This paper examines the liberating promise of black specific bars to African American gay patrons. These bars proved more communal than typical white gay nightlife; that is, while black bars served as places of leisure and enjoyment, they also served as formal community centers, fundraising operations, and educational support groups to black patrons often ignored by the wider gay rights movement. Furthermore, this paper examines the limitations of these sites, especially along the gendered lines. Some African American bar patrons hoped their gay bar space to be free of unwanted femininity they felt was found too often in white gay bars. Other yearned to make their spaces “macho,” free of drag performances or “sissys,” a gay black identity based on overt masculinity. Therefore, this paper seeks to add the urban black gay bar as a crucial site to understanding dynamic African American LGBT experience.
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