Growing up as a teenager is all about firsts. The first time you drive a car. The first time you experience night-life. The first time you fall in love? Possibly.
It’s a hard period of time. Years filled with coming to terms with a variety of new concepts. Growing up as a gay teenager is arguably even harder. You are faced with the challenges of coming to terms with your sexuality, becoming comfortable in yourself and gaining knowledge of the culture surrounding that. You also have the dreaded ‘coming out’ to think about. Yes, it is a hell of a lot easier these days due to the general acceptance of different sexual orientation, but it’s definitely still tough.
One thing that is a particularly huge turning point for LGBT youth is the first time you experience your local gay scene. It can be quite a traumatic ritual in terms of how much of an eye-opener it can be, both good and bad. On one hand, it’s incredible because it gives you a sense of community and belonging to something and can really evoke a deep sense of pride in who you are. On the other hand, it can be insanely difficult, filled with naivety and new emotions. It is a personal experience and maybe depends on how cosmopolitan your up-bringing was. It will definitely affect you in one way or another.
Now, to any young people reading this, my first time was extremely emotionally taxing and I want to be as honest as possible about it in the hope that it makes you think and maybe prepared. I was fairly recently introduced to the Manchester gay scene, renowned as a fun, (and most importantly) cheap night out. I didn’t have any great expectations and generally believed it would be similar to any primarily ‘straight’ clubbing scene I had been around. However, I found it to be an inspiring place with a multitude of different experiences.
So, how was I introduced to G-A-Y, Baa Bar, Coyote’s? Well, around three months ago, on a Sunday, I went on a date with a sweet guy from Manchester. He was much older than me (6 years to be exact) and had been around the Manchester gay scene for quite a while. After a successful first date, we were walking through a quiet city centre when he asked if I’d like to go for a drink in the ‘village’. My stomach instantly flipped. Not only had I never been around a predominantly gay atmosphere before but I was going for the first time with a guy I hardly knew.
My nerves were shot, to say the least. I decided, in the nature of being spontaneous, and agreed to a drink. We went to G-A-Y bar, the social centre of the Manchester’s gay community. We sat down, had a few drinks, met some of his friends, and overall had a really great time. I felt so relieved and that I could finally start to embrace my sexuality in another area of my life. I started going out a few more times, trying different place and learning how these new social circles worked.
I soon came to the realisation that the gay scene can be a very, very shallow, artificial place. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t because it’s a gay scene, I believe it’s because it’s such a small community against a large social concept. Everyone knows everyone. There are a lot of people that climb these invisible social ladders and believe that this gives them a perpetual right to treat people in an overall unsocial, and quite hurtful, way.
People can become disposable and that, in any social scene, is wrong. I mean this can happen anywhere, especially in the brutal social culture of adolescences, but the flamboyant, sometimes overpowering characters of the LGBT regulars seem to make this more of an issue. It’s important to keep an open-mind, like with anything, and to be friendly and honest to anyone you involve yourself with.
You might think I am trying to scare you off or give the gay scene a bad rap, but that isn’t the case. It’s an incredible place filled with friendly, interesting people and can really make you feel safe as a young gay person. It’s fun, lively and ultimately a vital experience. It’s just important to surround yourself with friends that have mutual care for one-another and will be there for you. I will definitely continue to go out to the gay village for years to come because I enjoy myself and I feel proud to be a part of it.
Enjoy your local gay landscape and embrace being around people with a common goal of acceptance and pride. Don’t be judgmental, but be careful, open and look out for you and your friends’ feelings. Just remember that what other people think of you is none of your business.