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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Gentrification of Being Gay

I took this photo as I left Urge on its last night/morning of business.

I like to think the white ball is the ghost of all the accumulated cum that was spilt in those walls, slowly rising up to gay heaven.

Because let's face it, there was a lot of sperm spilt in there over the 17 or so years it was in business.

And yes, some of it was mine, and I helped other guys spill some of theirs too.

I recall a few years back being in Sydney and talking to an Aussie in the Oxford who'd been over to Auckland and Urge the week before and he excitedly told me how he'd been given a blow job while standing at the bar. Maybe I'm jaded, but I was like "Yeah, that happens there."

And it wasn't just cum, remember Troughman? And others of his ilk lying on the floor in the toilets and hoping for a drink straight from the tap. He swore he could tell what drugs people were on by how their urine tasted, and sometimes got high off too much P in their pee.

But Urge has gone, and I doubt we'll see a bar like it in Auckland again.

The vibe changed in intensity and emphasis over the years it was open, and it moved from leather bar to bear bar, but it represented a physical space where you could meet friends, dance, drink, be somewhere  safe on your drugs if you were taking any, and have sex if you wanted. Hell, some guys even met and fell in love there and are still together.

Twinks were often too scared to walk in, imagining (or wishing?) they'd be thrown in a sling as soon as they crossed the threshold.

Gay bars like this used to be pretty common in all major western cities - LA, London, NY (how I loved the Mineshaft!) Sydney - of course you can still find them in Berlin (why do you think that place is so popular?) but generally speaking gay bars are finding it hard to stay open, and more and more guys are able to hook up on apps or online, so there is less of the old outrageous in-your-face sexual abandon that used to be a hallmark of urban gay life.

John Rechy (every young gay man should read him) coined the term "sexual outlaw" to describe the world he moved in during the 60s, 70s and 80s as both a hustler and a man dedicated to enjoying the hunt for sex. It's a term that captures part of that era so well. He describes the pursuit for sex in alleys and backyards, parks and beaches, day and night, that used to be so common. How else were you going to meet a guy? How else were we going to fuck?

Don't forget - we were outlaws, we were technically engaging in acts that could send us to jail, destroy our careers, and have our families disown us. Different times.

And today Urge has gone, a white-washed empty box sits there now, probably to be filled with a chi-chi little dress store or art gallery, or maybe an artisanal toast cafe for hipsters. Because the whole area is on the way up, slowly I grant you, but it is changing.

So many of the younger generation (Kids these days!) seem so bland and boring in their rush to marriage and conformity. No outlaws they ! Even if they do hook up with strangers through the apps and have a few hours of wild fun with some guy it's all done so nicely, behind closed doors.

Vapid, conformist, monogamous - all the dull trite detritus of suburbia seems to be the template for being a gay man these days.

The emphasis seems to be so intent on being normal, on being part of the crowd, not on standing out. I can understand it, the assimilation and normalising of being a homo has made the world a lot better for many who in the past would have ended up married and leading stunted lives of deceit and desperation and drowning in alcoholism  - I get that.

But gentrification always means pushing one group out at the expense of another. Slums get turned into desirable residential areas. The poor and marginalised get moved on  - communities are broken up, links destroyed and histories forgotten. Capital and demographics conspire against us.

We didn't just lose a valued social space when we lost Urge, we lost a part of who we were as a community of men, and I miss that.

I'd like to imagine that big ghostly ball of cum is still floating in some magical gay sex-club heaven, radiating joy and love and the sheer earthy pleasure of hard cocks, sweet asses and orgiastic release. I'm glad I was able to have my part of it for real.


peeeeeep said...


Simon Green said...

Thanks for a well written appraisal of the changes occurring in gay social activities. I agree and lament the demise of exclusively gay venues where you could be as adventurous as you wanted. I think young gay men have lost something as well as gained acceptance.