If you go out in Boston on a weekend night you likely have to prepare yourself for something that falls between overwhelming bromanticism and a high school reunion-esque atmosphere. The Brahmin is easily the bro-y-est of the bro bars I’ve been to: all testosterone, Oxford shirts, and ruddy faces, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to have an at least okay time. However, preferable it is not.
A few weeks ago my friends and I decided to go to Club Cafe (again), on the night of the “Men’s Event” at Fenway (a fundraising gala dubbed by more than a few of my friends to be “Boston’s Gay Prom”). This was a mistake, since none of us had gone to the men’s event and those who had were able to get into Club Cafe without making the line. Seeing that it would take forever to get in, and not having the strength to pull through the freezing cold, I vetoed CC and we walked to The Trophy Room, the bar at the Chandler Inn, which is very gay if not specifically Gay with a capital G. The atmosphere was electric, if only because we weren’t the only ones who had forgone Club Cafe plans for this smaller venue, and the place was packed wall to wall.
I thought about this last week when I had dinner with an older gentleman (one of those who seems to be acquainted with every gay person in the city) and the subject of dating in the darker ages– those years before gay acceptance in the mainstream– came up. He confessed to me that he had once paid a thousand (!) dollars for a series of 9 dates through a gay dating service. Back when out gay men were such unicorns in the office and invisible at all levels in the media I guess it wouldn’t have been a crazy thing to seek a thousand dollar solution to isolation. And I guess, in a sense, I have never experienced that sort of isolation. I mean, of course it was hard to feel accepted in middle school and I endured a fair amount of scorn and bullying, but growing up with access to the internet and a burgeoning trend of gay characters on television made me certain I wasn’t exactly wrong or alone in being gay. I mean, imagine walking into a bar like The Brahmin in 1980-something in the middle of the AIDS crisis and trying to feel welcomed. Of course there were gay clubs, but being gay then was often prohibitive to a stable life in a way that it isn’t today, and not as a result of what gay identity is but rather because of the way the world viewed us then.
Of course, this is Boston, not Nowhere, Mississippi. And even here I’ve been called a faggot on the street by a group of bros for wearing white pants! So there’s that. Things have changed and yet they haven’t. How much progress is Tinder and Grindr when compared to a starting point of thousand-dollar matchmaking services? I don’t know! But it feels nice, like I said, to walk into a dinner and find the conversation reassuring you that while there is much work to be done in this nebulous, undefinable thing we call the “gay community,” there is a sense that we are moving glacially in the right direction.