With all the talk about “gay marriage rights” really just being about “marriage rights”, I thought I might spend a moment to actually talk about something that justifiably can have the “gay” appellation attached to it.
A gay anniversary.
We found out last night that this weekend marks the 31st Anniversary of the Laird Hotel.
But that’s not the anniversary that I’m talking about – even though it could be tagged as a gay anniversary.
No, what I’m talking about is Darren and my gay anniversary. The first anniversary of us ever setting foot in a gay club. It happened a year ago, this weekend. With thoughts starting to coalesce for our move to Melbourne (albeit still thinking it would be 1-2 years out!), we came down to Melbourne to visit two relatively new but great friends we’d made during the year. They already both knew that we’d never been to a gay club before (both with some mix of horror and amazement, I guess), and decided to introduce us to the Laird.
The idea terrified the hell out of me. Honestly, I lost nights and nights of sleep thinking about it, and was a nervous wreck. Now I can look back at it with a strong degree of amusement and self-awareness that it was a perfect storm for me in terms of social phobia, but back then, I was terrified.
As it turned out, the night they intended to take us happened to be the Laird’s 30th Anniversary, although they hadn’t known it at the time they decided to do it.
It was therefore with great trepidation and a strong desire to just run, that I followed them and Darren into the Laird in Abbortsford, and after taking about an hour or so to relax (with, of course the help from some Dutch courage), I started to enjoy the place. OK, I’d known that it was a bear and leather bar before I walked in, but I still had visions of it everything that was an anathema to me on the gay scene – judgemental twinks and muscle men, pumping dance music (or Kylie tracks on sycophantic repeat) and rejection.
Instead? Friendly smiles, a relaxed atmosphere despite the packed nature of the night, and the occasional known face as I recognised someone I’d been talking to online before. We bumped into a good friend who we’d thought would be in Sydney and so hadn’t told about our visit. I was hugged by someone I’d been talking to for a few years online who mistook me for one of our friends we’d come with, only to share a laugh about still knowing each other regardless. Darren bumped into one or two people he’d met on his last holiday in Tasmania who’d come up for the event as well. Equally though, on reflection, that night now is as much defined by who we did see as it was by who we didn’t and who are now such good friends, too, including undoubtedly a best friend for me. In addition to a few very close friends we found out subsequently had been there, I’d bet my next cup of coffee that probably half of the bears on my friends list on Facebook were also there that night – unknown at the time, but friendships awaiting with the march of time.
When we came back down in March so that I could meet customers, and Darren could start scouting regions for us to live in, we visited the Laird again a few times, and that feeling of welcoming comfort was strongly reinforced. So by the time we moved in June, we were missing it (not to mention our friends), and it was a welcoming beacon all the way from Kingsville.
But that first night – the Laird’s 30th Anniversary – was a pretty special night.
(I got cake!)
How many more gay venues have we been in since the Laird? Hang on, I’ll count … there’s been … um, none.
I suspect the first time that count will increment will be the next time we visit Auckland.
Happy 31st Anniversary, Laird. And happy first gay anniversary for Darren and I.