Many of us think of our local gay bar as a place that is home away from home. Whether it’s a big multi-room dance club with stages, light-up floors, dark rooms, shirtless bartenders, buff bouncers, and a host of entertainers, or a hole-in-the-wall one tap kinda place, it is loved. The gay bar has been refuge, guidance, community, and sanctuary. It has seen trends come and go but it has always been a stage for expression, performance, and pageantry. High-achieving, community-focused entertainers have seen their dreams come true on a gay bar’s stage thus changing the course of their lives. And it’s the gay bar that will continue that dream-come-true making tradition.
Although social norms have changed and LGBTQIA+ individuals are feeling welcome to go out to more places and dating apps have, in some ways, reduced the urge to meet people in a social setting, the gay bar is still a significant place. I would like to highlight three significant gay bars in three different cities that have changed my life--maybe they have and will change yours.
Bar:PM, St. Louis
The current iteration of this near-to-the-river street-level space in St. Louis is just under 10 years of being called BarPM where you can find all types. BarPM is the brain-child of James and Chad who have transformed this hard wood floor galley bar into a fun spot truly meant for everyone. The drag shows are of the highest quality, the newly expanded back patio bar is something only seen in a resort bar, and the events that range from benefitting many St. Louis causes to fetish parties, are some of the most fun I have ever had in a harness. I feel such a welcoming spirit every time I visit and, even more, I feel incredible energy from the audience every time I hit the cabaret stage. Personally, James and Chad have shown me such friendship, love, and support long before I became Miss Gay Missouri as they have many MGMA title holders that have come before me. In fact, so many former MGMAs love BarPM that when I was in St. Louis for Pride and visited BarPM, there were six of us there! Needless to say, BarPM provided an incredible night for us all that night.
STONEWALL, New York City
I need not tell you how The Stonewall Inn has served a global community from Christopher Street in New York City since 1966 when it was first turned into a gay bar. First called the Stonewall Inn in 1930, it had no idea as to what kind of history it would contribute and what kind of significance it would have after a series of riots paved the way for LGBTQIA+ voices to forcibly be heard beginning in 1969. And as of this day, it's inner walls and the monument outside it's front door reflect the truly-lived lives of countless individuals across the globe. When I was there with New Yorker and Miss Gay United States 2018 Aaliyah Martinez, we were celebrating the win of the newly crowned Miss Gay United States at Large 2018 Moltyn Decadence and Stonewall was the perfect place to drink, dance, and magnify Moltyn's achievement. No visit to NYC could be complete without seeing The Stonewall Inn.
MISSIE B's, Kansas City
My home bar is known by everyone in Kansas City. Ok, maybe not all citizens of Kansas City know what Missie B's is, but most people with a working knowledge of KC will tell you that Missie's is the known place to boogie all night and see a sickning show. Opened in 1994 by Michael Burns a.k.a. Missie B, it boasts of two stories, two dance floors, seven bars, legendary bartenders, a fabulous show room, a frisky leather shop (where you might leave your undies), a working indie theatre, and hundreds of my close personal friends, Missie's has been my home for 11 years. I'm proud to say, like anyone's home, it has seen me at my best and my worst. HA! There, I have found love and lost love, I have shed tears of sorrow and joy, and I will continue to show people how it has changed my life. Illustrious performers and queens have worked there including KC stage icon Sandy Kaye, former Miss Gay America Victoria DePaula, my dear friend and mentor Loretta Martin, and the queen who gave me my start in KC, Belle Starr. These names are only a very few considering the innumerable entertainers that have changed my life and given me inspiration, makeup tips, cussing-outs, slaps in the face (when I needed them), and unending love. And when I returned home after being crowned Miss Gay Missouri, it wasn't only the fanfare and the shows that made me be proud to bring my achievment home but the hugs and kisses of pride and encouragement that I continue to receive every time I step foot inside.
I hope you feel connected your home bar(s) too. I hope you'll make it known to your community that there is a place you love where you can feel accepted for who you are, a place where you can applaud your fellow performers and watch them grow, a place where you can booze and boogie, and a place to call your home away from home. As Miss Gay Missouri America, I will get the humble privilege to see many of these sacred places all over Missouri, these gay bars, and when I do, I'll feel the love that cultivates and connects our family.