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The Bar Scene: A Place For Homosexual Culture And Identity

1881 words - 8 pages

In every walk of life, people seek refuge from the judgmental perception of their contemporaries. Thus, many people live in secrecy. For them, secrecy is an absolute necessity in dodging undesired scrutiny and maintaining normalcy in public. When it comes to gender and the expression of it, lines are often blurred. While some hide, others brazenly parade their sexuality in public and their alternative perspectives on gender roles. In “The Bowery as Haven and Spectacle” from Gay New York, by George Chauncey, explores the emergence of the Bowery “fairy” bars, and how they became a sanctuary for the queer and working-class of New York City. He discusses in great length the tension that arises between the middle-class and working-class, the bars as a spectacle and a place to be entertained, the solicitation of sex work, and the makings of gay culture in the bar scene. The lines of gender were blurred when men took up cross dressing and the mannerisms normally associated with women. On the other hand, Merril Mushroom, writer of "How to Engage in Courting Rituals 1950's Butch-Style in the Bar", complies a laundry list of rules for butch lesbians on methods of attracting other women. Here, females cross gender boundaries and take on masculine personas. With this said, both pieces show the development of alternative gender identities. However, this switch in gender roles seldom occur outside the bar scene. Despite the semi-public gender blurring, those who identify with this lifestyle still feel the need to express themselves in an environment most accommodating to their blatant disregard of gender norms. The aforementioned pieces answer questions in regards to why one must live in secrecy, and how this secrecy gives way to the development of culture and identity. Chauncey gives a detailed, historical account of public gay life in the early twentieth century, while Mushroom takes a different approach and presents a fictional account of homosexual culture. With this said, I will explore the importance of the bar scene in the development of gay gender perspectives, and to do this, I will use both Chauncey and Mushroom to show the how the bar scene provided a gateway where it was possible for homosexuals to birth a unique culture and custom tailor a set of guidelines for ones gender expectancies.
Binary relationships constitute our perceptions of the contemporary world. Binary relationships such as working-class versus middle-class, homosexual versus heterosexual, femininity versus masculinity, dictate what is presumed to be acceptable, correct, and standard, versus what is incorrect, unacceptable, incorrect, and uncommon. In order for the bar scene to thrive, the perfect environment would have to be chosen. This is what Chauncey discusses in his piece. In the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, the Bowery was the epicenter of “commercialized vices”, and had a distinctive working-class culture with its own codes of conduct, dress, and public...

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