A Love Letter to My First Lesbian Bar and to Holding Queer Space
Author: Gloria Bigelow
There were comfy little sofas, curtains on the windows, dim lights, and little tables. Two women tended the bar; one who went to Agnes Scott and one with a noticeably large belt buckle. That night, my friend and I got some drinks from the belt buckle lady and sat down at a table. I liked it here. About an hour in, I leaned over to my friend and said, “A woman’s parlor. What a great idea. We don’t have to worry about being hit on by men. Just us girls.”
She looked at me blankly.
“Of course, it’s just us girls… It’s a lesbian bar,” she said.
I choked back my rum and coke, my standard drink circa 1996. “A whaaa?”
“A woman’s parlor… this is a lesbian bar.”
“I… I… I’m not… What?!”
I looked around and zeroed in on all the signs that I missed. Doc Martens, women in fatigues and sassy asymmetrical haircuts. Wait a minute, come to think of it — I had seen two sets of women lean in for a kiss. I thought it was just a fluke. A very sexy fluke.
My Sister’s Room (at the time, located in Midtown Plaza in Atlanta) was my first experience in the queer world (other than majoring in theatre… because… that’s… well, you know). Anyway, in no time at all, this “Woman’s Parlor” became my second home. On my first night there, I would meet the woman who three years later would be my first girlfriend (still owe her a hefty debt of gratitude for helping me over to the lady pond). Never mind that I was “straight,” and never mind that I had a boyfriend. Never mind that I didn’t speak Lesbianiese. It was my favorite place to be. I couldn’t get enough of this place.
Years later, I would find myself at a different iteration of MSR, sans boyfriend, and as a full-on gay lady and speaking fluent Lesbianiese.
Many months ago, I saw a post circulating about a place in L.A. that was really feeling the pains of COVID. It was a neighborhood bar in Silver Lake called Akbar. I quickly made a little donation and spent the next hour looking through the comment sections.
“I made my first friends in L.A. here.”
“It’s my second home.”
“I met my last three boyfriends here.”
“I met my girlfriend here, and we’re still together.”
“I met my wife here.”
Some called it their own version of Cheers, like the neighborhood bar on the popular sitcom. My memory immediately went back to the incredible nights I had there, playing DJ with my friends as we danced ourselves out of Tuesday night into the early hours of Wednesday morning.
With the COVID of it all, many of us have spent the better part of last year going through it. The loss of loved ones, missing our friends and trying to connect through our screens. Missing the hugs, the laughter, the in-person connection.
As Pride season is upon us, we are coming up on a little over a year of a pandemic, knowing that we have indeed lived through something. We made it to the other side — a little worn for sure, but ready to meet again in person. Whether it be in the small but epic places like the historic Stonewall Inn or dyking it out on the streets of West Hollywood for Pride, or at Akbar, which weathered the storm of Covid with the love and support of our community, I know that all of our places, like all of our people, did not make it. So I’m exceedingly thankful for the people and places that did. And although it’s great that we can be queer in many places, there is something about our spaces that feels even more relevant after surviving this ordeal. These spaces have been our home, our church; they’ve held us in sickness and in health. These are the places where we can go to heal, a place where we fit, where we can lean in for a kiss.
“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got… Sometimes you wanna go…”
May we find our connection and our spaces intact. Cheers!
Gloria Bigelow is a stand-up comic and writer for the TV show Bob ❤️ Abishola. Follow her on Twitter at @gloriabigelow.
Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Gloria Bigelow