Barry Walters: Why Gay Clubs Are Our Refuge

Veteran music journalist Barry Walters has penned an excellent take on why our nightclubs have always been a refuge for the LGBT community. From Billboard Magazine:

Since Stonewall and well before, gay clubs have been our schools, our places of worship. Nightclubs are where we’ve long learned to unlearn hate, and learn to become and love our real selves. They’re our safe spaces; places where music and dancing and the joy of our collective togetherness unlocks our fears and extinguishes our lingering self-loathing. This is why the first important public post-Stonewall gay disco in Manhattan was named Sanctuary; why one of the biggest and longest-running queer dancefloors of London is called Heaven; and why the most beloved current LGBT club in San Francisco is known as Oasis. For many who’ve never known the security of a truly secure and happy home or school or work life, these places are the homes and churches where we celebrate and extinguish despair with our families of choice.

Sounds and styles have changed since the time when African-American LGBT icon Sylvester sang gay anthems like “Take Me to Heaven” or Paul Jabara – the songwriter behind Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” who, like Sylvester, also died of AIDS – penned his own, “Heaven Is a Disco.” But the message of Xenia Ghali’s “Under These Lights” – the title currently topping Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart – is exactly the same. “Under these lights, embracing all life/We are lost within these beautiful sights … Let’s spread the warmth we’ve found,” goes the pitch-shifted, gender-indeterminate vocal. That’s why anyone of any race or any sexuality goes to a club like Pulse – to lose oneself. But these dance temples are also where generations of LGBT people found their true selves. Without them and the freedom and safety they ordinarily afford, we’re collectively lost.

The full piece is worth your time.