Welcome to Gay Culture

Hey Alex, How are you? My question is well I’ve been exploring my sexuality for the past couple of years. I have fooled around with guys, done hookups, had connections, and think of myself as bi.

I’d like to explore more about the culture and because I have a birthday next month, I’d like to possibly go to my first gay bar or club. Because I’m from Atlanta, I know I should expect tons of the culture in the downtown area, but how do I know I’ll enjoy myself fully?

I’d be open to the possibility of dating more guys and build connections but I’m just scared because I haven’t come out to my family though I do think it no one’s business ya know. But there’s also a side of me that doesn’t want to get too serious and have my fun for now.

I’ve had one guy who I frequently hooked up with and though we became friends, he felt like that I was catching feelings for him and wanted to break it off. I was confused and hurt (kinda still am) on why he did that if I didn’t feel like I did nothing wrong.

So yes I’d like to know if I’m a “beginner” in the LGBT world, then how can I make myself have a good time and avoid situations in which feelings for somebody else get in the way. There is quite a stigma on how monogamy among gays and lesbians is seen as repulsive and how we’re seen as people who hookup and want to have fun.

I’m ok with that but the one person who I had the experience with, has given me a lesson on how to not do fwb all the time.

Yes, you’re a beginner. I’ll start at the top of your message, pull out the questions as best as I can, and work my way down.

1.

You’re ready to explore gay bars, and you should, but your first experiences might not be great. You’ll be uncomfortable. Don’t give up or decide they’re “not for you” after one or two attempts.

There’s no way to know if you’ll enjoy yourself. You just have to go. Any expectations you set will be shattered and probably should be. Gay bars are our chapels, our homes, but they’re unanimously intimidating for first-timers. Also, each one is very different. The social DOs and DON’Ts of a stand-and-pose glitter palace, with box dancers and bachelorette parties, are different from a cruisy, lowlight leather bar.

The best parts of my life were on the deck of The Blue Whale at Fire Island, at Le Bain on the roof of The Standard in Manhattan, and on the second floor of NYC’s Eagle (and Atanta’s Eagle and the D.C. Eagle and the L.A. Eagle and the S.F. Eagle). My introduction to gay life happened at Club One in Savannah, Georgia where the Lady Chablis sauntered drunkenly through cabaret tables sipping “pussy juice,” may she rest in peace. The best parts of your life will happen with your own kind, and we tend to gather in gay bars.

There is generational distrust among queer men which can be hard to navigate — young men often feel nervous around older men, and a small percentage of older men warrant this distrust. Flirtation is a universal language but it might feel predatory to you because you don’t know how to do it. And — let’s face facts — it can become predatory when it crosses the line from flirtation to, say, unsolicited touching. That’ll happen. But for every older man who sees you as a hot young thing, many more older gay men are kind, safe, and protective and can give you good advice. Befriend them. Respect them.

Be nice. You’ll meet people who come on too strong, who don’t know how to flirt, so they do it badly. Remember that no one teaches us this stuff — we learn by error. Learn to say no. Learn to strike up a conversation with someone, and learn how to leave a conversation. These skills will come with practice.

You’ll meet queer saints — wonderful people who befriend you, show you how to tip a drag queen, and tell you to buy your own goddamn drink. Keep them close. After a few years, you’ll be able to walk into any gay bar in the world and feel like you’ve come home.

2.

You don’t want a relationship right now. You want to have fun and sleep around.

Don’t come out to your family unless you feel safe doing so. If you’re financially dependent on them, wait. If you live with them, wait. If they’re ultra-liberal vegan librarians who donate to Planned Parenthood, go ahead and come out.

This guy you were sleeping with, who you caught feelings for? That’ll happen a lot. And he did the right thing by breaking it off. You’re going to get attached to guys you sleep with, and these attachments will lead to complicated feelings. Don’t worry — people come and go so quickly here. You’ll shed attachments as quickly as they come.

Invest in good friends — ones who stick around while your bedmates come and go. Some bedmates will become good friends, but you won’t know which ones. That’s part of the fun.

3.

You won’t be able to avoid romantic feelings. You’ll catch feelings, get jealous, get your heart broken, and grow. This won’t comfort you now, but these feelings are part of the richness of youth, and someday you’ll look back and wish you could do it all again. This time of newness comes only once in a life — enjoy it.

There is no stigma among gays and lesbians against monogamy. I don’t know who told you that, but they’re wrong. If you want to be monogamous, be monogamous — you’ll find plenty of people who prefer monogamy. If you want non-monogamy, do that. But all this is irrelevant because you have no idea what you want. You haven’t even dated yet. Get a good breakup behind you before talking about monogamy.

Last bit: suspend anything you think you know about queer culture. It’s not RuPaul’s Drag Race. We love RuPaul, but there’s much more — a history you haven’t learned and a language you don’t know how to speak. Go to gay bars — and into your bisexual life — with an open mind and gentle heart.

Keep a close eye on your Vodka Redbull.

Love, Beastly

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