In 1989 I was 20 years old and attended (ever-so-briefly) a university in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was not “out” and I remember being alone in the bedroom of the apartment I shared with two straight, totally unaware friends from my small southern Indiana hometown. There I was sitting on the edge of my waterbed looking through the phone book for anything that might, perhaps, reveal something or somewhere gay. I had no idea where to look. I had no resources. Yet, almost instinctually I knew it must have existed somewhere in Indiana’s capital city. Four years later and three hours south of Indy I found and walked through the front door of the Sho-Bar in Evansville –my first gay bar. I was frightened and exhilarated. What if someone in there recognizes me? I thought, my heart throbbing in my throat as I lingered outside near my parked car in the bar’s gravel lot. Finally I approached the front door, opened it, and went in. The need to find those like me, a community, overpowered my racing pulse and skyrocketing anxiety. That first step, my first gay bar, was the first night of the rest of my life. I was born again on the Sho-Bar’s dance floor under its silver disco ball moon and multi-colored stars while remixed Whitney sang “I Will Always Love You.”
Some say increasing acceptance of the LGBTQ community as well as the digital age are death knells for our beloved local gay bar. Are they? If so, perhaps MY FIRST GAY BAR stories will reveal to those still struggling for acceptance that they do indeed have a fabulous future in store, that their community is out there somewhere waiting for them under a silver disco ball moon.
J. Patrick Redmond is a Midwesterner living in Miami. Information on his forthcoming novel Feeding the Christians, coming 2014 from Kaylie Jones Books, is available at jpatrickredmond.com.