Gaudy shirts and ill-fitting jeans: a response to Orlando
I’ve had about four hours sleep, and it is largely down to the news from Orlando. On Facebook, I have seen someone comment on PULSE, saying that it was a place where people in “ill-fitting jeans and gaudy shirts” could have a “good time”. Now, I suspect that I know more than most people about what goes on in gay bars and clubs. What is the “good time” that people in “ill-fitting jeans and gaudy shirts” can have in places like PULSE?
Imagine that one day all your friends stop talking to you. Suddenly you find that your colleagues are less friendly than they once were, and your work is considerably less satisfactory than it once was. Your family – your family – will no longer have anything to do with you, and unless you are very lucky that actually makes you at risk of homelessness. Your church, your church that you have attended your whole life and that you have served from the moment you were old enough, has cast you out, humiliating you as much as it possibly can. Everything you had that you valued has been taken away from you.
So what do you do?
You put on your ill-fitting jeans and a gaudy shirt and you go out to somewhere like PULSE. You go there for a “good time”, which means that you make new friends, and you find new family. People who don’t reject you because of your “ill-fitting jeans and gaudy shirts”. People who care about you. Maybe they help you find somewhere to work where you are accepted for who you are. Maybe they can help you find a landlord who will treat you with basic dignity. They may even help you find a new church. The primary “good time” that is provided is a rebuilding of the things you have lost.
To be sure, lots of other things happen as well, because a community of humans has all aspects of human life in it, but anyone who thinks that the world at large isn’t rife with all sorts of bad “good times” is very wrong.
I know of a place in London. It is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Everyone who goes gets a warm welcome, no matter how ill-fitting their jeans are, or how gaudy their shirts are. Even on Christmas day, when those people with well-fitting jeans and tasteful shirts are together with their families. There is somewhere similar in Belfast, and I suspect in most large cities.
Think about that. Your family has rejected you because they don’t like your ill-fitting jeans, or your gaudy shirt, but there are doors you can walk through where you are accepted and, dare I say it, loved from the moment you are through.
I know of a man who once owned a bar where ill-fitting jeans and gaudy shirts were de rigeur. He himself wore shirts so gaudy they can be seen from space. One day, a traveller visited his bar. On his way back to where he was staying the traveller was involved in a bad accident. He ended up in hospital for several months. He was thousands of miles from anyone who knew about him. Yet he wasn’t alone, because the man who owned the bar visited him, every day, until he was safely back with his friends.
That is the sort of “good time” that places like PULSE offer to people in “ill-fitting jeans and gaudy shirts.”
Gay bars and clubs are not bars and clubs. They are our homes. Our families. Our communities. They are our churches. They are companionship. They are safety. They are everything that society has taken from us for being who we are, and we have rebuilt.
Originally posted on Facebook.