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Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

Nashville gay bar is being taken down. That’s one less safe place for LGBTQ people

By meerna Jun12,2024

Greggor Mattson, a professor at Oberlin College, traveled across the United States to gather information for his book, Who Needs Gay Bars? Bar-hopping in endangered LGBTQ+ spaces in America.”

He bluntly told readers in a 2023 guest opinion column for The Washington Post: “The data is clear: Gay bars are closing.”

Mattson documented a 45% decline from 2022 to 2023 and cited a number of reasons, including dating apps keeping people at home, displacement due to rising rents and mainstream acceptance of the LGBTQ-plus community.

However, in Nashville, the city that the author made NO visit his book, there is a vibrant gay bar scene there. But facilities appeared and disappeared. There are historic plaques commemorating defunct bars like Juanita’s and The Jungle on Commerce Avenue downtown, and one is scheduled to be unveiled on June 14 on Franklin Pike at Warehouse 28, a disco that became the first home of Nashville CARES, a more than 40-year-old man Non-profit HIV/AIDS service organization.

On Tuesday, December 4, 2018, in Nashville, Tennessee, Metro Nashville Public Works workers Lorenzo Jackson and James Gentry, Sr. install the new Jungle and Juanita historic marker along Commerce Street.  The designation signifies that these were the first gay bars in Nashville.On Tuesday, December 4, 2018, in Nashville, Tennessee, Metro Nashville Public Works workers Lorenzo Jackson and James Gentry, Sr. install the new Jungle and Juanita historic marker along Commerce Street.  The designation signifies that these were the first gay bars in Nashville.

On Tuesday, December 4, 2018, in Nashville, Tennessee, Metro Nashville Public Works workers Lorenzo Jackson and James Gentry, Sr. install the new Jungle and Juanita historic marker along Commerce Street. The designation signifies that these were the first gay bars in Nashville.

Now another business of this type is forced to leave its location. On June 4, employees of Trax, a gay bar at the intersection of Houston’s Chestnut Hill and Wedgewood neighborhoods south of downtown, announced that the landowner had abruptly terminated their five-year lease and would be vacating their current location in early July. They said they plan to move, but the future of the plant is unclear.

Attitudes towards LGBTQ plus people are improving, but opposition is growing

New high-rise construction is surrounding Trax, which has been in business for 15 years, and it appears the land is too valuable to allow the gay bar to remain. It has become yet another victim of displacement caused by growth and change in Nashville over the years. Sad that the news came at the beginning of pride month.

Protesters stand in the gallery with Pride flags during the House session at the state Capitol building in Nashville, Tennessee, Monday, Feb. 26, 2024.Protesters stand in the gallery with Pride flags during the House session at the state Capitol building in Nashville, Tennessee, Monday, Feb. 26, 2024.

Protesters stand in the gallery with Pride flags during the House session at the state Capitol building in Nashville, Tennessee, Monday, Feb. 26, 2024.

Trax and other gay and lesbian bars in Music City – Peckers, Canvas, Tribe, Play, Frankie J’s and Lipstick Lounge – offer a safe space where patrons don’t have to fear being stared at, harassed or assaulted.

This seems to be the case in the last century, as social norms have changed and more people than ever identify as queer, including 1 in 5 Gen Zers, according to Gallup, but opposition to LGBTQ-plus rights has increased in recent years.

Laws in states like Tennessee that address transgender people, drag queens and LGBTQ history make these places even more important community centers.

Mattson notes in his research that many of these bars across the country were established after World War II as places where people could come to each other to socialize and be authentically themselves without shame, although there were risks such as arrest. The 1969 police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York became famous for the uprising that led to the Gay Liberation Movement.

A politician calling for the burning of Pride flags is fueling terrible behavior and violence

But history repeated itself as far-right politicians questioned the decency of LGBTQ people and labeled them a danger to children.

Tennessee’s law has gained national attention, which is why the first three episodes of the latest season of HBO Max’s “We’re Here” feature three drag queens trying to amplify LGBTQ-plus voices in the conservative community.

Drag queen performers Sasha Velour, Jaida Essence Hall and Priyanka are at the Tennessee State Capitol for the season 4 premiere of Max on April 26, 2024. "They were here."Drag queen performers Sasha Velour, Jaida Essence Hall and Priyanka are at the Tennessee State Capitol for the season 4 premiere of Max on April 26, 2024. "They were here."

Drag artists Sasha Velour, Jaida Essence Hall and Priyanka are at the Tennessee State Capitol for the season 4 premiere of Max’s series “We’re Here” on April 26, 2024.

While I criticized the show in a recent column for portraying Tennessee as a hellscape without any queer joy and ignoring the numerous supporters and allies in the community, the legislation has actually had a chilling effect on people’s perceptions of their self-worth, dignity and agency, and their desire to remain in the state .

Vile rhetoric, such as the recent call by the Colorado Republican Party chairman to burn all Pride flags, motivates thoughts and acts of hate that put people’s lives at risk.

Queer spaces are not immune to violence, as evidenced by the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 2022 and the Pulse massacre in Orlando, Florida in 2016.

When the Pulse tragedy occurred, as a former Florida resident, I had a hard time collecting my thoughts, knowing that I didn’t fully understand what it was like to be in that place at that time.

At the same time, gay bars were places where I found friendship when I was in the closet, and where I found love when I was finally ready to get into a relationship.

Growing up gay in a religious, conservative home created a need to find safety and acceptance elsewhere.

I would occasionally visit all of the Nashville venues I mentioned earlier for brunch, Happy Hour, and the very rare late night drink after a Nashville SC game or a ride on the party bus.

After cheering at the football game and riding the bus, my group and I ended up at Trax on both occasions and connected with friends we hadn’t seen in a long time.

We felt a deep sense of community – something that many customers will lose when Trax finally leaves this place.

David Plazas is the director of opinion and engagement for the USA TODAY Tennessee network. He is a member of The Tennessean’s editorial board. He hosts the Tennessee Voices video broadcast and curates the Tennessee Voices and Latino Tennessee Voices newsletters. Call him at (615) 259-8063, email him at [email protected] or tweet him at @davidplazas.

This article originally appeared on the Nashville Tennessean: Nashville gay bar Trax gets removed, harming LGBTQ community

By meerna

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