Gay and lesbian bars are considered a safe haven. Safe havens exist because of the larger cultural environment that makes safe places necessary. Some communities have noted reductions in the need for gay and lesbian bars due to growing acceptance within the community. However, many states and communities within the South and Bible Belt continue to propose and pass bills which target or restrict the freedoms of LGBT persons. These cultural overtones may support or encourage targeted violence, including the Pulse Nightclub Massacre which was the deadliest incidence of violence targeted at LGBT persons in the USA. This manuscript presents two studies: one at gay bars in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a socially conservative city/state, and the other examines four US communities following the Pulse Nightclub Massacre. Study 1 included interviews at entrance to the bar, exit from the bar, and within a week of leaving the bar in order to identify feelings of safety and comfort. Study 2 seeks to compare gay bar attendance and feelings of comfort and safety in gay bars in regions of the USA with varying structural stigma. Results of study 1 suggest that the participants felt safe (82.4%, n = 42) and comfortable (72.5%, n = 37). In study 2, individuals from Tulsa, Oklahoma were compared to individuals in New York and the DC metro area and were significantly less likely to attend gay bars after the Pulse shooting (t = 2.53 and 3.66, p ≤ 0.01 and p ≤ 0.001, respectively). Moreover, compared to individuals living in the DC metro area and Philadelphia, participants residing in the city in a conservative state felt significantly less safe attending gay bars (t = −2.03 and −2.30, respectively; p ≤ 0.05). No differences across the communities were noted by comfort within the gay bar space. In light of a changing political landscape, additional programming efforts may be necessary at gay bars in communities with high structural stigma. These efforts may include supporting the naturally occurring feelings of community connectedness and facilitating community building.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
American Counseling Association. (2014). ACA Code of Ethics. Alexandria: Author.
American Psychological Association. (2010). 2010 amendments to the 2002 ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. Am Psychol, 65(5), 493. doi:10.1037/a0020168.
Boulden, W. T. (2001). Gay men living in a rural environment. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 12(3–4), 63–75.
Bowen, A. (2005). Internet sexuality research with rural men who have sex with men: Can we recruit and retain them? Journal of Sex Research, 42(4), 317–323.
Carber, F. (2016). Arkansas allows counselors to refuse to treat LGBT clients. Metro Weekly. Retrieved on 11/23/2016 from http://www.metroweekly.com/2016/07/arkansas-allows-counselors-refuse-treat-lgbt-clients/.
D’Addario, D. (2016, June). The gay bar as a safe space has been shattered. Time Magazine.
D'Augelli, A. R., Pilkington, N. W., & Hershberger, S. L. (2002). Incidence and mental health impact of sexual orientation victimization of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths in high school. Sch Psychol Q, 17(2), 148.
Fang, M. (2016, April 11). Tennessee passes anti-LGBT counseling bill. The Huffington Post. Retrieved on 11/23/2016 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tennessee-lgbt-counseling_us_570c4c4de4b0836057a23d63.
Fay, B. (1987). Critical social science: Liberation and its limits. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2014). 2014 hate crime statistics. FBI Uniform Crime Reporting. Retrieved on 11/28/2016 from https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2014/tables/table-4.
Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2015). Latest hate crime statistics available. Retrieved on 11/28/2016 from https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/latest-hate-crime-statistics-available.
Ford, Z. (2016, January 28). Oklahoma sets new record for attempts to discriminate against LGBT people. Think Progress.
Hanhardt, C. B. (2013). Safe space: Gay neighborhood history and the politics of violence: Duke University Press.
Hasenbush, A., Flores, A. R., Kasanis, A., Sears, B., & Gates, G. J. (2014). The LGBT divide: A data portrait of LGBT people in the Midwestern, Mountain, & Southern states. The Williams Institute, University of California, Los Angeles. Retrieved from http://williaminstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/LGBT-divide-Dec-2014.pdf.
Hatzenbuehler, M. L. (2014). Structural stigma and the health of lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations. Curr Dir Psychol Sci, 23(2), 127–132.
Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Keyes, K. M., & Hasin, D. S. (2009). State-level policies and psychiatric morbidity in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations. Am J Public Health, 99(12), 2275–2281.
Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Bellatorre, A., Lee, Y., Finch, B. K., Muennig, P., & Fiscella, K. (2014). Structural stigma and all-cause mortality in sexual minority populations. Soc Sci Med, 103, 33–41.
Israel, B. A., Schulz, A. J., Parker, E. A., & Becker, A. B. (2001). Community-based participatory research: policy recommendations for promoting a partnership approach in health research. Education for health, 14(2), 182–197.
Kegeles, S. M., Hays, R. B., & Coates, T. J. (1996). The Mpowerment Project: A community-level HIV prevention intervention for young gay men. Am J Public Health, 86(8), 1129–1136.
Kissack, T. (1995). Freaking fag revolutionaries: New York’s Gay Liberation Front, 1969–1971. Radic Hist Rev, 1995(62), 105–134.
Lantz, P. M., Viruell-Fuentes, E., Israel, B. A., Softley, D., & Guzman, R. (2001). Can communities and academia work together on public health research? Evaluation results from a community-based participatory research partnership in Detroit. Journal of Urban Health, 78(3), 495–507.
Leibel, K., Lee, J. G., Goldstein, A. O., & Ranney, L. M. (2011). Barring intervention? Lesbian and gay bars as an underutilized venue for tobacco interventions. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 13(7), 507–511.
Li, M. J., Hubach, R. D., & Dodge, B. (2015). Social milieu and mediators of loneliness among gay and bisexual men in rural Indiana. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, 19(4), 331–346.
Lyons, A., & Hosking, W. (2014). Health disparities among common subcultural identities of young gay men: Physical, mental, and sexual health. Arch Sex Behav, 43(8), 1621–1635.
Maltby, J., Day, L., Żemojtel-Piotrowska, M., Piotrowski, J., Hitokoto, H., Baran, T., et al. (2016). An ecological systems model of trait resilience: Cross-cultural and clinical relevance. Personal Individ Differ, 98, 96–101.
Martelli, C. D., & Watson, P. (2016). Project-based learning: Investigating resilience as the connection between history, community, and self. Voices from the Middle, 23(3), 10.
Mathy, R. M., Schillace, M., Coleman, S. M., & Berquist, B. E. (2002). Methodological rigor with Internet samples: New ways to reach underrepresented populations. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 5(3), 253–266.
McKenna, K. M., Hashimoto, D. A., Maguire, M. S., & Bynum, W. E. I. (2016). The missing link: Connection is the key to resilience in medical education. Acad Med, 91(9), 1197–1199. doi:10.1097/acm.0000000000001311.
Mereish, E. H., & Poteat, V. P. (2015). A relational model of sexual minority mental and physical health: The negative effects of shame on relationships, loneliness, and health. J Couns Psychol, 62(3), 425–437. doi:10.1037/cou0000088.
Metzler, M. M., Higgins, D. L., Beeker, C. G., Freudenberg, N., Lantz, P. M., Senturia, K. D., et al. (2003). Addressing urban health in Detroit, New York City, and Seattle through community-based participatory research partnerships. Am J Public Health, 93(5), 803–811.
Nash, C. J. (2013). The age of the “post-mo”? Toronto’s gay village and a new generation. Geoforum, 49, 243–252.
Reece, M., & Dodge, B. (2004). A study in sexual health applying the principles of community-based participatory research. Arch Sex Behav, 33(3), 235–247. doi:10.1023/B:ASEB.0000026623.69017.df.
Rosenberger, J. G., Schick, V., Schnarrs, P., Novak, D. S., & Reece, M. (2014). Sexual behaviors, sexual health practices, and community engagement among gay and bisexually identified men living in rural areas of the United States. J Homosex, 61(8), 1192–1207.
Viswanathan, M., Ammerman, A., Eng, E., Garlehner, G., Lohr, K. N., Griffith, D., Lux, L. (2004). Community-based participatory research: Assessing the evidence: Summary.
Whittle, S. (1994). The margins of the city: Gay men’s urban lives: Ashgate Publishing.
Willging, C. E., Salvador, M., & Kano, M. (2006). Brief reports: Unequal treatment: mental health care for sexual and gender minority groups in a rural state. Psychiatric Services.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Croff, J.M., Hubach, R.D., Currin, J.M. et al. Hidden Rainbows: Gay Bars as Safe Havens in a Socially Conservative Area Since the Pulse Nightclub Massacre. Sex Res Soc Policy 14, 233–240 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-017-0273-1
- Gay bar
- Community participatory research