Fifty years after Stonewall, and with Trump trying to roll back LGBTQ rights, Dominic Rushe visits three gay bars in different states and finds them as vibrant and vital as ever
The gay bar is in trouble. Fifty years after the Stonewall Inn in New York became the symbol for a new wave of gay activism, the three horsemen of the gay bar apocalypse gentrification, assimilation and technology have hollowed out their numbers.
Rising rents have shuttered gay bars; more straight venues are accepting of gay patrons; and dating is something people now do with their phones. Even the term gay bar looks a little tired as the LGBTQ community finally comes to terms with its many rainbow stripes.
Bare numbers are hard to come by, but Yelp calculates the number of gay bars listed on its service fell 16% between 2014 and 2018. It now represents just 0.8% of all bar listings.
But across America and especially in less progressive states and communities the gay bar is as vibrant and vital as it has ever been. Its a rallying point in times of trial and celebration. It is the pumping heart of a community that, as the Trump administration rolls back its rights, needs its own space more than it has in years.
The oasis: Wonderlust in Jackson, Mississippi
You can find Wonderlust, the only gay bar in Jackson, Mississippi, on the northern edge of town, just past the Piggly Wiggly supermarket and the duelling discount stores Dollar General and Dollar Tree. Housed in a long, black, squat building, Wonderlust is marked by panels painted in a sort of rainbow flag. The colours are off hospital green, shop-soiled peach, sun-bleached eggplant as if picked from a paint stores remainder bin.
Its not much to look at, but a bar on this spot has been a haven for Mississippis LGBTQ community for more than 25 years.
Mississippi is one of the most conservative states in the US. A majority still disagree with same-sex marriage one of just two states the other is Alabama to still hold that view. A few years ago, a Mississippi pastor even brought a horse in a wedding dress to the federal courthouse to protest against gay marriage. State law means businesses can deny service to queer people if doing so would conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs.