A year ago I saw a submission request for short stories, memoirs, or poems for an anthology to celebrate and commemorate the importance of gay and lesbian bars in our community. The book’s collators are S Renée Bess and Lee Lynch.
As Renée explains in her recent blog for Women and Words, the idea came to her while thinking about the The Pulse Nightclub tragedy in Orlando and whether or not many people outside the LGBTQ community would grasp the idea of what a place like this means to us.
I really wanted to contribute a piece for the book but my experience of bars is fairly limited. However my wife was a regular visitor to the Gateways club in London when she moved to the city from Scotland in the 1960s. Her memories of that time gave me the germ of an idea for a story.
What struck me was how difficult it was in those days to find out where to go, how to meet people. Closeted lifestyles meant you had to be very careful. The available publications at the time had names that gave nothing away: The Minorities Research Group produced a monthly journal, Arena Three. Kenric was set up as a network of social groups throughout the country and published a newsletter. My wife had to pay for a Post Office Box so that she could receive these publications without arousing the suspicions of her landlady or employers.
In writing my piece for the anthology, Gateway to Heaven, I tried to capture the thrill of discovery for a young woman in 1968 venturing into a lesbian bar for the first time. I was extremely thrilled when the story was accepted.
I’m looking forward to reading all the other contributions in the book: Our Happy Hours, LGBT Voices From the Gay Bars. And it is due out on 1 November, published by Flashpoint Productions.
All the book’s royalties are being donated to two organisations that provide services to LGBTQ youth in Philadelphia and New York.
The Starling Hill Trilogy: