Hard Candy: Exclusivity

Gulfport’s getting a new gay bar and restaurant. Actually, the ads initially said we’re getting a gay nightclub and gay beach, before the web site changed last week. And from what I can tell, the club owner doesn’t get Gulfport at all.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years, Gulfport has a thriving community, many members of which happen to be gay. One of the things I like about Gulfport is that being gay isn’t a big deal. If you’re gay, so what? Join the club. Or not. It’s no big deal to the rest of this small town. I always tell people that Gulfport is the one place in the world where everybody knows your business but nobody really cares.
Maybe a gay bar has its place in towns where gay people can’t walk down the street hand in hand, or where their rights aren’t protected by law. Maybe in those cities, gay people still need that place to gather and find community.
There was a time in history where gay people needed gay bars, because they could find family there. They could kiss their girlfriend or put their arm around their boyfriend without fear of getting beat up. I understand that gay people needed the community of a gay bar. I understand that in many places in America, they still do.
But in Gulfport? I mean, when you think about it, if you’re defining a gay bar as a place where gay people feel welcome and supported, the entire city’s really one big gay bar, at least in that respect. There is no place in this city where two women can’t hold hands without fear; the city passed a human rights ordinance to protect the rights of everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. I’ve heard a councilmember wonder if Gulfport could legalize gay marriage. Intolerance has no place in Gulfport.
So why do Gulfportians need a “gay” bar? It’s a slap in the face to the men and women who pride themselves on the community they already find in this small city. Every bar in Gulfport is a gay bar. Every bar in Gulfport is also a straight bar. I mean, it’s so cool: as a city, we’re past segregating “gay” and “straight” and we just chug along under a pleasant steam of acceptance.
But then here comes this gay bar, and I find its opening insulting. Its very presence insinuates that this community isn’t welcoming enough; it suggests that gay people need their own bar. I’m sure that makes Joe at O’Maddy’s and Tony at Peg’s feel real good. Because by one restaurant or bar downtown labeling itself as a “gay” bar, it kind of makes all the rest look like “straight” bars, doesn’t it? Why this “separate but equal” mentality in a town that’s already “together and equal?” Why this giant step backwards? In my mind, it’s not that different than a group of black people saying they want their own restaurants. Seems to me that does the opposite of advancing equal rights. And don’t tell me that straight people will be welcome there. We’re not going to insult each other by having that discussion, because that’s not the point and you and I both know it.
I have to admit, too, that the other clubs owned by these proprietors concern me. Not because they’re gay clubs but because they have amateur strip contests and sexy underwear contests. While I am a huge fan of naked men, I don’t think things like strip contests of any sort have a place in Gulfport’s downtown. I’m trying to picture that happening on the first Friday in December when the city sets up snow for the kids on the corner by this new bar and grill.
And when the complaints start rolling in- and trust me, they will- I don’t want to hear word one about Gulfport not being a gay-friendly town. We’re a gay-friendly town. We’re a straight-friendly town. We’re a family town, and in Gulfport, family means a group of people who love each other, be they gay, straight or in between.
It’s simple, really. Be gay. Be straight. Be whoever you want to be. What, you’re gay? Good for you. Don’t expect a fight from us. You want to fire up a Gulfportian? Let’s talk about dog beaches. Let’s talk about a mooring field, crime, or the chicken ordinance. But gay people? Honey, that’s old news. We got past that a long time ago in this town.

Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.