An American in Dublin: Exploring Gay Life Over the Rainbow

12.3.2013

By Jeffrey Hartinger

Relaxed and well-read Irish gays are far removed from their American counterparts, finds one writer visiting the Emerald Isle.

Exploring the first day by foot, I soon put away my map and walked aimlessly. I walked through Trinity College Dublin, and a few blocks over, checked out the Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Square Park. The statue of the iconic gay writer was sprawled back on a huge rock. As a fan of the author, his statue definitely did him justice.

After six hours of exploring, my first Guinness (let it settle!) and some dinner at a random pub, I made my way to my first gay bar of my trip: Panti Bar, a club not too far from my hostel in Smithfield Square.

I ordered a pint and made my way over to another guy who was alone. After much travel within the U.S., and relocating a few times to big cities after college graduation in Buffalo, I realized that this approach is the best if you happen to be out by yourself; your anxiety will just keep building as time presses forward, so just take a swig (or two) and go talk to someone.

Luckily, the men I talked with throughout the night were receptive, funny, and insightful. Sometimes in the U.S. — especially gay bars in “hip” cities such as Los Angeles and New York — interaction seems to be closed off to your circle of friends. The same holds true for many straight bars. During my week in Ireland, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Every conversation draws you in; as if it’s the most important chat you will have all night.

After a drag show and a few drinks, I was ready to check out another bar in the area. I made my way over to The George, a ten or fifteen-minute walk on the other side of the river, which is a massive, two-story dance club. Fog, dance music, and clusters of men; nothing that wouldn’t set it apart from any other big-city gay club, but the clientele seemed more tame, so to speak. There wasn’t much pushing or rude looks when one made their way through the crowd to order a drink at the bar, nor did there appear to be big groups with judgmental eyes scattered throughout.

“You guys are so nice here,” I said to a nice guy named Niall who I met at the previous bar. “Some bars in New York get a little crazy, especially around closing time.”

“Well, everyone needs to get to that bar sooner or later, so everyone just makes room.”

It seemed as if the whole club was flowing together. I was really enjoying myself, and my lack of sleep seemed more apparent with every sip I took. It looked like my first night was coming to a close.

“I better go back to the hostel,” I thought to myself. After some debate, I decided that one more pint and one more dance would be fine. It was my first night in Dublin, after all. The guys were nice. The guys were funny. The guys were sexy.

Eventually, the music died down, the lights come on and I caught the eye of a guy not too far from me. Since it was obvious that we were both checking each other out, we laughed, and I made my way over to where he was standing. He wasn’t necessarily my type, but I was drawn to him for some reason – and I don’t think it was the jet lag or the buzz from all my drinks.

He was a little taller than me, lanky, and he had bushy black eyebrows over dark green eyes. We exchanged names and flirted for a bit. His name was Adam and he lived not too far from the club.

We made our way outside and into scattered rain. Adam kissed me in an alley and grabbed my hand as drunks staggered out of various bars. Romance at its finest.

“Let’s grab a cab,” he said as he fished around for some coins with one hand and grabbed my hand tighter with the other. “I have enough to get us back to my flat.”

“Are you sure this is okay?” I asked, while motioning down to our clenched hands.

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