Aspen (not his real name) always says hello, checks in to see what’s happening in my world, and has two outfits for his shift at the Parliament House. His first outfit is usually a fun t-shirt of some sort and shorts. He’s very fit, blond, and sequential.
Sequential? Yes. He likes, and I would guess that he enjoys order. It isn’t so much that there is a method to his madness, he’s all method in the midst of the merry Parliament House madness. The way he lines up the white plastic cups with ice, in rows, in a strategic place right above the well is a work of art. He’s incredibly efficient with his distribution, and reclamation, of drink napkins. His movements along those lines are almost a ballet of its own. He is very alert to wipe down the counters any time a drink’s condensation leaves a ring or a small spill from a sloshed drink mars the dry surface…
Aspen, yeah… he got this. Sequential.
Then around 11 pm Aspen changes into his second outfit. That pretty much consists of everything he is wearing, coming off. There goes the shirt, neatly folded, rolled up and tucked away. And then there go the shorts, neatly folded, rolled up and tucked away. Aspen then starts serving up drinks with his sequential method in full effect in underwear that defies gravity and probably costs more than my car.
I like Aspen. He’s good looking, yes. But I like him because he just seems so …normal. Yes, almost naked in underwear that looks like something out of Cirque De So Incredibly Gay, but for someone who barely knows him, he just seems like a regular guy trying to do a good job.
Scanning to my left I see Tilda. Of course, not her real name because I don’t know her at all, but she looks like a Tilda to me. She is trans. She is tall with long flowing, wavy, blond, hair. Tilda was wearing a traditional little black dress flowing down to mid-thigh, and stars all over her leggings. The cosmos leggings were quite distracting so I didn’t catch what her shoes (heeled boots maybe?) looked like. She was animated and telling the handsome Native American man next to me that the lesbian couple on the dance floor was incredibly hot.
I looked over and smiled as I saw these women laughing, smiling, dancing and enjoying the evening. They were the first couple on the dance floor before it would soon become packed.
The 10 pm Footlight Players show finished, and the large crowd flooded out of the theater, down the mirrored hallway and into the various bar stations. Young, old, flamboyant, not flashy, a few Hipsters laughing into their phones, an abundance of Pulse memorial ribbons/t-shirts, blingy outfits, not blingy outfits, every body shape, every fashion choice possible from Macy’s clearance (where my shorts came from) to one woman who seemed like she was straight up from Miami in her Haute Couture… every variety of person possible started migrating through the bar.
Many of course flocking to Aspen’s neatly arranged and efficiently running landing pad as he served up his sequential drink realness to the manifesting merriment.
Usually, when I go out, I will have one (maybe two) overpriced drinks and then wind down with a diet coke before heading home. I usually try to escape the merry madness before the witching hour (12 am). Last night I got home before midnight and still felt it was super late.
At 11:15’ish pm, as I walked back to Hubert the Humble Hybrid. I was completely sober and grateful for the diet coke delivered caffeine to keep me awake as I drove the 20+ miles home. While driving, I marveled at how different my experience with gay bars is today as compared to when dysfunctional me lived in them the first time I came out (in the ’80’s). Yes, there is dysfunction and “wild” party type things that happen (as it does in every community), but I am not and cannot be the dysfunctional person I was back then.
Plus, nightclubs are entertaining enough without additives or ending up in a pile of people at Waffle House at 3 am.
What I saw last night, and really since I have come back out, is that gay bars are just one of many safe havens in the LGBTQ community. Every community has pros and cons; good and bad relational dynamics. But what I saw last night was a broad variety of very diverse people who felt safe and enjoyed a fundamental level of freedom and acceptance.
To date, I’ve never seen anything like that (fundamental level of freedom and acceptance that includes LGBTQ people) in the church. My view has been limited to the conservative church, and I have been on a church “sabbatical” for about a year now. I readily admit my experience is not a completely accurate observation for the “church” at large (i.e. progressive, liberal, affirming, etc.) I think I am ready to find, support and/or create that type of haven for our community members of faith.
I know this, our Creator knows every single name of every single person in the bar last night. He knows how the beautiful woman with the Miami vibe thinks and feels as many in the room assess her “look” as she walks through. He knows what is making the Hipsters laugh into their phones and enjoys the sound of their chuckling. Our Creator knows Tilda’s real name and why she likes stars so much. Jesus knows the lesbian couple’s story, the steps they have journeyed and will journey together. He knows the handsome Native American man’s name, story, who told me how funny the drag show was.
While I am pretty sure that Aspen’s underwear was constructed in the devil’s temptation factory :::laugh::: (just teasing), I am convinced Aspen brings a smile to our Creator’s face when his sequential gifting manifests in the midst of all this merry madness.
Overall, I believe our Creator is pleased when all of His children can simply be themselves in a fundamentally free and accepting environment.
May safe havens increase in every sector of our community; starting with those safe havens existing for others in our hearts.