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“I Don’t Even Think I Knew Gay Bars Existed” (with Bryan from Pink Milk Podcast)

bryan pink milk

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Have you every had that experience of being ‘fresh meat’? 

When you walk in to a bar and receive all the attention of everyone who is in there? 

Well, this week’s chat threw me back in time to the (admittedly very few) occasions when that’s happened to me, and how glorious and all-powerful I felt in those moments! 

And, who reminded me of those heady days? Well, it’s Bryan, the co-host of Pink Milk Podcast, a show that views Star Wars (and its many properties) through a queer lens. 

Bryan currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his husband Tom and three kids. But, when he was a plucky (and some might say naive) 18-year old, Bryan packed up all his things and moved from to Austin, Texas, which was kind of an elaborate plan to avoid coming out. 

We talk all about the first club that he went to there, The Forum, and, along the way we discuss the perils of heteronormativity, tip-toeing around your parents, and the pluckiness of youth…. 

Bryan  00:00

He told me about a gay bar. And I don’t even think I knew gay bars existed. I had no idea that it was like a thing. I’m like, wait, what? 

K Anderson  00:09

Hello, I am K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, the podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode, I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories that they created there and the people that they used to know. So have you ever had that experience where you walk into a bar, and it’s a bar that you’ve never been in before? And as you’re acclimatised thing to the smell and the dampness and the darkness, you think to yourself, hmm, everyone here is really friendly, before realising that they are all sick of the sight of each other, and you are what they call fresh meat. Well, this week’s chat threw me back in time to the few occasions that that has happened to me, and how glorious and all powerful that I felt in those moments. And who reminded me of those heady days. Well, it is Bryan, the co host of the Pink Milk podcast, a show that views Star Wars and all its many properties through a queer lens. Bryan currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his husband Tom and his three kids. But when he was a plucky, and some might say naive, 18 year old, Bryan packed up all of his things, and moved to Austin, Texas, which was kind of an elaborate plan to avoid coming out. We talked all about the first club that he went to there, the forum, and along the way, we discuss the perils of heteronormativity tiptoeing carefully around your parents, and the pluckiness of youth.

Bryan  02:40

So like two weeks, after high school, I had been saving money. I used to wait tables, like overnight. And so I was an 18 year old kid, and this is 1997. And I’d saved up like $2,300, which to me, it was like I could go, I could go by the world or $2,300. Yeah, any idea about anything, and I needed to come out, but I didn’t know how to come out. And I had never really gone anywhere. Texas was the only other place that I’d ever been in my life. So I’m like, I’m just gonna go to Texas.

K Anderson  03:10

Okay, but did you know that like Texas wasn’t the best place to be gay?

Bryan  03:14

No. I had no idea. Okay, okay. And I luckily, luckily, I went to Austin. So if people know Texas, Austin is like, their tagline at least back then was like, let’s keep it weird. So it was I got lucky in that regard. Because it’s like the it’s the outlier in Texas. Yeah, but let’s be real. It’s still Texas. So I am telling you, I was so naive. I packed up my bags and filled up my car. I didn’t even tell my parents. I was moving because I’m a teen Of course. Like, it’s so it’s so ludicrous. I show up to Texas. I didn’t know you had to rent an apartment. I thought you just went and got an apartment. Show up in Texas, and saw a sign for this little apartment building. I was like, Oh, yes, I see that you have an apartment? How much is it? They tell me. Okay, I would like to move in when, like now. And like the universe, like the stars aligned for me because it was like a condo that they turned into little apartments. And the lady was very nice. And just trusted me back then I looked like I was probably 10. Anyways, she was very good to me. So I just moved in. And I had to go to her office and she’s like you to realise that’s not how it’s done. I’m like, No, anyways, so that all worked out. And then I was just gay. So I didn’t ever have to come out because anyone that I met there, I was just gay. And it was the greatest thing in the world for me, because then by the time people that I knew in my past had found out I had kind of already been gay for a little while. Yeah, but I there’s this bar there called the forum and was the first bar that ever went to.

K Anderson  04:49

Well, hang on. Sorry, let’s let’s just explore this a bit more before we get there. So you just packed everything up and you just left and you didn’t tell your parents? Was that because cuz you didn’t realise that was a thing you should do, or because you were like, oh, no, they might ask questions, and then I’ll have to tell them why? Well,

Bryan  05:09

I mean, it was not a good time in my family life. Anyways, like my parents were separated, my mom was living in Texas, but in a different city. And so I was living with my father I never got along with anyways. And so maybe some of it was also running away from that, and not realising I needed to run away from it, if that makes sense. And then my dad just didn’t, because my dad’s, you know, we don’t talk anymore. But like, at the time, he was just kind of a mess. So I don’t even think he really cared. And then I think I told my mom like, a while I was on my way. And there was no cell phones back then there.

K Anderson  05:45

Were cell phones, but they were like this big. What happened? To them? What did your mom say? When you talked to her?

Bryan  05:53

I think she was just shocked. But at the same time, I’m not sure if she was shocked. Because I’ve always been a person who once I make up my mind, I live in my head for so long about it. And I plan it like as much as I to the ability of just showing up to a state thinking just get an apartment in time. But in my mind, that’s how

K Anderson  06:11

well I was gonna say that doesn’t sound very planned out.

Bryan  06:15

But in my mind, it was planned out like thank God. Whatever’s out there in the cosmos, looking out for me during this time, because it could have been a very different story. But yeah, I don’t know, I think I think she was also just kind of proud that I just went and did it. And I look back now. And like, I was an 18 year old kid who knew nothing. And I look back, I’m like, I’m kind of proud of that kid. That’s like a really like, that’s a bold move. Good for you.

K Anderson  06:42

Not to put too much on the 18 year old you but it’s nice. When you’re doing everything things. You’re not worrying too much about the consequences. And you’re just like, well, I forgot. Let’s see. And I kind of missed that about being young.

Bryan  06:57

percent, especially now in this new life that I have found, like, that’s all gone. So we’re

K Anderson  07:04

responsible adulthood.

Bryan  07:09

Right? You need?

K Anderson  07:09

And then so like, I’m assuming there was like no prospect about jobs or anything like that. Did you just go out and hustle the next day?

Bryan  07:19

Oh, no. See? Well, this is it doesn’t make sense. Because there was planning involved. I just don’t know why I didn’t

K Anderson  07:24

feel it was not the right planning.

Bryan  07:27

at Target, which is just like a department store type thing, right. So I transferred. I had worked there for a long time. So I transferred to another store. But then I transferred to the wrong store. So I show up to this thing, thinking I was supposed to work and they’re like, that’s a different store. And I was like, Oh, well, can I just work at this? This one’s closer to my house. That’s where I ended up working. Like I feel like maybe because I looked like it was beneficial.

K Anderson  07:54

So what you said like, Oh, can I just work at this one? And they were like, Yeah, right. Oh, wow.

Bryan  08:03

It’s so funny. I’ve not told these stories. And I don’t know how many years and now that I’m a dad to three kids, and if any of my little children

K Anderson  08:12

raised you How old is your eldest?

Bryan  08:16

Our oldest Jack is 12. Now,

K Anderson  08:19

okay, I’ll check in in six years and see what’s happening.

Bryan  08:23

We’ll see. If there’s anyone who’s gonna be like me, though. It’s gonna be your youngest. He’ll be like that. No, you’re gonna hire me? Because? Because of course you are. That’ll be him.

K Anderson  08:35

Oh, no. Oh, that’s Oh, I wish I had that confidence. Right. So was it this situation? When you when you were in Phoenix, you were like, I’m not going to tell anyone I’m going to I’m not going to act gay. I’m not going to be gay. I’m not going to think I’m gay. But now that I’m in Austin, everything like, is out of the box.

Bryan  08:53

Yeah, in high school. By my senior year. I think the rumours like were swirling around that I was gay. And I didn’t actively admit to those rumours. But I also didn’t actively try to say they’re not true.

K Anderson  09:11

Well, what can you do in those situations? Like, what is the best way of addressing it? Like, if you deny it, everyone’s gonna be like, well, he’s denying it. So he must be lying. And then if you admit it, then that opens the floodgates to bullying, right?

Bryan  09:23

I think I’m not I’m, I’m very short. And I was really teeny tiny for how short my life I’m only I’m 540. My mother. This is a this is we’re already off time. So when I was welcome to the show. It was my first day of kindergarten. And I remember this day like it’s clear as day and I came home crying like I’m sure many kindergarteners do. And I was crying because they’re making fun of me for being little. And I remember my mother just sat there and took like a beat. And she said you are and there was no Well explanation after that, like literally not a thing. And I think it was the greatest gift in the entire world because I remember, Junior Senior of high school, when I figured out I was gay and I had my meltdown like I’m sure many people do. At the end, I was like, but I am. And it was over like that. And I was just kind of accepted everything. And I think it came back to that back then of just like, it’s just accept who you are. And that’s it.

K Anderson  10:28

So I need to ask follow up questions. When you say melt down, what happened?

Bryan  10:34

I remember my junior prom, was when I really knew because I ended up going to prom, I think with a guy. And I remember they wouldn’t let us into prom. Because we were dressed too crazy. I was a little theatre kid. So I was like,

K Anderson  10:51

I think what colour was your corsage? Oh, I

Bryan  10:53

didn’t have one. But I had pink pants, rainbow suspenders. And like maybe it didn’t match and maybe like a blue shirt. I don’t remember. I’m sure I looked horrendous. But so they didn’t let us in. So we improvised. I went to like a JC Penney to get like a family portrait. And on the drive to this JC Penney, the guy and I decided that we’re going to tell this story that we all went to prom together. But we decided to ditch our girlfriends and go to prom together. So we made the girls sit stand behind us while I sat in the guy’s lap. And he had his finger in my mouth. I was like our picture for prom. I feel so horrible for these girls like oh my god, that’s so that’s so mean.

K Anderson  11:37

So So you were going as like a double date. But because the two of you were dressed in a weird way. The four of you weren’t allowed in. Yeah. Ah, god, that’s so annoying. Yeah,

Bryan  11:47

it was awful. But like, it’s not as awful as me making the art dates stand by this. So terrible.

K Anderson  11:56

So when his finger was in your mouth, that was the moment you realised or

Bryan  12:00

I think so I was like, Oh, wait, I don’t think this is pretend. I think I’m really a prom with this person. And I like it. And then so that night, I remember like, and this is not easy. But back then, like I was like, Okay, I’m 16. And I don’t know if you remember the real world on MTV?

K Anderson  12:22

Oh, yes, I know what it is. But I’ve never like I don’t think it was on TV here.

Bryan  12:26

So there was this person named Petro, who was like a 20, something, living with HIV. And it was MTBS way of introducing it to society, you know, he was a really powerful character is really important. And I remember obviously, I really gravitated towards him. And he had died right around that time. And he was 30. And I remember realising I was gay. And I was 16, or 17. And putting together that Pedra had died at 30. And my life is already halfway over. Because to me, that’s what happened. That you would come out, eventually get HIV and die very young. That’s what always made me the most afraid how much I was going to miss out on. Yeah, maybe that was some of the driving force to get me out of the house. So Young, I don’t know, you know, but like, I think I just was like, I have to go live. If it’s not gonna be around that long, then I just gotta go make the best of everything. Yeah, it’s really sad. And that was a lot for 1617 year old kid to like, process

K Anderson  13:32

and process alone as well, like, because you can’t have that conversation with anyone. Because if you have that conversation with someone, you’re effectively coming out to them. So you’re just in this world of turmoil on your own going through it, right. I think when I was that age, I was like, well, by the time I’m 30, like what else am I gonna want to do with my life? So I think for me, it was always just like, wow, well, if that happens, I guess. Because I remember when Princess Diana died, and I just and she was 36 When she died, right? And now I know now I think what the fuck was I thinking? But I was like, wow, you know, she lived a long life. Which I probably shouldn’t admit to, but yeah, for me that like, that kind of age just seemed like, it made sense to dive in. Oh, anyway. Sorry. You were saying about your dad.

Bryan  14:24

Maybe I was like, yeah, like at that point. I think I was living with just my dad and I think my mom had left. It was somewhere right around this time anyways, but like, I knew that if my dad found out he would have kicked me out. And I had no one. Like there was no family. Like I don’t even know where I would go. So that was scary. But you know, sadly, that’s not a unique story for young I don’t know And around that time and then I found a guy at high school that I could mess around with and I wondered like i This makes me sound like such a horrible person. But I was not attract To him, this is like a horrible thing to say like, it does not make me sound like a very nice person. But I remember actively thinking to myself, I’m not gay if I’m not attracted to him. I’m just experimenting. I’m just gonna experiment. Is this everybody’s like story. Would you like back to this?

K Anderson  15:17

Well see, I didn’t know. Like, I think I am always amazed that people found other people to have homosexual experiences with in high school. How did that happen? It just never happened to me. So I’m like, wow, how? I don’t know.

Bryan  15:35

I don’t remember it all how it happened with him. Because I was actively not interested. So maybe he must have tried really hard. Yeah.

K Anderson  15:43

But like, it’s also this thing. Like, if you cross that line with this person, and then they tell people, then you’re fucked. Like, you’re just totally fucked in your school environment. So how? How did how to either review then, like, pluck up the courage to make the first move when it’s social suicide?

Bryan  16:02

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know if I clearly, we’ve already established that I don’t plan I don’t think much ahead.

K Anderson  16:13

And I overthink everything. So that’s probably why we ended up where we ended up.

Bryan  16:18

There we go my husband over it. Like, that’s how we’re team I think, because he’s not that. I do remember, senior year there was a football player. And he was very cute. And I had the biggest crush on him because I was like, I’m like a nerdy little theatre kid. Why is this like football star talking to me, but I’m here for it. And one night, we were all out doing something. And he made sure to drop me off last. And we were just hanging out talking. And he grabbed my hand and said, I think I really liked you. And I did nothing with it. I ran away. I’m like, Oh, I biggest crush on him. And he was so handsome. I was so happy. But like, then I did nothing. I’m like, what? Why did I? So there must have been a level where I still didn’t want to be gay. And then too far,

K Anderson  17:08

or he has a theory for you? What if you were like, Oh, someone’s put him up to this. And this is a joke. And I’m not falling for this joke. It’s possible, because I think that would be my reaction. Like you must be punking. Me.

Bryan  17:21

I mean, it really could be he was like the big buff like football star person. Like that’s the person the movies that beats the game. Yeah, set them up for something that you know that maybe you’re right. Maybe I don’t, I shouldn’t

K Anderson  17:32

really? Should we look him up on Facebook? I’ve tried. And and what were the results? I didn’t

Bryan  17:41

see anything. I admittedly, I’m not a great like, internet user. I think it was just this last few years, I learned you could use the internet for anything other than posting naked pictures of yourself and finding sacks. I was like, Oh, there’s more to this internet.

K Anderson  17:55

I mean, there’s not much more. But yeah, there is more. So you don’t like actively stalk people that you’ve never spoken to for 20 years to find out what happened to them? No, I don’t.

Bryan  18:09

I think I was truthfully, really unhappy back then. And I think I actively don’t even want to engage with it anymore.

K Anderson  18:18

Yeah. Oh, Gina, I need to tell you. So my friend Sarah was talking. We were like having a conversation the other day. And she was like, oh, you know, these people that will lead you in school. And she was like, listing their names. And I was like, I don’t I don’t have any recollection of who these people are. And I just don’t, I don’t even know, like, maybe it’s possible that I’ve just buried it. But I just had no memory.

Bryan  18:44

Oh, my God. Thank you for saying that. Legitimately. Thank you for saying that. I remember this was probably 10 years ago now. But through Facebook. Like I reconnected with all of these high school people that I had not seen in a long time. And remember, I had just up and left. I didn’t tell my friends. Like one day it was here. And the next day I was gone. Which was not nice. That’s like, looking back, you know, that was I did whatever I guess I need to do for self survival kind of thing. But like, Yeah, completely didn’t think about any of them. And I had the same experience to talk about all of these things. And I was like, I don’t want to like disrespect anyone but like I legitimately don’t remember anything that you’re talking about. And maybe we are so up in our head and figuring it out that maybe purchase very selfish in that time or something. There’s just not maybe there’s so much chaos in my own head. I don’t know if there’s room for for other stuff. I don’t know if I recognise that back then. But I’ve wondered that. So

K Anderson  19:47

I think the only thing that I could really think of in terms of my own response was that, like if someone hated me, it didn’t matter because they always hated me and I was never going to win them over. But it was when like friends or teammate chairs, let me down. Those are the things that really stick with me. When people kind of turned their back on me or a teacher would say, do you know you could just make all of this go away? Have you stopped acting so gay? Like, those are the things that stick with me. Those are the things that just, I trace my torment back. And the bully egg like I’m granted, you hate me, like you’re allowed to, I suppose I suppose. I mean, you know, I don’t want you to be overly hostile for me. But yeah, I think that’s why I just don’t remember these people.

Bryan  20:32

I think about this stuff, probably more than I should to be totally honest. But I feel like something that I’ve tried working on, like personal growth, especially this last few years, is I think I put up so many walls, so I didn’t have to have someone decide to hate me. Because again, if I don’t know you just like me. All right. Yeah, you know, that’s, that’s fine. I didn’t know you stay pressed here. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. But like people that you did, like, or thought you liked or any of those things, and they turn their back. I think I just, I don’t know if I have ever allowed myself to have those kinds of connections, out of fear that that would happen. And I think I’ve missed out on a lot.

K Anderson  21:16

Yeah, yeah. And I, I would agree that I have done the same thing. But you have been married for over 10 years.

Bryan  21:25

Yeah, almost 15.

K Anderson  21:27

So if you’ve only made this realisation in the last few years, how did he slip through the net? Okay. Oh,

Bryan  21:33

no. Yeah, I think there was a part of me that maybe I also stayed away from certain things because I knew this was the life that I wanted. I knew I would find a person. And I’d be with them a long time. Because like my husband, we literally know everything about each other. Like we’re very, very like we have that kind of relationship that literally nothing is ever we talked about everything and I can be

K Anderson  22:00

do you poop in front of each other there? Oh, god. No. You can’t know everything, man. Oh,

Bryan  22:05

well, okay. I don’t want to know. I have major poop shame. Like do not talk about it. And now a house with three young boys to like it is it is a battle, I will never win. I’m also not going to give up. Yeah, okay. No, we don’t go that far. But everything else. Okay, guys knew that was gonna happen. I had met my first boyfriend when I was 19. And I think at the time, I thought we would be together forever. I thought that I had met that person I’ll be with forever. And I can be the one gay couple that had stayed together forever. And we can say we’ve been together for 50 years. And like, we can prove to the world that like two guys can be together, right? Like, let’s real healthy expectations to put on yourself, but like, and that turned out to be really, really awful. He was a pharmacist, and he turned in to be a heroin addict. And it was like stealing drugs from the hospital and all this stuff. It was just like, I felt like when that happened, my entire life just like fell apart. Because I’m like, I mean, if you want to, if people do what they do, that’s, that’s fine. That’s cool. But like, I was never around that stuff. And especially living with someone and them doing it all behind your back. It was a very weird thing. And I had found him on the floor, and it almost Odede and I had to like pick him up and carry him to the hospital. And I ratted him out. Because I thought it was a devastating thing for 19.

Bryan  23:30

I don’t you know, I already didn’t trust people. Yeah, as much as I wished that I could have. And then it was just like this major. This is why you don’t do it moment.

K Anderson  23:39

So okay, so just to go back one step. So you talked about wanting to break the mould. And I think that that’s quite a common reaction. When you grow up in a particular society that keeps telling you, oh, gays, those gays, they’re so promiscuous, they’re all gonna get HIV, they’re all gonna die. You don’t want to be like that. The response is, Well, I’m gonna show you and I’m gonna go and do it. And I’m going to fall in love, and it’s going to be amazing. But the flip side of that kind of mindset is that you might stay in toxic relationships, because you’re so busy trying to prove a point, which was me. I haven’t gently led you to this next question. Sorry. I’m just like, warning signs. Was that the case with this guy then?

Bryan  24:28

100%. Like I fell victim to that heteronormative ideology that that is the only way you can be. And it took me a long time to understand and accept that world wasn’t built for us. And I was so busy chasing that idea of wanting to fit in that I was never going to be a part of that club anyways. And so somewhere in that process, like I became really okay, being queer and around this and around I’m the same time like I had just by the time that happened, I guess I was 23. We were together for like four years. I just graduated from college, and I wanted to be a police officer. And I wanted to get into forensics, I was I wanted to be a detective. And while I was in, in the police academy, like, I didn’t make it super far before I realised it wasn’t for me. But I was in that thinking, Oh, my God, I’m doing the same thing. I’m gonna be the short, gay guy, who’s a police officer, because I can still be all of these things, and be a short gay guy. And I’m like, this is a really horrible way to get into this, and what the heck am I doing?

K Anderson  25:39

So you’re saying that then you were making all of those decisions, because you wanted to impress or confound or contradict what people thought of you rather than it being the right decision for you.

Bryan  25:52

Yeah. And I freed myself from that around that time, you know, and, and then I had a lot more fun, because then I turned into a gigantic hoe and like, had a great, it was really, like, why didn’t I do this? When I was younger, and thinner and prettier? Like,

K Anderson  26:07

come on? Wait at 25? Hey, we already discussed

Bryan  26:11

it. But like, 36, you might as well be gone anyways. Yeah. Exactly. But yeah. And then I did that for a while. And then I met my husband for the first time, who’s now my husband. And life kept bringing him back. And I was just like, you know, I think I needed to go through all of that, to meet him. And then together, we were together nine years. And then we started the adoption process. And now we have three kids. And I like, it’s just crazy, because I think back to that kid that I was 18, who fought for all of these things. And I wanted that heteronormative life. And now somehow, I actually kind of have it. But I have it as a very, very out proud and very queer person. And I’ve really learned the balance that you can have both. And it was it’s just this like, amazing thing that I feel like I stayed true to who I thought I was going to end up being at 18. And I am that person, but just in a very different way. And I think back to almost six years ago, when our first son moved in with us, I literally had this life that I always dreamed about, that was never going to be for me, but now I actually have it. And so that stuff will always outweigh the bad things. And for me, if I had to go through all of that, to get where I am right now then I guess it was all worth it. Even the really, really dark times, and even the really hard things like I feel so incredibly fortunate to have the husband that I have like we’re 15 years together. We’re still best friends. I love them more like today than I did 15 years ago. And now. You know, like, I know how lucky I am with that. Especially as a gay man. Like that just wasn’t a part of our story. For a long time. Yeah, it just wasn’t, it wasn’t gonna be for us. And it’s not for everybody. And that’s totally fine, too. But it’s what I wanted. And I always I always tried to circle back to that. I think about that. 1819 year old 20 year old me somewhere along the lines accepting society tell me I could never have this life. But look, I had my middle finger up and and I got it. Even though you told me I couldn’t.

K Anderson  28:25

So let’s find out about Bryan as an 1819 20 year old. So you’ve wrapped up in Austin, you’re working at Target. You’re embracing pickiness. What was your first act of queerness

Bryan  28:44

was going to the forum. Oh,

K Anderson  28:46

really? That’s what we’re here to do. We got there.

Bryan  28:53

There was like a New Year’s Eve party. And I don’t. Now I didn’t have a very healthy relationship with alcohol. My father was an alcoholic and very abusive. So I was like very afraid of it. And went to this to this New Year’s Eve party. There’s drinking everywhere. I had never had a drop of alcohol ever in my entire life. I don’t know what I drink. But I was passed out at one point in time. And then I woke up and I remember I brought all these CDs because I’ve had a party like you had, like you danced. And I also thought, of course the guests breaks all their CDs and just takes over the station’s CD player. Of course, that’s what they do. Play all the stuff and then I met my friend Mark. And so we were 19 at the time. He’s my dear friend. He’s the only person ever in my entire life other than my husband that I’ve known this long and stayed. And he’s like, he’s my, he’s my best friend. That was the night that I met him and he was the first gay person I had ever met. Minus maybe some of these people in high school but I didn’t know that okay, at the time. We were both Gay. And I think we probably felt like you’re gay, I’m gay, we have to be best friends. And that’s just as simple as it was back then. So he took care of me because I was drunk and didn’t know what I was doing. I’m sure it was a complete mess. And we became best friends. And then we he told me about a gay bar. And I don’t even think I knew gay bars existed. I had no idea that it was like a thing. And like, wait, what? Yeah, like gay people come like to do you can go dancing. I think I thought a nightclub was like Soul Train Awards. Or like, Casey, Casey was like the or dance MTV. Like, I thought that’s what it was. God it was so I was so naive. So

K Anderson  30:37

hang on, hang on. Hang on, hang on. So you left Phoenix to go to Austin to like live your gay life. What did you imagine your gay life was,

Bryan  30:47

I don’t know. A boy walking down the grocery store. We’d bumped cards looking at eggplants or something. And like the birds would spin around her head, we would just fall madly in love. And we would buy a house and put up our white picket fence and live together. I have no idea. I have no idea what I thought.

K Anderson  31:08

Okay, so this bombshell has been dropped on you like gay bars exist? What would the follow on thoughts?

Bryan  31:15

When? When do we go? And they’re like, well, we can only go on Thursdays because we’re 19 and Thursday nights are all age night. It’s like, Oh, okay. And of course, now it’s like, go out on a Thursday, we stay up past 10. What? So we went. And I just remember, I, I’m sure I looked a hot mess. But I thought I was cute. as all get out. I don’t Lord knows what I was wearing. But I like to the nines. And so of course, to me, it’s like the biggest event in the entire world. I was so excited. I’m like saying hi to everybody. I was like strutting down the street, like, Oh, this is gonna be everything. I can’t wait to go down the line. I can’t wait for the dance floor like part ways, and we all get to do or like our little dance down the thing.

K Anderson  32:01

So

Bryan  32:04

I like thought that was what this was gonna be like. Yeah. And so then I go and this is like, can I see your hands? So you show me your hands. You know, they put the big x’s with a sharpie on your hands, so you don’t drink just like that was it? Like, I thought there’s gonna be a line with a rope that I was gonna have to like be approved with what I was dressing like, I just what a mess. But it was so then I go in. And I just remember, here I am an 18 year old twink who is fresh meat. And every single person at the bar turn their head and all eyes are on me. And I was like, Oh, these people seem so friendly. This is any idea what’s really on your mind. And I just remember thinking back that this was like a warehouse nightclub with like, 1000s of people. And I think back in reality, it’s probably you know, 2000 square feet. And there’s probably 15 people there but not like to me I was living like I was living my best life. And I just remember dancing away like my friend Mark and I we just went straight to that dance floor and just started dancing. Janet Jackson’s velvet rope was like, top of the charts back then. I remember I get lonely was playing and I was just I was living it. I can’t even imagine how ridiculous I looked in real life. But everything like the spotlight was on me. I just remember feeling so excited. And then I was like, Oh, this is what that gay life is. It’s not about egg plants in the grocery store. It’s about this right now. And I love Thursday nights. Thursday nights is gonna be like greatest thing ever smoke machines

K Anderson  33:40

and strobe lights. But say you weren’t like tentative at all. You were just like, yeah, bang, I’m here and I’m gonna dance. Yeah.

Bryan  33:48

Oh, God, it was so great. I thought that’s what you did. And this was like this moment was probably the birthplace of the best part of being gay. And the worst. I probably learned my body dysmorphia, and all sorts of things in this very moment. I was at the bar getting some water. And I thought he was old at the time. He’s probably you know, 36 let’s let’s just run. She’s probably 36

K Anderson  34:12

ancient.

Bryan  34:15

And he’s like, you’ve never been to a gay bar before. Have you? I’m like, No, this is my first time. Can you tell us just Lord knows. And he just sat me down and started telling me about all gay people. He’s like, there’s twinks and there’s muscle queens, there’s drag queens. There’s this and he’s like, and I’m like, Okay, what are you like, we’re twink I was like, Okay, what is that? He’s like, Well, that means and like, legit. This is how it went down. When you need to find an older guy. And you’re gonna bottom your bottom, like, what’s the bottom? He’s like, anal sex. What’s a no sex? No idea about any of these things? And I was like, oh, okay, this is weird, but I guess so. I like what am I I know he’s the he’s the old man telling me what to do so okay. And I just assumed that’s what it was. So I went back and then it was also drag night, I guess, because then all sudden the drag performers came. I had never seen the drag queen before I thought they were just like, the daytime talk show things. I didn’t know it was real. But I’m like, Oh, my God, here they are. And that was amazing. And I felt like I was there all night long. It was back then. And back when like, Fars, could stay open till like four or five in the morning, you know, you left in the dark, and you came back because the sun was coming up. And that night, I made that with my first person outside of this high school person. And I made out with a drag queen, and it was the greatest thing because I even knew then I’m like, This is my first night in the gay bar. I want to make out with a drag queen. Because I think this is the greatest story in the entire world.

K Anderson  35:48

I might be telling someone on a podcast about this, even though I don’t know what a podcast is. Yeah.

Bryan  35:53

It was just, it was the greatest feeling in the entire world. I just remember feeling so free at that

K Anderson  36:01

time. Okay, so it won’t surprise you that I have follow up questions. First of all, this older man, was he like hitting on you? Or was he just kind of trying to educate you? I’m not really sure what his motivation was.

Bryan  36:17

42 year old me will tell you he was definitely hitting on me. And he thought he was gonna be my daddy and take me home that night. But I was so naive. I just thought he was being a helpful, nice person.

K Anderson  36:30

He’s probably like, well, now I’m gonna have to roll that speech out for some other young twin can dance. How interesting though, that that’s your like, pickup approach. Not just like, hey, how you doing?

Bryan  36:46

Yeah, it’s like really creepy.

K Anderson  36:48

It’s really creepy.

Bryan  36:50

You are that dangerous, scary person, that that this is gonna sound so terrible. You’re gonna be that person that every parent thinks their child is gonna turn into if they’re gay. You’re gonna find the youngest person to almost prey on. Luckily for me, I was not very bright back then. So I just didn’t even

K Anderson  37:07

thanks for the tips, mister. Hey, girl. I also want to talk to you about being fresh meat. Now, in my experience, whenever I’ve been fresh meat, which you know, like two or three times in my life, it’s been like, wow, this bar is amazing, because I’m getting all this attention. And then the very next time that I go there, no one gives a shit. And it’s the most deflating thing in the world. Everyone loved me here. I’m gonna go back. Oh, oh, no one cares.

Bryan  37:41

I feel you. I didn’t feel you back then. Because I don’t think I understood. I don’t think I knew you went to a bar to meet people. Like I don’t think

K Anderson  37:52

hell are they teaching you in Phoenix?

Bryan  37:56

It’s so embarrassing. Looking back now like how like it’s, I mean, it’s kind of doormats be honest. It’s also kind of baby gay. Yeah, I don’t know. Like i i took someone home the last night when I left from that bar was the first time I’d ever taken someone home.

K Anderson  38:12

The last night that you left, which I mean, I

Bryan  38:14

left Texas I’m sorry. Like so. Okay in Texas for like a while. But yeah, that night I went home.

K Anderson  38:20

So you say you just weren’t going there. You were just going there for a good time and not a good time in and undressed kind of way?

Bryan  38:28

Yeah, I wish I would have understood you could do that. But I don’t really think you could do that. Because I thought I had boyfriends. And you got married and then you had sex. I literally thought that’s how it worked.

K Anderson  38:37

Wow. Yeah. This is what this is about living in a heteronormative society does to such young, impressionable brains.

Bryan  38:49

It was like I just that bar I think was one of the first things to really teach me that it was okay to be gay, if that makes sense. As much as I was on the surface, okay, I think there’s still so much internally that really isn’t okay. But I started to be really kind of okay there. And then I think I started to learn what kind of guys I liked and what I you know, I just think I found a lot of things there was this mess so

K Anderson  39:16

how did it teach you that?

Bryan  39:18

It was probably that’s where like I think my body dysmorphia I’m sure it came because it was the 90s of course, all I wanted was like the big buff circuit boys because I probably circle back to that football player from high school fantasy that I wanted to live still. And they didn’t give me the time of day. I think I weighed 115 pounds back then, like I was not the time of day. But I don’t think I cared. Because I knew one day my mind was like Well, one day I’ll find the one that’s gonna fall in love was me and he’s gonna look like that and we’re gonna have this beautiful life. But I think even in that description, that was probably unhealthy but this is the kind Nik a you are I think I started to learn that there was multiple kinds of gay people just like everything else. We don’t know that, you know, I don’t I don’t know and I, I started to find, oh, there are people that I can be friends with and then I think there was people like, oh, people might have a crush on me and I still didn’t think I’m like no, they just wanted to take home take you home and have sex with you. But to me they were falling in love with me.

K Anderson  40:23

Yeah. Late nights at the cinema walking hands. Exactly.

Bryan  40:26

Exactly. Just gonna be beautiful.

K Anderson  40:29

Yeah, yeah.

Bryan  40:31

I think I learned the power of a drag queen back then. And I love a drag queen. I love I love how they can be whoever they want to be. And so of course for awhile if I was gonna be a drag queen, I was gonna be you know, Tory Apple because Tori Amos and Fiona Apple were all the rage in the 90s I had it all worked out. I’m gonna perform I will just perform Tori Amazon’s like really a drag show. For Tori Amos slugs.

K Anderson  40:58

Listen, I know a lot of people that would pay for that.

Bryan  41:02

Yeah, I harnessed the power of a drag queen. Now, I can be five for 115 pounds, and still walk into a room like I’m six to 240 pounds. I can still like walk into a room with that much confidence.

K Anderson  41:16

Wait, hang on. Let’s not say that till people are confident.

Bryan  41:22

But in my in my mind. I’m

K Anderson  41:24

okay. All right, of

Bryan  41:25

course you are. I learned a lot from a drag queen. Like I had like, I think my I think my queens

K Anderson  41:33

can we circle back you’ve just made a comment about when facing rejection or facing disinterest from men of a certain body type. You were okay with it? Because you were saying like, well, it’s okay. Because one day I’ll meet that one. And up until now we’ve we’ve definitely bashed heteronormativity and this notion of the one and this kind of the way that children are indoctrinated into culture to think of romantic relationships as an end unto themselves. But hearing you say that statement has made me think about how actually, that gave you like hope, maybe. And that gave you something to cling to.

Bryan  42:19

Maybe. And maybe because in that rejection, and the power of the drag queens, I knew I was gonna be enough for somebody someday. And they’ve missed out. Because I know and knew that I’d be a really good partner to someone one day. And let’s be honest, like, you want to be attracted to someone. But after a while, it’s not about that anymore. Like it’s just so not about, you know, my husband is like, absolutely beautiful and gorgeous. And I’m very lucky, and I definitely upgraded he downgraded when he found me.

K Anderson  42:54

Why am I surprised? I’ll give it that. Sorry. I didn’t know what he looks like.

Bryan  43:00

He was my number one in Phoenix. I thought he was the hottest person I’ve ever seen in Phoenix. like legit legit, before we met and I’m like, Oh my god.

K Anderson  43:08

Okay, we’re getting waylaid. But anyway.

Bryan  43:14

What was the question again? Oh, the competence of

K Anderson  43:16

people? Oh, yeah,

Bryan  43:18

I do. I think in somewhere it gave me hope that it was going to be okay. And some sort of weird, maybe kind of backwards thing because I agree with you. I think Heteronormativity is a really dangerous thing. I mean, chances are my three boys will, you know, find a lovely wife someday they’re most likely not going to be gay if they are a great wonderful, but they’re not going to be raised with that expectation. And I really hope because I think heteronormativity that idea is dangerous for everyone. I mean, look how many divorces happen.

K Anderson  43:53

It’s so baffling to me that like the success of marriages is less than 50% and yet we’re still peddling this like oh yeah, you should grow up and get married but like but why?

Bryan  44:04

Like, why? How and how many of those 50% that fail or because of an affair? Like why don’t you just go let them have one night or somewhere like it does not take away from you. Actually. I look at is I’m giving something to my partner. I legitimately like little here’s a little gift go have a fun night especially after a long time. Everyone needs to be fresh meat again you know if I were to but I have not been to a bar in six years. So I could go to the bar that I went to all the time in Phoenix it’s still there. But you know what if I walk in right now I’ll be fresh meat and you know how good that would make me feel? Like you said it’d be that one night that I go in all

K Anderson  44:43

you’re gonna have to milk that night. You better make sure you go in that night. That’s it snug every boy

Bryan  44:49

I will be milking a lot like I will be one.

K Anderson  44:53

Oh, I see what you built there.

Bryan  44:58

But I think that’s really healthy. I think it’s good It to me and you know, other people want monogamy Hey, that’s great too. But don’t find one, someone who doesn’t believe in monogamy and you do and think you’re ever gonna work out because it’s not gonna happen. Go find another person who wants that in their life.

K Anderson  45:13

Yeah, but I mean, it’s so difficult because the shame of non monogamy is so great that so many people don’t disclose that they don’t want to be monogamous, or they don’t even like recognise that they don’t want to be monogamous, because they’ve been taught that they must be monogamous. And so they’ve never questioned that.

Bryan  45:33

Yeah, I mean, I remember one time I first having started having that conversation was really hard. Yeah, it’s

K Anderson  45:39

really hard. Because it’s like, am I not enough? When it’s not about that at all? Is it?

Bryan  45:44

No, I 100%? Yeah, I just remember I’m like, but at the same time, if we don’t have this conversation, it’s inevitably going to happen anyways, most likely. And then we lied about it. So I’d rather just be upfront and honest. And if one of us said, No, we’ll tackle that, then like, we’ll tackle it, because it’s not easy. Especially not at the beginning. It’s like, there’s a lot of boundaries you have to do. But for me, I just think, I think, for whatever reason, because of the heteronormative ideas of life, like that is this most cherished thing, right? Like you can’t ever come back from that, like you can come back from so much more. Like it’s really sad, at least in the US. I feel like, I feel like it’s more appropriate for someone to come back to a spouse that beat them, because maybe it was just that one time. And people can grow and change and learn from that. But they had an affair on you get them gone. I’m like, oh, that’s just like a really dangerous. And again, that’s very broad strokes statement to me, but I like I just feel like in society that’s like, if you can be that honest with someone about that most cherished thing, and you can be open about that with your partner with one, then you can be open about everything. And Lord knows if you’re with somebody for a long time, you’re gonna have you’re gonna grow and change as people. And

K Anderson  46:56

okay, hopefully, I’m going to just point out that you and your partner don’t poop in front of each other, so you can’t be honest about everything.

Bryan  47:08

True. There are no brown hankies in my closet. Nope. No tea, no shade to anyone who has brown hankie good for you.

K Anderson  47:17

But you can’t Well, I mean, you kind of have

K Anderson  47:25

to anyway, so at some point, you realised that you could go to a gay bar, meet homosexual men? And then get off with them? Yes, when did this first occur to you? After three years of going there?

Bryan  47:52

Now, one year, about a year, I think I realised at one point in time that you can go to a bar and meet someone that you could do more than just dancing and talk at the bar and then like, never see each other again, I’m like, Oh, wait, things can happen here. You can find a boyfriend at a bar. I had no idea. And there was this person that I met, I do not remember their name. But we used to call him bitch. Boy, that was his name forever. Okay, and I had this that one word or two, probably one. Okay. And it’s not really flattering. But that was his name, but I had a crush on him. And he used to smoke and I love the way he would like twirl and dance with a cigarette in his hand. Very sexy. So I’d like of course, immediately went to buy a cigarette, because I’m going to do it next to him next week. And he’s going to talk to me because he’s like, Oh, he smokes too. I didn’t enjoy the smoking. But I thought it looked cute with my little cigarette like twirling around, but whatever we’ve. And so then he talked to me. Like, oh, my god, again, I don’t remember his name. But bitch boy, talk to me, Mark, I have a boyfriend. And his name is bitch boy, and we are going to live happily ever after. And I guess I have to take care of the big thing that I need to do. And I need to come out to my mother. So I called my mother like a day or two later. And I had to come out to my mother because I had a boyfriend. And we were going to be together. Because he talked to me one time.

K Anderson  49:19

Wow. And so how did this conversation go? Was your mom like, so? What’s his name? And you were like, his name is bitch boy.

Bryan  49:27

Yeah. And how long have you been seeing? Well, he just met him. This is where poor planning would have been better. Because the obvious upheaval that it caused when they came out and it was like it was fine. Like it was fine. But like, I remember that yeah, it’s the first time avoid talk to me. So I have to come up to my mother because now I’m going to be married here soon and, and whatever was so weird, and then he never talked to me again. And I just remember being like, that was a time that was I was devastated. But I probably came at him the next day and was like, oh, All over. I’m like, we were a boyfriend. So I’m no longer talk to me. And then my mom at that time was moving back to Arizona because my her and my father, were going to try to work it out. So then I came out to her. And then I didn’t last long after she left, because it wasn’t going well like my coming out story. And then so anyways, we’re at the forum. And then there’s gonna be my last night there. And that was when I took home this other person, and I realised you could take someone home and have sex with them at a bar. And it was my last night.

K Anderson  50:33

So crazy. How did you then realise?

Bryan  50:38

So we went out to eat? Because again, I didn’t know any of this happened. So we went to like, you know, a 24 hour diner. And he just looked at me said, I didn’t want to have eat with you. I wanted to have sex. And he was very direct about it. I was like, oh, okay, so you want to stay the night? No. I just want sex. And I don’t think I ever understood what was going on. But they always went back out to like, to my apartment, and we had sex. And then he left. And it was like, Okay, I enjoyed that. But also, that’s not how this is supposed to go. But I enjoyed it. And then I moved. So then it was like, I also didn’t have to deal with it. Because then I moved back to Arizona soon after that. Like

K Anderson  51:27

not to make this whole conversation about bashing heteronormativity. But I remember for me that kind of thing happening where, you know, you don’t have a conversation beforehand. You’re not like, so what is this? Is this just sex? And then we never see each other again? Or is this leading into something? Or is this this? And so you’re coming at it with different expectations? And it was always for me like, Well, I mean, I’ve touched your penis, so we must be dating. And, and would have all of these really weird come downs come Downs is probably not the right term, but days following sexual encounters where it was just like, Ah, I must be a terrible person. Or like, no one loves me or like, you know, all these like ridiculous projections that I was making on something that was just as simple as one sexual act.

Bryan  52:16

Yeah, I never was like that in bars. Like, I never really became a like, hook up with someone at a bar person. That just like it never I’m going to have but like, it was not like my purpose. That’s a lot of people’s purposes, right? Like, I think somewhere along the lines, I was really into cruising. And I think I liked that there was no if ands or buts about what we were going to do. Like it would be the moment and that was it. And I didn’t have to worry about my expectations of what might come after I didn’t have to have that or was something wrong with me was that good? Or what? Because I’m probably as you can see, if I was bad, then you’re never gonna see me again anyways. Or if it was great, that was that one great time. And it was like, I’ve always had this this thing in me that I don’t know if it’s good or bad. Or maybe it doesn’t have to be either one. But like, I always had everything like segmented. And there was very little cross pollination with things and like, so sex just became sex. And that was it. And to me, like it was even separate from a relationship until I met my now husband, I was like, two things can kind of go together. And it’s really great. And then to try to figure out like, being a little more open. That was a process to go okay, no, I can have this. And I can still have that I can have sex with strangers. And I can still have my white picket fence of my home life and have a husband. Yeah, and they they can be two separate containers. But those two caner containers can still live in me and I can have it all and this is like really like it’s this amazing

K Anderson  53:51

thing. Yeah, not feel the need for two suppress one or two. Yeah, be dishonest about one.

Bryan  53:58

Because I remember even with with Tom, I remember once early on. He was like, I don’t remember what we were we were watching something. We were watching some movie or whatever. And someone said the word making love and we just both started cracking up. And he looked at me like please don’t ever tell me you’re gonna make love with me. Like, I am not interested in that. I want to fuck I don’t care how long we’re together. I just want to fuck we can love each other another time. But when we were doing that, like I was like, Oh God, we are perfect for one another. Like, so I somehow I don’t even think in our own relationship. I still think there actually.

K Anderson  54:36

And but like thinking about living your life in segmented ways and everything having its own box. Was that difficult then with Tom to be intimate and loving and soft self that’s such a gross word, but like expressing that side and then also having sax.

Bryan  55:02

I think he was kind of the same way. I think together, I think we figured out that we were both like that. Because I think he was like me and not thinking that you could do that. And we kind of figured it out together, that we could still do all of those things. It was really healthy in that way. You know, I feel very fortunate with that, actually, again, not everyone would want feel that they could have that conversation with their partner, without fear of what might happen. And then not only feel able to have that conversation, but then actually both arrive to a destination that we weren’t sure we’d ever be able to arrive to. And be there together. You know,

K Anderson  55:44

let’s great go into cheesy married. So if you had the opportunity to go back in time, and talk to an 18 year old boy and or maybe 19 year old or maybe 20 year old, Bryan, other than suck more deck, what advice would you give him?

Bryan  56:03

Can I give myself two pieces of advice, because one’s much more shallow. Go ahead. Learn to be a bottom much younger, because it’s a lot more fun. It doesn’t make you powerless, it actually makes you more powerful. So embrace that. practice safe sex, they’ll be a bottom for a long time, because it’s great. I think I would tell Oh, God, this is gonna sound so like, after school special

K Anderson  56:38

leaning leaning question. Just go go full hog,

Bryan  56:42

I think I would tell Bryan, that that idealistic life that you want, that you feel like is never going to come is going to come and you’re going to be really incredibly happy, you’re going to have an amazing person, you’re going to find your person that you’re meant to be with in your life. And he’s going to treat you so incredibly well.

Bryan  57:10

And you’re going to have three little boys that are going to change you and make you a much better person. And then all the trauma you’ve gone through in your life. You need to go through those things. Because you don’t know you’re gonna have three little boys who went through a lot of trauma too. And you’re learning to have as you’re getting your tools

Bryan  57:47

help your kids. So maybe they don’t have to be as scared and unhappy for as long as you were. And then maybe as a dad, you can prepare them that they don’t that they can learn to live with that trauma and it doesn’t have to define them forever. And they’re going to have a really happy life their whole life and they’re not going to have to go through the dark stuff that you did.

K Anderson  58:12

Do you have any memories of the forum or clubbing from your own queer scene that you want to share? Well, if you do, please get in touch. I want to create the biggest online record of people’s memories and stories of queer clubbing, go to LA spaces podcast.com and find the section share a lost space and tell me all about what you got up to. You can also reach out to me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. My handle across all platforms is lost spaces pod. Whilst you’re there, find out more about Bryan and his podcast pink milk on Twitter and Instagram where his handle is serving pink milk. Law spaces is not only a podcast, but it is a concept record as well. I have been writing songs about queer venues and the people who used to live their lives there and we’ll be releasing songs over the next year. You can hear the first single which is called well groomed boys and is playing underneath my talking all right now on all good streaming platforms. If you enjoyed this episode, I would really appreciate if you subscribed left a review on your podcast platform of choice or just you know told people who you think might be interested in giving it a we listen to. I am K Anderson and you have been listening to lost spaces