Gay Bars and Hookup Apps

S1: Hello and welcome to the February 20 21 edition of our I’m Brian Loutre, the editor of Outward and the only Valentine that I want this month as one from the IRS and the form of my stimulus check. Candidates are welcome, but not required

S2: to get that stimming.

S3: Brian Immerman alarm. And as Brian said, it’s February twenty twenty one. And when I am speaking to you, it is my children’s winter break. Hmm. I’m not really sure what it is they require a break from besides winter itself. But thank God for those candy hearts. The only thing getting me through these unstructured wintery days

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S2: is that is it a winter break for you at all, too? Or is it like winter double you’re

S3: in so far? You know, insofar as I’m going to watch movies in the middle of the afternoon. Yes, it is also my winter break. Good.

S2: I’m Christina Cutter Ruchi, a staff writer at Slate, and I have been carrying around a hot water bottle all around my house with me. It has a cute little turtleneck sweater and it really makes me feel like I’m a teenager. And health class has been asked to carry around a fake baby to, like, scare me out of teen pregnancy or something. But it is keeping me warm. It’s my Valentine this year.

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S1: Is it also scaring you out of teen pregnancy?

S2: Yeah, I’m definitely not going to have unprotected procreative sex.

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S1: Great. OK, very glad that’s working. All right. So here at outward headquarters, as the weather shows, hints of spring and vaccines begin to roll out in earnest, we’re starting to think about connection. How have we done it in the past and how do we want to do it again? And the nearish future as quarantines and lockdown restrictions begin to ease. And that spirit will spend part of today’s show discussing Gay Bar, a new book from author Jeremy Atherton Len that weaves history, criticism and memoir into an attempt to understand that institutions a storied place in our community. Then we’ll turn to the apps specifically the about your old Queer Dating and Friendship app lacks to look at how these virtual meeting spaces are changing the way we connect. After that, we’ll have our usual updates, the gay agenda. But first, it is time as always, for pride and provocations. Christina, I think you should start us off because I think you have a sort of special

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S2: special pride to listeners. I’m proud of you. So I was pleasantly surprised that so many people answered my call to respond to our gays over covid segment from our January episode. Um, I you know, a lot of times we ask for people to write in with their comments and experiences and we’ll like maybe get one person if we’re lucky. But several of you had thoughts to share on this one. So I’m going to read some quotes from their emails, many of which were quite thoughtful. One listener said he’s been featured on gays over covid three times and received hundreds of death threats after his Puerto Vallarta trip. He said he feels sadness, frustration and deep disappointment with our communities reaction and vile behavior, meaning the death threats. He has no regrets about going on his trip.

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S4: I had gone with a couple of my close friends from Vancouver, British Columbia, here in Canada to Port of Bayada for a few weeks. And just simply something that we do pretty much every year in an attempt to escape the cold weather and whatnot. And I knew that there would potentially be some backlash, but never two in a million years would I ever anticipated it to have been to the degree that it was. And I spent a majority of the trip in complete shock, just correct as to why all of these vile and horrible things were being said about me. And I wanted to to make mention that one, myself and my friends were in public places such as restaurants or retail stores or in Hubers, taxis, etc. Never once have we not worn a mask or not abided by any of the local restrictions or or essentially rules that were put in place. It was brought to my attention by some friends in Vancouver that my my name was being essentially dragged through the mud. And there were some pretty horrible, disgusting things that were said about me, completely unrelated to me going to Mexico simply for the fact that I went to Mexico instead of engaging in this and making some sort of unnecessary civil war. I simply just let it. Little trickle down the way it did, and it went on for quite a while, people had attempted to to have me fired from my job unsuccessfully. But the moral of the story was, is that I knew that I was going to get some backlash by posting a little video. But my objective was to show people that these things still go on. And I’m not talking about circuit parties in general, but I’m talking about business as usual does go on. But we just need to be smart and do things a little bit differently. And the last point that I wanted to make in this is that I’ve been to Mexico. I don’t know how many times in my life. I never once have I ever felt so welcome ever by the Mexican people. And some of the Uber drivers had told me flat out that we can’t even think about covid-19 when we don’t even have money to put on our family’s table to serve food because they’ve essentially thrive on tourism and nothing else. So that’s that. I hope that I gave you some valuable points. And in the meantime, stay safe, everyone, and keep up.

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S2: But another listener sent an extremely thoughtful and introspective 10 minute video. So we’ll play a clip from that. This guy is 32, living in D.C. Maybe I’ve seen you around. He’s been going to circuit parties with his fiancee for four years and wanted to point out that these conversations have been happening within the circuit party scene for many months. The gays over covid stuff is really just built up. Frustration and anger sort of boiling over in large part from people who are part of that circuit party scene and don’t think it’s responsible to be going out and partying. So here’s him.

S4: I lived in Washington, D.C.. Thirty two, and I’ve been going to circuit parties for about four years. So I think I think that the part of the conversation that was missing, just maybe by lack of, I guess, the hosts social circles, is that this conversation is one that has been going on about gay men partying during covid has been going on since March. You know, in D.C., people have we’re having private, you know, circuit house parties right after we went into lockdown in the middle of March. And this was happening in a lot of other cities. Right. And so this discussion, I think, got really big at the end of May, beginning of June, when cities like Atlanta started hosting big, huge sort of parties. The reaction that people are getting now is months of people feel like they’ve been screaming into the wind. And so personally, at the end of May, beginning of June, as someone sent me a video of a party from Atlanta, and it was like, oh, my God, look like it’s hundreds of people. And they’re like, I’m just going to be honest with you. I was at this party. I found out that I contracted covid afterwards. And so, like, people need to know and no one’s talking about it because suddenly I was being selfish. And so I posted the video saying, like, hey, if you were here last night, get tested. I people have said that they were there and and they had it. And I got such an insane negative reaction with very little can’t really say much in my post. And so the discussion around shame, I think is missing the component that like people have been behaving this way for a while and they know it’s wrong and they just don’t want anyone to catch them. And so it’s a breaking of a social contract that I think people are really upset about. Is that like I’ve had to sacrifice all of this and all the work that I and people that are behaving like we have done is being undone because you needed to go party and then come back to the gym or to the grocery store or all this. Right. Like, I think we’ve got to stop just looking at the party itself and open it up to the broader impact and what it says about the type of behavior that we allow. I think the reactions that people are having are pent up anger of of years of not being able to challenge us in a way.

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S2: We also got an email from a lovely listener in Rio, a slate plus member, no less. Thank you for your support. This guy loves circuit parties, has been to all the big ones, but did not go to any parties in Rio around New Year’s because he said it’s irresponsible and egotistical in my view. We are unfortunately the second country in number of deaths because of covid behind just the US with that situation, to just throw these kinds of parties is really shameless. On the other hand, I’m not sure that public shaming all the people who were there and or going public with their names and contacts, that’s not very productive. I think you just put them far away, isolate them, and that’s the end of the conversation. He says he hasn’t had sex since March, but is taking comfort that he’s doing the right thing and just trying to enjoy this time the best way I can. I’m doing courses, improving my English, learning German, reading books that I promised myself 100 years ago that I would read but never did like war and peace. The Brothers Karamazov. Jane Ayres. Charlotte Bronte. Yeah, me too. Same just learning German in my spare time. And finally, from a first time listener and probably the last time listener, Brian is right that covid shaming will never work. I went to Mexico for Thanksgiving. I posted pictures. I got tested before and after the trip. I had pleasure, which apparently Christina and Ramon have a problem with. So shame away. I own it. I’m proud that I don’t live in fear and feel self-righteous and judgmental about how other people live their lives. The recent gay totalitarianism that I observed in the past year are very surprising to me. Since when did LGBTQ become such moral arbiters and try to force conformity to the norm? And those of you who are proud of your hermit lives and calling out the rest of us. Yeah, I don’t want to be part of your community.

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S1: Hmm.

S2: So actually, maybe that’s my pride this month. I’m proud of my hermit life.

S1: You guys are so boring hermit life.

S2: But seriously, I really appreciate all these responses. And, you know, I there’s a lot of ways to approach responsible living during this pandemic. And I’m glad that we have such a diversity of opinion in our listenership.

S3: I mean, I love talking to the two of you once a month. It’s lovely to also have people talk back to us a little bit and we try to have a conversation in this format. But that conversation, like I think it’s satisfying when our listeners participate in that conversation, you know, it makes my hermit life a little less lonely

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S2: or welcoming you into our hermit crab shell.

S1: And I I also think even as we move away in time from those New Year’s events, specifically this this conversation about community, what what kind of community are we? What does that mean? What responsibility does that mean? We have to each other is only continuing. And I think it’s I think it’s you know, even as covid eventually it becomes not as much of a problem. I think those questions are going to linger. So I’m glad folks joined us and thinking about it and if we can continue to have that conversation going forward for sure.

S3: Brian, how are you feeling this month?

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S1: I have a quick provocation related to that, actually, so we’ll just do it fast. You may have our listeners may have heard of the case of Stacy Griffith, who is a soul cycle instructor here in New York. I’m a very famous one, also a lesbian, which is why she’s part of our discussion who became infamous in the past couple of weeks for going ahead and getting that covid vaccine, even though she really wasn’t part of any category that was up for it here in New York, that she claimed that she was doing it under the auspices of being a teacher. She is a solo school teacher. But I know that that is what the government meant when they were, you know, laying out that term as part of the as part of the list of initial people. You know, she she’s probably I mean, this is probably a case there’s a lot of people doing this. So it’s probably a case of one person being maybe a little bit unfairly held up as the as the bad example. But even so, this is not good. You know, I do hope that we can expect better of our fellow queers. And, you know, it’s true that really the thing to criticize, as always with it is the government failure, and that is continue to be true into the vaccination so far, although the Biden administration, I think, is trying to fix that. But we’re still sort of left with the fallout of just the the non strategy of the Trump administration. So it is a little bit of a free for all. And it’s not surprising that people might might do this kind of thing. But that doesn’t mean we can be ethical ourselves. And so if you look at the case of Miss Stacey, that is maybe not behaving ethically, ethically, and I think we should all try to do a little bit better,

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S3: especially soul cycle. You know,

S2: my favorite or least favorite part of her response was she also seemed to consider herself a health care worker. Yes. Like I said, I’m keeping my students respiratory systems so they can fight covid if they get it.

S1: I have I have the quote here. I function as a common point for many overlapping people in my profession of health and wellness. As a teacher, it’s my priority daily to keep my community and their respiratory systems operating at full capacity so they can beat this virus if they’re infected. Yeah. So, you know, I guess, but also I don’t agree at

S3: all when she should go work in politics. That’s like some very impressive spin, you know,

S1: very nice phrasing. Yeah. Yeah, she did. I wish that she did. She did apologize. I should say that even after much condemnation. So maybe she’s learned the error of her ways. But yeah.

S2: The room on. How are you doing.

S3: I’m good. I’m feeling proud. About a year ago this time, I spoke to the writer and artist Miracleman for the other podcast I work on at Slate, which is called Working. And Meira told me something that she has said a lot in public, that she begins her day by reading the obituaries. It’s a really interesting way to think about beginning your morning. Part of my twenty twenty one was trying to look at Twitter less so far, like mixed bag mixed results there. But I have been trying to look directly at the news directly at Slate, directly at The New York Times or whatever. And that is where I learned because of his death of the life of Joseph Sonnabend, who was a physician who was very active in the AIDS crisis in New York City when he was a younger man, he was a gay man himself. And that sort of that informed his practice of medicine. And he. Was just one of those everyday people on the ground level of that crisis who became who sort of chose to just do something extraordinary by committing themselves to not only care, but research. So there’s an obituary for him in The Times that was published on January 30th of this year that I highly recommend by a woman named Catherine Seeley at The New York Times. I do think it’s a good practice to begin your day by reading the obituaries, and I do think it’s a nice reminder of these sort of aspects of gay history that pass right in front of us. And so that is my pride.

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S2: Wow. That’s seems like a good reminder of your mortality, too. I think that’s I

S3: think that’s why Myra recommends that the sort of way of reminding yourself that there are extraordinary lives happening around you and confronting them at the moment of their passage reminds you that, like, you should get off your ass and make a podcast,

S2: stay in your house

S3: and stay in your house.

S1: Yeah. Mm hmm.

S3: So speaking of getting on with your life, making the podcast, you were born to me. I’m very excited to talk to both of you and our esteemed colleague, June Thomas, who is joining us for a segment. I’m going to read you something to kick this off. When I say gay bar, you might picture a salon of a FTS Dandy’s engaged in witty banter, a layer of brutes and black leather, a pathetic spot on the edge of town, flying a lackluster rainbow flag for its soul denizen one lonely, hard drinker. Of course, the gay bar can be all these things and more many of us have believed finding a home in such a placement, finding oneself. Late at night, all the men in the room are referred to as boys, hello boys, Shults, the drag queen and this approximation of Neverland evinces a mindset of perennial searching. These are Jeremy Atherton Lin’s words from his just published book, Chebaa, which is, well, the question of what it is exactly is one of the first things that we should get into. It’s a dash of memoir, a bit of cultural history, maybe an ode to the institution itself, which is Lynn writes in the section from which I just read, is maybe less a place than a mindset of perennial searching. Like I said, our colleague June Thomas is joining us for this conversation, which is fitting because Jeunes Own writing on The Khaybar is quoted in Linda’s book. Oh, really? That is a measure of true fame. That is a real Mix-Up on June Thomas this past June. Welcome to our. Good to have you.

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S5: Thank you, Ramon.

S3: I wanted to call in Christina for us not to put you on blast, Christina, but I did see that you had very enthusiastically Instagram with a passage from this book. And so I felt like maybe you should get us started.

S1: And her story is no less my story.

S2: I didn’t I didn’t put it on the grid, but I did have a couple of people tell me that they bought the book based on this passion, based on this passage that I influencer. And so it is no secret to anybody who listens to this podcast that I love a gay bar. So Jeremy Atherton Lin has a bit of a different relationship to gay bars than I do, in part because of our different ages and genders. So for him, the different bars that he writes about in the book were like different identities that he was observing and trying on. But the book really spoke to and reflected a lot of the roles that gay bars have played in my life. And in the passage that I posted to Instagram, he writes, Identity wasn’t about finding something within a Secada biding time in my underground, but about sensing myself out in the world. And this is the big draw of a gay bar for me. It’s a place to feel out how I fit into my queer surroundings, which is also then how I fit into the world. And early in the pandemic, on this podcast, I talked about how I was feeling less like myself because I wasn’t going out. And I realized in that moment that my gender, sexuality self doesn’t and maybe can’t exist in a vacuum. And it’s through interactions with other people, strangers and friends, and also like dressing up for those interactions that I am able to actually perform myself and fully grasp and be myself. And reading this book was I just felt such a deep and intense longing for these places where you are either meeting actually all at once, like meeting friends, seeing people you already know, running into people who you’ve seen a bunch of places, but maybe you don’t actually know each other, but eventually you recognize each other enough times that you feel like you know each other. And also being confronted with brand new people who might help you learn something about yourself or become a person in your life. Does any of that ring true for you guys?

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S5: It did for me. I really liked it because, I mean, I liked it in small doses. I think I would have been happier even if I enjoyed it. I have a very positive view of this book, but I think I would have liked it even more if it had been one short story instead of, you know, because essentially they’re snapshots. The chapters are snapshots of different experiences, different selves that he presents at different bars in different places. And, you know, after a while, it’s like, yeah, yeah, you’ve got a lot of selves and, you know, that’s correct. But, you know, the thing that I really appreciated about it was that and work with me here, like poetry, it evoked a feeling like it wasn’t like, you know, there was this unpretentiousness about it, like, whoa, Verlan, OK, you’ve read your volunt, but you also are like touching some dirty boy’s dick, you know, like it was it was all human life is here, you know, but but also, like, I felt that, you know, those feelings that you get in a gay bar that I mean, I’d never go out. I’m in bed by Ted, like my my gay bar days are behind me, sadly. But that feeling of like, yeah, this is where you in a way, you are your most authentically gay in company, not just with a lover, not just like I mean, I’m one of those people who’s like, whatever I’m doing, I’m always seen as gay. It’s not that it’s I need to be in a special place. I’m very comfortable with my gayness. But when you’re in a gay bar, there’s that feeling of like, oh my God, that feeling that happens like everybody’s dancing is like, oh my God, we’re reaching transcendence. And you have that goofy grin on your face and that it is a special place. But as he observed. It can also be a fucking shithole, like a lot of gay bars are crap, crap bars with crappy service and crappy, you know, whatever, like there’s a tendency, including in my own writing about them to act like, oh, there are refuge, there are history, there are patrimony. They are there also a lot of other things. And I like that he was able to express a variety of the things that that they are and can be.

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S2: Yeah, Brian, I feel like you are. You don’t maybe agree with that as much based on the little look on your face right now?

S1: No, I’m thinking about it. I mean, I was I sort of caught on jeunes use of the word transcendence because so I’ll just say I went in really expecting to be like this to be a book. Like for me, like I it’s so much the kind of thing both content wise or subject wise and and sort of approach that I might like. But I felt very alienated from it. And I think it’s because I’m trying to sort of sort through in real time why. But I think it’s because my feelings about gay bars are of these sort of transcendent sanctuary temple, kind of like all of those words are a little overstated, as you say, June. But but that is kind of my fundamental feeling. And almost every gay bar I go to, even if it isn’t the even if the sort of crowd is one of those different subcultures that Christina was describing, that isn’t necessarily mine, I’m always actually kind of happy to be in their space and like and sort of celebrate their identity the way they celebrated it. I enjoy the chameleon aspect that the sort of multiple subcultures things allow. So the writer of this book, Jeremy Arthurson Leanna’s, is sort of has a sort of aloofness and suspicion and and never, as far as I can tell, like fully, fully like gets into that transcendent state and a gay bar. And so that that was strange to me. I don’t know. I found it sort of confusing to spend so much time writing about an institution that I’m not entirely sure that you like like that much. Maybe that’s unfair. But but but I think it’s it it his emotional orientation to it did not speak, did not at all reflect the way that I that I that I love gay bars.

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S2: I think maybe part of the issue there is by the end of it, I felt like he was conflating the experience of being in a gay bar and the experience of picking up men, which, yeah, a lot of people, myself included a gay bar, plays a lot more roles than just that. I mean, that’s secondary.

S1: Definitely, yeah.

S3: Yeah. I do think that, like the the project he set up for himself, which is to remix the personal and the historical and the cultural, it inevitably leads to this kind of disconnect where like you’re interested in the historical stuff and then the personal stuff begins to feel like I can’t relate to this or I can’t quite situate myself in the same place as you because we are different people. He does see this thing in the book that I thought was really striking. We go out to be gay. We crave this one once again, growing bored with the street world. It made me think of actually in our last episode, Christina, you talked about you forgetting how to tie a bow tie and that like that, the requirement of an access to a larger world to remind you of exactly who you are. And and it’s not connected for the author. It’s him that seems intimately connected to the pursuit of sex or the experience of sex. But as you’re saying, it can be about this other thing. It can be as simple as like putting on a bow tie and being with your queers at the, you know, like having a fancy night out, like whatever that is. That’s an interesting experience. That’s sort of hard to articulate. But in the book, it does feel like it is mostly articulated through the experience of sex.

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S1: There are many different kinds of bars and the book does a good job of I think of showing that. But there are there are bars that are more focused on sex, that are like cruzi sort of spaces, bars that are focused on preening. And then there are like the sort of neighbourhood dive bars that I think by the end of may be where they’re located geographically and who’s around have a sort of more mixed use energy. And those are the ones that I happen to love. Those are the ones that I think that are the most interesting and allow for all of the different kinds of interactions that I think, you know, that I value and would miss very much. So you can be you can be sort of jaundiced about them or you can be open to magic and like and sort of seek it out. But you have to. You have to. Locate those places and hold on to them fiercely, I guess.

S5: Yeah, I mean, I certainly have mean and again, one of the things I enjoyed about this book was that it was not a eulogy, which is not to say that there weren’t eulogist, you know, whatever, that there weren’t notes of of eulogy in it, but that it kind of felt like it was it was seeing a broad range of of things. So, for example, you know, I think it’s the first chapter. There’s a piece about a London bar, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, appealing for, like historical status. So it wouldn’t be closed down. And he you know, he quite rightly kind of mocked some of the claims because like, no, come on. Special pleading at the same time, maybe we need special pleading because, you know. Yeah, you know, we don’t need to rehearse all the reasons that, you know, life is not, you know, it just because you don’t have a gay bar in your toe or just don’t have a lesbian bar in your turn anymore doesn’t mean that, you know, life is over. But, you know, it’s very hard when you are living your life to acknowledge that something that is very valuable to you has had its moment. And we’re now in another historical phase and something new is appearing. And it might be better. It might not be, but that’s how time works when you’re living in it. You don’t want to acknowledge that. You want to hold onto the things that you enjoy and that are meaningful to you. But you know it. There is this feeling of we’re we’re we’re nostalgic queens, you know, and we just want to we want to hold on both. And, you know, that’s one of the reasons that we kind of sometimes like, I think the slightly seedy type of situation. You know, there’s a phrase that I associate very much with gay bars, nostalgia, KBOO, you know, the nostalgia for the mud, for the kind of the nasties, you know, the crummy way things used to be that in a way, maybe we kind of like to have that little frisson of not danger because it’s much more dangerous outside of a gay bar to be visibly gay. But you know that we enjoy that. And maybe maybe it’s just trying to hold onto something that we need to let go of.

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S3: I did want to point out that I went to one of the bars that he mentioned. So I went to the club night popstars when I was myself a student in London, which is where, you know, that’s the circumstances under which he went.

S2: There also was like his ultimate club night.

S3: Yeah. That’s where he met his partner, the end man. Reading that made me feel so old, like just like put me on an ice floe and send me out into the Arctic. Like, what was

S2: your relationship to gay bars at that point?

S3: I mean, I was such a baby, I don’t even really remember. I would have been 19 years old. I was nineteen ninety six that I was in London. I can conjure for the life of me what it was like to go to that thing, what it looked like, what I did, what people looked like. I just can’t like I can’t access that memory at all anymore. But it was a big deal to be in London. It was a big deal. I remember like we would buy Time Out magazine and like read about it and like figure out where you’re supposed to go and how much money it would cost and all of that way of making your way in the world. That’s what the book really most reminded me of, is lust the experience of being inside these places than remembering what it was like to buy Time Out magazine and figure out how to, like, save your money, like buy less food that we so that you could afford to go to a club. It just seems so cute somehow. And, you know, I think June’s right. Look, things are different now. They’re different now. And I and they will be different still when we emerge from the cultural shift that we are sort of in the centre of right now. It’s really hard to say what will what lies on the other side is, is every city going to see rents decline precipitously? And are we going to see, like CANY, you know, gender nonconforming artists like pool their resources and open up a bar that, like, welcomes all people? Or are we going to see rents skyrocket? And every restaurant in New York City is going to be a subway or a Pizza Hut? Like there’s just we just don’t know yet. All the grim, bleak, bleak thinking about it.

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S2: I, too, had gone to a couple of the bars. I think that he mentions one of which he calls a grey bar, which I think is a very clever way of referring to a bar that’s not explicitly are exclusively gay, but caters to a largely queer clientele. The one he talks about are one of the ones he talks about is Alario in San Francisco, which he lived above and which I have had. Several wonderful afternoons at they’re known for their daytime parties, and one of the things that I like best about queer bars is to go to them when I’m traveling or when I’m alone somewhere. And that’s the kind of thing that an app really can’t replace, is the ability to just drop in somewhere, no matter what day of the week it is or what time of the month it is, and have the opportunity to meet people who are already a little bit inclined to be friendly to you.

S5: Well, and in a way, that’s when you need it most, right? When you’re in your hometown. I mean, if you have a community, if you’re part of a community, if you need that bit of gay, you know, where you can find it, you know, might be in your home. It might, you know, whatever. But when you go somewhere and that’s when you kind of feel the need of how can I grow myself with with my people? So, yeah, if you like, need to, you know, consult an atlas and a calendar to figure out, well, if the moon’s in the seventh house and it’s February, I guess there’ll be a party in this bar like, no, nobody can do that when you don’t belong in that community. So. Well.

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S3: At this point, almost a year into varying degrees of quarantine, it’s simply nice to talk with a bunch of nurses about what it might be like to someday go to a bar. And I hope that before too long we are at a bar again with one another. The drinks are on June Thomas. June, thank you for joining us for our discussion. We were talking about Jeremy Atherton, Lynn’s book Ka’bah. Thanks again, John.

S5: Thank you for having me.

S2: Queer women and the people who date them have sometimes had a rough go of it. When it comes to dating and hookup apps. The big explicitly gay apps have all been for gay men and other apps that were built for straight people like Tinder and Bumble have sometimes made it really hard to varying degrees for queer people to find each other in intuitive ways. There’s always a lot of man woman couples on there looking for a third, which isn’t the sort of advance that some lesbians want on a hookup app. And for trans people or queers interested in dating trans people, the gender filters on these apps can make the dating pool too broad or too narrow or just not exactly what you want to see. So there’s not a good way, for instance, to say you’re into non binary people and trans men but don’t want to see any CIS men on your feet. LAX has tried to offer a solution. It’s a queer dating app that launched toward the end of twenty nineteen and it’s explicitly intended for everyone but CIS Gender men, which is more in line with how a lot of queer people excuse me, which is more in line with how a lot of queer women and trans people actually socialize and hookup. Leks also diverges from the typical dating app in two big ways. First, it’s entirely text based in the style of old school personals ads. It actually started in twenty seventeen as an Instagram account called Personals. So you can link your Instagram account, but there are no photos on the app. And second, it has become kind of an all purpose hub for organizing in-person gatherings, even those that don’t revolve around sex. So I know somebody who joined a roller skating meetup that started on Lack’s. I’ve heard of a queer literature club some people post just looking to meet friends. And we have a guest this month to chat about this new approach to dating apps and how queers connect in digital space. Writer Shelly Nicole, who wrote in Auto Straddle about her experience on LEKS in November. Welcome, Shelly.

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S6: Hi.

S2: So when did you start posting on Leks and what were you hoping to get out of the app?

S6: Right. So I originally posted on the app when it was back on personals, like when it was still on the Instagram account and got a little traction here and there. But then when it switched over to the app, I was probably honestly one of the first people to like, throw my ad up there because I just thought it was so amazing. I thought it was just really cool way to meet people. It was a really good version of a dating app that I had seen because I am a Taurus. So I love Wittiness and I want you to impress me and charge me with your words first, you know? And so I was probably one of the first folks to put up an ad on it, and it was really dope. I thought it was really cool. I got a lot of play. And then I also loved that I saw a bunch of other people using it. And it wasn’t it was specifically at that point, still a very dating hookup centered app. So a lot of the other things, like people looking for roommates and book clubs that wasn’t on there yet, which is also was also one of the main draws for me, was that people were there looking to hook up and looking to go on dates, because in the queer women culture, usually they don’t think that of us. You know, it’s like we’re always just looking for a relationship or we’re looking to, like, hold hands with somebody for four hours. And it’s like, no, we too want to hook up. And I love that this is exactly what that was doing for me. And it was great.

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S3: I was just I’m just really curious if you can talk about. What it means to you, what it meant to you at the time that this was all taking place via words and not images. I find that so striking. And the name itself, I guess we should say, is derived from the word lexicon. But, you know, you mentioned kind of jokingly that, like, you want to be talked to, you want to be flirted with, you want to be. But, you know, I wonder if you could just talk about your personal experience of not being able to see the people with whom you were communicating and what that meant for the whole experience for you.

S6: Yeah. So that was a big part for me, especially just because, yes, I am a person who definitely like needs physical attraction. Right. And you can be as witty as the day is long. But if I don’t want to make it, I was going to say something very nice and

S2: we can use explicit language.

S6: I don’t say that because I was going to say you can be as witty as the day is long. But if I don’t want to, like, sit on your face and we’re going to have an issue, that’s what the thing is for me. And as a queer woman, I think being able to just say something like that is also so like always like, oh, my gosh. But I still do want to have that conversation, though, you know what I mean? So being able to find out someone’s personality through these words that they use, especially what exactly they say, like astrology, like if all of your whole thing is about astrology, that makes me interested in your ad because I too am into astrology. So that makes me know that, like, before we get to making out, we’ll have something to talk about as well. And I just thought that was a really big draw, too. But what I, I didn’t like about the just using the people, just allowing themselves to use their words were sometimes people will post things like, I don’t know what to say. And like that was their whole ad was like, I’m I don’t know what to say about myself. And that was supposed to be the draw. But in reality, it’s not, because if you don’t know what you want to say about yourself on this ad, it’s not going to make me want to click on it, you know? So then, though, what Lex also does is they allow you to connect the Instagram, you know, so I kind of use it to fold. I find an ad that I that took me in. Maybe you talked about, like I said, astrology. Maybe you talked about a plant or something like that. And then it takes me to the next step of being like, oh, am I also going to be physically attracted to you as well? And it was always very 50 50 with me for that. It was wasn’t all the time that just because I liked someone’s ad was I also physically attracted to them. But for me and also for Danny and Drew, who I wrote the piece with on on Auto Strato, we all agreed that that was OK. It’s OK to be in the zone where you are attracted to someone’s words, but then not to go further because there’s no physical attraction there, you know.

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S2: Yeah. So when you guys wrote that piece, I notice that this was maybe a year after Lex had launched and when you revisited it, you felt a little more ambivalent. What was that about?

S6: Yeah, it was because OK, so for every Lex ad that you had, that was really just about someone posting midday on a Thursday, just being like, I would like to get anonymously railed by a hot dyke this afternoon. There’s fifteen other ads where they just want to hold hands or read books or join a book club or sell something. And it was just like, this is not the lane that that was for, you know what I mean? It’s what it kind of converted itself into somehow. And we don’t have these apps for queer women like Grindr and Scruff, where you can play like close distance dykes and stuff like that. And I don’t think anyone has found like a safe way to do it. So there’s that. But Lex came so close to being allowing us to have a hookup app essentially for queer women. And it it just made us all, I think, really sad about that aspect of it, because it’s just my issue with how queer women are portrayed in so many places. It’s like it’s assumed that we’re all inherently soft. Right. Like all we want to do is go on 18 hour days or we talk about our trauma and cry and then book a U-Haul and then four to six business weeks. Maybe there’s a kiss and two cats, you know, and it’s like, that’s not all of us, you know what I mean? And I it saddened me that Lex had went from this like, super sexy hookup app to essentially like a roommate or book club thing that you’re talking about. And it just it’s sad. And all three of us, actually, and now it’s like when you post on it, if you are looking for a hookup, I mean, pandemic’s so maybe don’t, but like, if you are looking for something like that. Your ad doesn’t get any traction anymore. It’s like everyone is just wants to go on these cute zoom dates where, you know, we watch a movie or something like that and not have, like, virtual sex, you know, and I we hated that aspect about it. The switch.

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S2: I feel bad for Lex in a way, because it launched like less than six months before the pandemic. So I had the same experience as you, Shelley, where like I went on it when it first launched. Actually, I had followed personals when I was on Instagram and it was like so flirtatious, so sexy. And not even all of them were about what specific sex acts you wanted to do. But they were people putting their best face forward. And even just scrolling through was like a little bit of escapism and fantasy. And that’s part of the fun of a hookup or dating app. Whether you contact someone or not is imagining yourself possibly contacting any of these people and putting yourself in those situations that they’re describing what what the app has become in the pandemic. I logged in recently when we wanted to talk about it for the podcast, and it was honestly really depressing. It seemed like there were a lot of people reaching out for help, like I’m just going to read a couple posts, heartbroken. My emotions are in a really weird place and I just need someone to talk to another one. I’m having surgery in two weeks. I have no family at all anywhere near here and don’t know anyone that can come help me. It really sucks. Another person asked if anyone could give them advice on recovering from feeling suicidal. Another one said, How are you finding motivation to keep living through this pandemic? And it. It’s really hard because obviously this is a place where people feel comfortable reaching out for help, maybe in a way they don’t feel comfortable asking friends or family. They feel more comfortable being like semi anonymous on this app. And I think the app has done a good job of being a pretty highly regulated, safe space, so to speak. You know, you get a lot of reminders about like transphobia. Racism aren’t tolerated. And, you know, you’re in this space designed for queer people, but it was designed as a dating and hookup app. And it feels like, OK, well, this person just posted that they’re feeling suicidal. Now, I’m going to post about I want to get real me daddy like that. It seems insensitive and also like scrolling through. I’m like, well, I’m not aroused anymore, you know, like

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S6: and like think about it too, though. What really blew me about that was like even during the pandemic. Right. I think a lot of people were lesbians were used. Is this new guy right. Because what are we used to long distance dating. Right. We were like, oh, y’all are in our field now. Welco you’re crying that you you can’t see your girlfriend who lives to try having a girlfriend in Australia for six months and being like, maybe when I see you and then just fucking all the time like on the computer and stuff like that. So my thing was like when the pandemic happened I was expecting leks to flourish. Right, because I was like this is our lane. We do this like we do this long distance stuff we come up with this is our field. And instead of us being able to be these sort of guides or not even a guide, but to sort of like being able to lean into our our power, that we usually this is our our our field. We went the other way. And I just was so upset about that because I genuinely thought that this was not going to be a huge issue for Dykes. Right. I just I really thought this was I mean, set aside, you know, people emotional connection, stuff like that. But I just thought that sexually or an intimate level, too, we would be able to succeed in this. And we went the opposite way of now leaning into these terrible stereotypes that people put on us. It’s just that we just want to talk trauma and and we want to connect through that. And we want you know, and that’s yeah. That’s a part of any, I think, relationship. But it gets put on queer women that that’s the major part of ours. And now we’re unfortunately making the stereotype have some traction. Right. Which sucks. I feel

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S2: like it. What looks feels like now is a message board, but without the validation of being able to comment on people’s posts. So it’s and, you know, I am not suggesting that they have the like person power to make this happen, but it feels like there should be different segments of the app for different needs. So like a community bulletin board where you can post about here, here’s some resource for free meals if you need free meals or if you’d like to donate, which is another thing people are posting about, or here, let’s organize a clothing swap, then maybe another area for people to post about their mental health struggles and then another one for dating and sex, because it doesn’t all make sense in the same column.

S6: My issue with that is we like to get great idea. Right. But like, why do we have to do that? You mean like why is it on this dating app that was specifically meant for all these queer types of babes to come and date and hook up? Why do we have to now be like, OK, y’all are out here sad and wanting to donate. So here, here, here. It’s like because think of the other dating apps for other people. Grindr doesn’t have that, you know what I mean? Scruffy and having to be on like

S2: Grindr could even bring

S6: itself. Exactly. But what I would like is for people to laugh at the idea that a queer woman dating app would be having to do something like that, you know, and I think one of the keys to it is moving it back to the platform of Instagram. You know, I think and I think maybe someone would see that having reverting it back to just being on Instagram, as it was when I was in person as a female, you know, being like we started this whole app. And I don’t think so, because I think if you revert something back to the simplicity of how the how successful it was on Instagram, then it allows for more of that sexiness to come back. Right. Because Instagram now does this thing with disappearing messages. You know, what a. It allows you to post your first strap to your story. You can make a close friends of all the leks girls that you’re currently hooking up with, you know, and I feel like instead of opening it up to being like, oh, let’s allow more sweetness and do like a donation and a community board, shut that shit down and get back to basics, because I just I’m like, I love that you want to donate this. Yeah, but I’m not here for that. I, I don’t care. Yes, I am. For the people and parts of them. But let’s get at it. Show me your boobs. You know what I mean. Yeah. It’s this whole thing and I hate that we as queer women have to have to ah queer women have to like do something like that and be like you know, it sucks. I want and this is going to sound maybe a little trite, but I hope people understand what I say when I’m when I see it. I want people to look at a queer woman, a dating app and be like and think of like Scruff or Grindr, you know what I mean? I want people to be like when they see me on it in the bar looking over my shoulder and they’re like, oh, this is on she’s on that. Well, wrap it up. And she’s like, yeah, you know what I’m doing. But we don’t we don’t have that, you know? And it saddens me so much.

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S2: Well, thank you so much, Shelly. Nicole, again, Shelley wrote a great piece with two colleagues on Auto Straddle. Thank you so much for joining us.

S6: Thank you for having me.

S2: And best of luck.

S3: Happy hunting out there.

S6: Listen, I’m I keep trying. Don’t you worry.

S2: Oh, I’m not. I’m sure you.

S1: Just a quick note for our listeners, since Shelley’s great piece was an auto straddle, I just wanted to flag that auto throttles having a fundraiser right now, like most media outlets in twenty twenty, they suffered from a lack of advertising. It sort of dried up for everybody for a while there during the pandemic. And so they had a tough go of it and had to do fundraisers back then, but now are doing another one to help them make it through July of this year. So they’re really fundraising for the next six months. So if you love autos, travel as much as we do hear it out. Word, I hope you’ll go check. Check out that fundraiser. You can find it at Auto’s Straddle because that’s auto astraddle dot by Z. All right, that is about it for this month, but before we go, it is a gay agenda time. How about you start us off, Remon?

S3: So we spoke earlier about Jeremy Atherton, Lynn’s book Gay Bar, which made me feel really nostalgic. And one of the things that came up in his book that really was just like I sat up in bed and I was like, holy shit, was he mentioned this movie from nineteen ninety six called Beautiful Thing with director Harry McDonald. It’s a movie about like two boys on like a housing estate in England who I mean, I don’t even really remember the movie and I’m pretty sure it’s not amazing. But I was 19 years old when I watched it and it was amazing to me at that moment, like truly like blew my mind. And I think we’ve reached the point in the pandemic where a lot of the new entertainment that’s coming out is like not amazing, like it’s not great. And I have really lost interest in a lot of keeping current with a lot of what’s new. And so that is my gay agenda item. Harry McDonald’s 1996 film Beautiful Thing, which is widely available on streaming. And I’m going to force my husband to watch it with me this weekend.

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S2: Oh, great love. A thing that’s widely available on streaming.

S3: Christina, what do you have planned for the month?

S2: I’d like to recommend a GQ piece by Emma Carmichael called Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird are goals. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think I could learn anything more about Megan Rapinoe. And I like them both and like reading about them and looking at photos of them. So but I was like, you know what? This has some photos in it. I might as well read it. And I’m sure I’ll know everything there is to know. But I did learn things about them because and I think it’s in part because the piece was written by a queer woman. They were incredibly open with her about their relationship the first time they hooked up and. There’s something about seeing two gay celebrities who actually seem well grounded, being so in love with one another, especially in the field of sports, which has been openly hostile to queer women for as long as Megan Rapinoe and Superbad have been athletes. You know, Emma Carmichael just writes really beautifully about being a girl in sports, coming out relatively recently, it seems, and the kind of influence that people like Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird have had on her. Just a really lovely read and some incredibly sexy photos.

S3: I was just going to say that I was just gonna say, like the photos and it’s like a very specific presentation of queer people that is considerably more sexualized than you might expect to encounter in the pages of a glossy of celebrities. You know, and in part, it’s because they have amazing bodies, because they’re are like athletes. But in another way, it’s just it is very just more, frankly, sexual than I can recall seeing of photos of someone like Ellen and Portia, for example, like, you know, they’re different people. It’s not fair to compare, but it is a much more sexy photo shoot.

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S2: Brian, what are you recommending for this month?

S1: So this is a gay agenda item that I’m going to experience in real time with our listeners, because I haven’t actually seen it yet, but I have it on good authority that it will be worth your time. It is called It’s a Sin. It’s a new HBO max miniseries from Russell Davies. If you don’t recognize that name, he is the guy behind the original British Queer as Folk. And he’s come back and many other shows, I should say, but he’s come back with another gay series this time that takes on the AIDS crisis in the 1980s in London. And so, you know, that was I was reading a profile about this about of him and about this new series by Charles Kaiser and in The Times. And he pointed out that the original Queer as Folk left out AIDS entirely. And Russell said that that was on purpose because he wanted it to be, since it was going to be a really breakthrough show for straight audiences. He wanted to be like sort of entirely joyful, you know, if not not every plot was sort that it needed to be like a sort of a happy representation. And now he felt like it was time and his sort of our own artistic career to deal with the AIDS crisis. So this show, it’s a sign we’ll be doing that. And it starts on HBO, Max, on the 18th. So I think the day after our episode comes out. So I’ll be watching it and I hope our listeners will do so as well.

S2: Sounds great.

S1: And June, since you’re here, would you please also give us a agenda item?

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S5: Yes, I am back to endorse. So recently I started listening to lesbian romance novels on Audible, partly because I’m going to speak to one of the best narrators of these novels for working another Slate podcast very soon. But I was astonished to learn that that the these narrators, they performed the emotion, you know, so if a person is excited, they put excitement in their voice. If they’re scared, they put fear in their voice. And if the characters are having sex, they put that in their voice, too. And it is I had no idea. I was I was fully shocked, but also fully on board to listen to more. And so I’ve just become of a very keen connoisseur of these books. I particularly recommend the works of Radcliffe, somebody I’m very familiar with already. I my favorite series of trashy but very enjoyable novels, the series, the honor series, which involve the the coupling or the the relationship between the first daughter of the United States and the head of her Secret Service team. And they have a lot of sex and there’s a lot of sex in the on and the audible version. But then also, like there’s this reader, Abby Creedon, who does a particularly good job. And so I’ve been checking out other other works that she’s performed. And and I’ve discovered all these really great works. So definitely recommend the works of Radcliffe, Georgia, beers, which are much more like they’re all set in this this upstate place where there’s like a lovely animal shelter and all. So it’s very wholesome, but also the animals, you know, but they make cute in the animal shelter. And so it’s very wholesome, but also quite a lot of very satisfying sex. And, you know, I don’t want to make this sound weird, like it’s just part of life. It’s part of their lives. But it’s really well done in the audible, I will just say that I can’t believe that this is not talked about all the time.

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S2: All right. That’s about it for our February show. Please continue to send us your feedback and topic ideas at Outward Podcast, at Slate Dotcom or via Facebook or Twitter at Slate Outward. Our producer is Daniel Shrader. June Thomas is the senior managing producer of Slate podcasts and the terrible gay bar cocktail that nevertheless tastes like home, if you like, outward, which I think you do. Please subscribe in your podcast app, tell your friends about it and read and review the show so other people can find it. We will be back in your feed March 17th. Bye, guys.

S1: Bye.

S2: They say gay everyone.