​New book unpacks the history of queer nightlife in the US, The Bars Are Ours

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A new book unpacking the history of queer bars in the US is out now via Duke University Press, titled The Bars Are Ours: Histories and Cultures of Gay Bars in America,1960 and After.

The Bars Are Ours chronicles the history of LGBTQIA+ bars in the North American country from 1960 to the modern day, and how they represent queer communities, politics, and cultures.

The book is penned by Lucas Hilderbrand, an author and Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Irvine.

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“Gay bars have operated as the most visible institutions of the LGBTQ+ community in the United States for the better part of a century, from before gay liberation until after their assumed obsolescence,” reads the book’s blurb.

The Bars Are Ours also offers insight into the history of queer communities across the US with a look into their Black and Latinx origins, from drag bars in Kansas City to New York’s bathhouses and activism against racial discrimination in Atlanta.

Other locations with prominent queer nightlife across the US, including Denver, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Orlando, will also feature.

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The book also explores Houston’s iconic and oldest gay bar, Mary’s, which closed down in 2009. Mary’s featured a memorial in its garden dedicated to the victims of HIV and AIDS, with all profits from drag queen tips and vegetables grown in the garden going to charity.

Speaking to Duke University Press, Hilderbrand explained: “It was essential to me that my survey history be inclusive—that I understand Black and Latinx gay bars as gay bars.

“I also recognized that they often had community-specific histories and cultures, which I worked to document as best I could without claiming to speak for or exoticising them.”

Find out more about The Bars Are Ours here.

Gemma Ross is Mixmag’s Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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