gay bars Yes, gay bars are actually good for us.

When you think of gay bars, a lot of things come to mind.  A soundtrack filled with Britney, Beyoncé, and Robyn.  Underwear-clad go-go dancers shaking what their mamas gave them on the bar.  Your favorite local drag queen lip syncing for her life (and some good tips).

But you probably don’t associate gay bars with your wellness.  And why would you?  When’s the last time any nutritionist recommended tequila shots and vodka sodas as part of a healthy, balanced diet?  However, save for the occasional alcoholic overindulgence, your neighborhood gay bar can actually do wonders for your wellness routine.

Everybody Get Footloose

Whether you’re as skilled as Gaga or you have two left feet like Kate Gosselin on Dancing with the Stars, you’re likely to bust a move after a drink or two.  Livestrong estimates you can burn anywhere from 180-223 calories in just 30 minutes of high-energy dancing.  The next time you bust out that “Bad Romance” routine, it might be just as effective as an hour on the treadmill.

Gay men square dancing
Image Credit: Hotlanta Voyeur/Flickr CC-BY 2.0

You’ve Got a Friend

More than places to drink up, hook up and sweat it out, gay bars are places of acceptance.  Many of us in the LGBTQ community face resistance and judgment from our friends, families and employers when we come out.  A gay bar is the one place where we can surround ourselves with other gay men and feel like part of a family.  In an interview with KCRW last June, Boy Club magazine co-founder Kyle Fitzpatrick reaffirmed the importance of gay bars.

“If you think about the gay community as other communities, a la religion or something, our rallying points, our churches are gay bars,” he said.  “That’s a place where we can go and be ourselves in an unfiltered situation without judgment.”

When we think about the effects of rejection on a person’s mental state, finding that sense of camaraderie at a gay bar could be one way to stop depression and help gay men accept themselves instead of heading in the other direction.

gay bars

IRL

I’d be remiss not to mention one of the main motivators for visiting a gay bar.  Obviously, many of us are heading out on Friday night to find the next…we’ll call him “love of our life.”  In an era of Grindr, Scruff, and Tinder, it might seem like gay bars are becoming irrelevant.  USA TODAY shared in 2014 that gayborhoods are diminishing due to increased acceptance.  Last year, Queerty lamented the many closing gay bars across the country.  It seems many of us are cozying up with our devices to find Mr. Right (or Mr. Right Now) instead of heading out to look him in the eyes.

Artsy image of muscle in a magazine.
Image Credit: James/Flickr CC0 1.0

Gay bars are one of the few places where we can date without fear.  Most of us aren’t having those romantic comedy moments where we bump into a hot guy while getting our daily flat white at Starbucks.  And “dating” apps create a host of new problems from fake photos to indecent proposals.  At a gay bar, you can strike up chemistry through witty banter (or sloppy make out sessions).  Who knows?  You could even end up making some new friends.  Think of the gay bar as a place for matchmaking, networking and friending.  Real-life connections that don’t involve swiping, clicking or blocking.

Keep It In The Family

Gay bars offer us a sense of community.  Beyond the immediate benefits for you, becoming a patron of a local gay establishment shows your support for the community.  It keeps a gay-owned business open.  A safe space for LGBTQ people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds remains available to those who need it.  It’s important for gay bars to serve a purpose for you.  But it’s also crucial for you to return the favor.

Here in New York, as you stroll through Chelsea or the West Village, these historic gay neighborhoods are starting to look like graveyards.  The empty businesses that were once Friday night hotspots are now boarded up shrines to the good times of yesteryear.  With so many of these bars disappearing, we risk leaving a new generation of gay men out in the cold.  So, this Friday, do your wellness a favor and grab a drink at your favorite gay bar.  You need it, and so does the community.