" bars exist because they are safe places in a world that remains unsafe for LGBT [people]. It feels wrong to write this now, at this moment, while we're still reeling. But there are fewer gay bars today because there are more places where we are safe in this world. Or more places we feel safe. Just as there's no such thing as "safe sex," only "safer sex," there's really no such thing as a safe place—elementary schools aren't safe, movie theaters aren't safe, workplace holiday parties aren't safe, queer clubs aren't safe.
But today, many queer people feel safe enough to be out in our workplaces even while it remains legal to fire people for being LGBT in 28 statessafe enough to be out in our communities despite continued gay bashings and appalling rates of anti-trans violenceand safe enough to be out to our biological families despite the rejection we fear and sometimes receive.