The Bars Are Ours: Histories and Cultures of Gay Bars in America, 1960 and After

Regular price $ 32.95

by Lucas Hilderbrand

Duke University Press

11/21/2023, paperback

SKU: 9781478024958


Gay bars have operated as the most visible institutions of the LGBTQ+ community in the United States for the better part of a century, from before gay liberation until after their assumed obsolescence. In The Bars Are Ours Lucas Hilderbrand offers a panoramic history of gay bars, showing how they served as the medium for queer communities, politics, and cultures. Hilderbrand cruises from leather in Chicago and drag in Kansas City to activism against gentrification in Boston and racial discrimination in Atlanta; from New York City's bathhouses, sex clubs, and discos and Houston's legendary bar Mary's to the alternative scenes that reimagined queer nightlife in San Francisco and Latinx venues in Los Angeles. The Bars Are Ours explores these local sites (with additional stops in Denver, Detroit, Seattle, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Orlando as well as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Texas) to demonstrate the intoxicating---even world-making---roles that bars have played in queer public life across the country.


"I have a soft spot for gay bars, which are dwindling fast for some good reasons and also for some difficult ones, and Lucas Hilderbrand's book The Bars Are Ours tickled the sweet spot in my nostalgia, while also being pretty clear about the ways that gay bars have historically been complicated--racist, gender-policing and often unwelcoming to people who are considered too old, insufficiently fancy or not commercially attractive. Hilderbrand, a professor of media studies, is my favourite kind of smartypants--he knows an absolute ton and still manages to write interesting, vibrant prose with some of the sparkle still on it, not weighted down with jargon and internal politicking of the discipline." -- S. Bear Bergman "Xtra!"

"A fascinating archival deep dive... Chock-full of excerpts from local gay press rags, recent oral histories, and a treasure trove of old fliers and ads that are as sexy as they are clever and funny, the book shows how the bars reflected the queer communities they attracted--in their irreverence, activism, and spirit of warmth and safety, as well as (sometimes) their overt or implicit discrimination and bias against patrons who did not fit a certain cisgender, gay white male ideal." -- Tim Murphy "The Body"

"Hildebrand's writing is transportive, which bolsters his impressive research... A powerful celebration and examination of LGBTQIA+ nightlife. This book will serve as a significant record of evolving cultural touchstones and queer communities across the country." (Starred Review, A Best Book of 2023) -- Kate Bellody "Library Journal"

About the Author:

Lucas Hilderbrand is Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Inherent Vice: Bootleg Histories of Videotape and Copyright, also published by Duke University Press, and Paris Is Burning: A Queer Film Classic.