Can't We Just Be Fabulous?

If there is one thing people like to do around here it’s complain. "We don’t have effective mass transit!"  "There are too many parking lots!"  "Nothing’s open on Sunday!" It's always something.

About a year ago I realized that I was turning into one of those complainers too. I was full of criticism of gay life in Detroit but wasn’t putting any energy into finding solutions. So I started actively searching out where gay people are in this city, and how they live and participate in civic life. And I started writing about it so maybe other people wouldn’t have to search as hard as I did.

In the course of my extensive research, I noticed certain topics came up often in conversations, and from those conversations I have developed my seven easy, non-complaining ways to make a better Gay Detroit.

Come out of the closet. Since moving back to Michigan years ago, I have experienced great love and friendship in the straight community, but I also have experienced alarming levels of, well, total idiocy.

For example, I sat at the bar at a local global bistro not so long ago and engaged a young woman in conversation. Some gay topic came up, and I kid you not, this sentence left her mouth: "I don’t know what the big deal is about gay people. I know way more straight people who have diseases." OK, 1984 called and it wants its ignorance back. Not to mention those shoes.

It is so important for gay people to make their presence known in this city. People will understand you and your needs better when they actually know what they are. For example, I don’t want to be called “faggot” when I’m walking down Woodward before a Tigers game. Now you know.

A visible gay community thrives and grows because there is no longer a sense that you have to leave Michigan if you want to live a fully-actualized gay life. That, in turn, improves the quality of life for everyone, because we keep the fabulous right here.

Now this all may sound a bit hypocritical coming from a writer using a pseudonym. In real life, however, I am so out of the closet I’m in the living room watching Golden Girls reruns. It’s just that I require a smidgeon of anonymity to perform my frank assessments of Detroit gay life. Trust me, it’s not being gay I’m ashamed of. If anything, it’s blogging.

Entertain your gay friends and acquaintances in your Detroit home. There is no better way to show someone just how lovely living in Detroit can be than to say, "Welcome to my home."  It gives them an entirely new perspective on the city, a chance to experience it from the inside. Conversely, if you live in the 'burbs, be sure to accept invitations to a Detroiter’s home (or hell, invite yourself over). There is nothing like a summer evening on a Woodbridge porch or cocktails in a downtown loft with a view to show how truly amazingly special living in the city can be. 

Plus the contents of medicine cabinets in Detroit are almost as interesting as the ones in Birmingham.

Support gay advocacy groups that support the city. There are many groups that do commendable work servicing the gay community in SE Michigan, but there are two notable ones that are located right here in Detroit — the Triangle Foundation and the Ruth Ellis Center. Both have made commitments to being in the city and to serving gay populations that are often overlooked.

Who reaches out to gay youth when they’ve been kicked out of their homes? The Ruth Ellis Center does. Who, in the days immediately following a man’s death in an alleged gay bashing, demands that the mayor’s office condemn that kind of hate? The Triangle Foundation tackles that stone wall. These groups address issues that are decidedly not warm and fuzzy, and meet very real needs in a time when the growing acceptance of homosexuality has distracted us from the fact that not everyone has it as good as we do.

Get involved in Detroit’s cultural institutions. I’m not talking about attending concerts and exhibitions, I mean getting involved. It’s an interesting fact that gay people are notoriously underrepresented on the volunteer boards of our city’s cultural gems. And that means they are underrepresented in the realm of existing and emerging leaders in our area. But mostly it means they are underrepresented in the planning of fabulous fundraising parties like Bravo Bravo and Cirque, and exactly who wins in that scenario? Nobody.

Open a downtown gay bar. Or Midtown, or Corktown. Please. Now. Not a dance club, a socializing bar. Something kind of attractive, maybe with windows?

Support gay bar alternatives. Don’t submit to living in gay bar squalor. Any reasonable person will admit that the gay bars within the city limits really kind of blow, and not in a good way. So why not check out the multiple recurring gay happenings in town? The Guerrilla Queer Bar and gay dance party Sass are examples of great monthly events that have developed fantastic followings. Or how about the options that are simply gay-ish, like the La Dolce Vita patio on Tuesdays, Atlas Wednesdays, or Yacht Rock Thursdays at Slows? They offer mixed crowds with a heavy gay presence, and they are relaxed and happy. Take advantage of them immediately or sooner.

Be the face of the gay community. Who, exactly, are the faces of the gay community in this city? Is it only our activists? Who are the gay business leaders and entrepreneurs, the out gay politicians, the gay philanthropists? Who, through his or her example, is showing that gay people contribute to this city and deserve respect and a warm welcome? Some people are, but more should be. It could be you!

It is part of our gay heritage that we make cities better places to live.  And the gay community is already doing a lot to make Detroit great.  So doesn’t it make sense that we should exert a little energy to make Detroit a truly great place for the gay community? If we can improve things just a bit, I think we’ll all find out just what a difference a gay makes.

Supergay's column appears periodically in Model D. Visit his blog
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DIA Junior Council Cirque Benefit

Atlas Global Bistro

Woodbridge Star Bed and Breakfast

Triangle Foundation

Guerrila Girls Traveling Party

All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger

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