One reason why the “we need more nonsexual LGBT spaces because gay bars are evil dens of sin and predation” thing bothers me so much is that I have known quite a few nonsexual, minor-friendly LGBT spaces that did not revolve around alcohol consumption as business model or whatever - I worked for four years at a gay and lesbian bookstore in Vancouver’s gay village! You know what’s really, um, difficult to do (under capitalism etc)? Maintain a successful small, community-based business that caters to a marginalized community! It can go well, but it can also be just really really hard. The place where I worked was firebombed multiple times (not while I worked there, although I did have shifts canceled a few times due to bomb threats), it was put at the center of a sprawling legal case about government censorship of LGBT literature that cost the owners literally millions of dollars, when I worked there I don’t know if it ever really turned a profit, and no one was paid enough, and the owners eventually got burned out but couldn’t find someone with decent ethics to sell it to so they’d be sure that their employees and this space they’d built for LGBT people would be in good hands.
I loved that bookstore with all my heart and soul - it was my one refuge when I was living in a violent, abusive situation; it was the first place I was able to have a sense of belonging to an actual community of LGBT people, an experience which was really formative for me and helped me heal a lot from the small-town homophobia I was coming from; when I was too poor to buy food, the manager told me to just take whatever I needed for dinner or groceries or bus fare out of the till and leave her a note letting her know, and she’d literally just like, reimburse whatever I needed. This is an OUTRAGEOUS thing to do, but she was an elder lesbian and she knew I was young and bi and in a really tough place so she did it anyway. One of the store owners, at a time when I wasn’t speaking to my mom for a number of complicated reasons, would call my mom to let her know I was showing up for work and I wasn’t, like, dead in a ditch somewhere. Those people looked out for me - and for other people like me - in ways that went so beyond what I could have ever asked anyone for. And they did it while struggling immensely as a business.
And you know what often kept that place afloat? Gay bars! I’m serious - when the bookstore was in trouble, when they had legal fees, etc, it was gay bars who hosted fundraisers. It was gay bars who provided space for stuff like LGBT trivia night, or for the bookstore’s anniversary and new years’ parties, or for anything that required more space than a small bookstore could accommodate.
So I really resent seeing people pit the idea of spaces like LGBT bookstores and cafes against the idea of spaces like gay bars! Listen: it’s been said a million times, but I think it bears repeating, that most of the people doing this seem like they have never been to an actual gay bar but are basing this stance entirely on what they’ve seen on TV. But also, I feel like maybe these people have never been to an LGBT bookstore or cafe or community centre or other social space for LGBT people that isn’t a bar! Because if you think that there’s no connection ever between these spaces and the ways they exist, if you think that undermining the right of gay bars to exist is supportive of gay bookstores and coffee shops, you’re very, very, extremely, much, very wrong.