I go behind the scenes, raw and real exploring the reality of the gay scene and my experiences of gay bars.
You would think that when you come out, the struggle would be over. You finally feel comfortable with yourself, everyone knows your sexuality and now you can start to build a life surrounded by a like-minded community of people that have experienced the same thing.
Here’s the reality. That isn’t the case. The struggle continues. Let me explain.
When you come out, you lose all sense of who you all. Imagine – it is like all you have ever known is stripped away from you. The person you once were is no longer. It can feel as though you are in limbo – not wanting to be that person you once were yet not knowing who you are moving forwards.
Many people experience an identity crisis and struggle to find who they really are. It is common for people to go searching for answers to figure out who they are. Most people find a community of individuals experiencing similar things but very few find who they really are. They don’t establish that deeper connection to themselves or re-connect to their true and authentic self.
In the search for like-minded people and to ‘fit in’, you hit the gay bars, clubs and parties. That image you have of gay bars being full of well-toned, perfect looking guys with their tops off dancing to disco music or drag queens walking around serving drinks from trays, it isn’t real.
There are 3 mental health issues that are prevalent today in the LGBT+ community: body dysmorphia, substance abuse and suicide and self-harm. I’ll address these mental health issues in a future episode.
Let’s talk drugs for a minute. Recreational drug use and alcohol have become ingrained in the gay community’s identity. The drugs of choice range from Ecstasy, GHB, Mephedrone, speed, Tina (crystal meth) and poppers. Throw some alcohol in the mix and you have the ingredients for a very messy evening and few days ahead. Now imagine you do this every weekend, without fail.
Underlying the substance abuse that is rife in the LGBT community are repressed feelings such as ones of isolation, rejection, shame, loneliness and sadness. Internalising the negative messaging received over the years, many individuals within the LGBT+ community are unable to accept themselves and are disconnected from their true self. Drug use masks those feelings of low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, guilt and confusion around your sexual or gender identity. Many turn to alcohol and substance use to deal with the underlying mental distress.
The gay scene, in my experience, is not a place of acceptance, peace and deep connections. Yet, it serves its purpose. For many the gay scene is a safe space to be yourself, where you can access other LGBT people. If you’re questioning why you feel like you don’t belong in the gay bars or you’re simply done with the gay scene, you’re not alone. There are thousands of LGBT people out there who feel the same way.
This is my experience of being on the scene. I was looking for a safe space to be myself and to meet other LGBT people. The reality was I felt like I didn’t belong. Excessive alcohol consumption, people high on different concoctions of drugs, dancing and loud music is what you see on the surface. Underneath the surface I felt uneasy and on edge as my every move was watched by people looking for their next conquest. I felt on many occasions that I had walked into a meat market, with people looking at how I was dressed, how I acted, looking at my body and making a judgement on my appearance. I noticed my friends comparing themselves to others and as a result dressing or acting differently to try to fit in. The bars and clubs were predominantly male-orientated (unless we went to a female only bar) and I felt uncomfortable being affectionate with my partner. There appeared to be lots of drama and gossiping around us. Everyone knows each other or knows of each other. Bad reputations spread as do details of your latest conquest. It’s hard to find a good group of gay friends on the gay scene. I found most were drinking buddies not deep, lasting friendships.
What is your experience of gay bars and the gay scene?
About Gina Battye
Gina is a world-renowned LGBT+ and Gender Identity Coach and Inclusion Consultant for Fortune 500 companies and leading global organisations.
Specialising in transgender and non-binary in the workplace, Gina is called upon worldwide to deliver her insights, training and consultancy, by leading global organisations and Fortune 500 companies. Gina works with senior leaders, executives, HR teams, Diversity and Inclusion teams, as well as with individuals.
Previous clients include GE, AstraZeneca, Bank Of America, BBC, ITV, Yorkshire Water, Coop, Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, Experian, Vodafone, HBOS Plc.