Jan 15, 2016

My First Gay Ghetto: A Community Center, a Bathhouse, and Yosemite Sam

Rock Island, June 3, 1983

I'm home from grad school in Bloomington , with my friend Viju.  We've seen most of the sights in the Quad Cities, and I'm running out of ideas.

"We could go to the Amana Colonies, or to Starved Rock State Park...."

"You know what I always wanted to do?" Viju says.  "Go to a gay ghetto!"

I knew the term from The Advocate.  A neighborhood, a place where gay people can live in freedom, not hiding,   With bookstores stocking only gay-themed books!  Community centers!  Organizations!  Gay people walking hand in hand down the street!

According to The Advocate, there are seven gay ghettos in the U.S., in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Houston, and -- Chicago -- the nearest big city to Rock Island, about three hours away.

June 4th, 11:00 am

We check into our hotel and walk around.  It's a little disappointing.  No gay couples walking hand-in-hand, or newsstands cluttered with gay magazines, or...well, anything.  It looks like a standard suburban neighborhood with small shops, restaurants, gas stations, a drug store. A lot of male-female couples.

You have to look carefully to see the gay presence.  Same-sex couples walk in pairs, close together but not touching.  Young single men are walking dogs, buying groceries, jogging.  

There are bars with closeted names: My Brother's Place, Closet, Carol's Speakeasy.

And one with an obvious name: The Glory Hole.

And a bathhouse: Man's Country.

The rest of the story is too explicit for Boomer Beefcake and Bonding.  You can read it on Tales of West Hollywood.