Who Needs Gay Bars?: Bar-Hopping Through America's Endangered LGBTQ+ Places (Hardcover)

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Who Needs Gay Bars?: Bar-Hopping Through America's Endangered LGBTQ+ Places By Greggor Mattson Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

I will be the first to admit that I am 100% biased on this one, as I contributed to the research, writing, and editing of this book. I can attest to how well-researched, thoughtful, and downright interesting this book is. If you have ever wondered why there used to be more gay bars, or if you're just wondering that for the first time as you read this, Who Needs Gay Bars? provides the answers to that question and beyond, including insight into the fate of bars and leisure, identity and community, small businesses, drag queens, and more in the tales of a wild American road trip with me, Tory, interviewing owners of gay bars all across the country. 


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Gay bars have been closing by the hundreds. The story goes that increasing mainstream acceptance of LGBTQ+ people, plus dating apps like Grindr and Tinder, have rendered these spaces obsolete. Beyond that, rampant gentrification in big cities has pushed gay bars out of the neighborhoods they helped make hip. Who Needs Gay Bars? considers these narratives, accepting that the answer for some might be: maybe nobody. And yet...

Jarred by the closing of his favorite local watering hole in Cleveland, Ohio, Greggor Mattson embarks on a journey across the country to paint a much more complex picture of the cultural significance of these spaces, inside "big four" gay cities, but also beyond them. No longer the only places for their patrons to socialize openly, Mattson finds in them instead a continuously evolving symbol; a physical place for feeling and challenging the beating pulse of sexual progress.

From the historical archives of Seattle's Garden of Allah, to the outpost bars in Texas, Missouri or Florida that serve as community hubs for queer youth--these are places of celebration, where the next drag superstar from Alaska or Oklahoma may be discovered. They are also fraught grounds for confronting the racial and gender politics within and without the LGBTQ+ community.

The question that frames this story is not asking whether these spaces are needed, but for whom, earnestly exploring the diversity of folks and purposes they serve today. Loosely informed by the Damron Guide, the so-called "Green Book" of gay travel, Mattson logged 10,000 miles on the road to all corners of the United States. His destinations are sometimes thriving, sometimes struggling, but all offering intimate views of the wide range of gay experience in America: POC, white, trans, cis; past, present, and future.

About the Author

Greggor Mattson, PhD, is an author and Professor of Sociology at Oberlin College & Conservatory where he teaches courses on sexuality, nightlife, and cities. He is the author of The Cultural Politics of European Prostitution Reform: Governing Loose Women (2016). His work has appeared in the Annual Review of Sociology, as well as in Slate, Literary Hub, Business Insider, and The Daily Beast.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781503629202
ISBN-10: 1503629201
Publisher: Redwood Press
Publication Date: May 30th, 2023
Pages: 448
Language: English