The individual experiences are unique but every story has common threads of borderland culture running through their perspectives.
EPCB briefly spoke to three different young men at different stages in their 20s and asked them about different aspects of gay life in El Paso.
epcb:: What was it like being gay in high school?
a:: It didn’t really affect me because I never came out or was really perceived as gay.
epcb:: What’s your impression of gay guys here In El Paso?
a:: I feel guys are just looking for sex. Not that it’s a bad thing for a short time. It just gets kinda old.
epcb::Do you know of any guys in a long-term relationship?
a:: No. I know lots of guys my age working on it. But no one’s very successful.
epcb:: What are you looking for in a relationship?
a:: Someone straightforward and blunt. I’m closeted, so I’d like them to also be discreet.
epcb:: How does being closeted affect your dating life?
a:: It limits the amounts of guys I can talk to. I’m only finding guys who are also closeted and just want sex. Coming out just isn’t an option though. My friends know but not my family. They keep me from coming out.
epcb:: You don’tthink your family would be supportive?
a:: I don’t think they would be. And right now, I just can’t risk losing them or them turning their back on me.With my family, I feel like I have to be two different people. I’m unsure of what’s going to happen in the future, but right now, this is just how it has to be.
epcb:: What do you think of the gay clubs here in El Paso?
b:: They’re just the same thing over and over again. It can be exciting when you’re first being introduced to the scene. But it gets old fast. I mean, you can still go and have fun. But I feel there is always so much drama. You’ll always see someone who knows you, or your boyfriend, or your business. It’s a small community, so there can always be someone to hold something against you.
epcb:: How would you describe the guys in the El Paso gay scene?
b:: Well, there’s the club guy. He looks like any El Paso guy who haunts the night spots. There’s the gym bunny who works out all week to show off his body on the weekends. There’s the working class type, whether it’s a white collar office or lawyer type; or blue collar truck driver or laborer type. Then you have your fashionable, bohemian, eclectic kind of guys.
epcb:: What’s it like to date in El Paso?
b:: I think it’s hard. There’s not a lot to do besides go to the bars together. You have to be creative to find fun things to do that you would feel welcome or comfortable to do as a couple.
epcb:: Are you seeing anyone right now?
b:: Yeah. But it’s a little rocky. Lots of back and forth communication. I have trouble prioritizing and managing my time to give the relationship the attention it needs. But it’s my first love. I can’t walk away from that.
epcb:: How friendly is the city to gay business owners?
d:: The current city council has really reached out to the gay community like no other previous administration. I don’t feel there are too many benefits to being a gay business owner in El Paso, however. In larger cities it’s common for gays to support gay businesses with a sense of loyalty. I don’t see the gay community in El Paso being that loyal to gay business owners. That being said, I do believe it’s easy to build ageneral loyal client base. So it is a great city in which to own a business, gay or straight.
epcb::What’s something uniquely positive about the Sun City’s gay community?
d:: There’s a strong sense of family. It’s not uncommon to go to a bar downtown or a show at the theater and see most of the LGBTI community intermixed. We don’t have a bear bar, or a leather bar or a gay sports bar. Everyone seems to befriend anyone and that’s something rare you don’t find in other cities.
epcb:: What is the biggest obstacle/ self-defeating mentality holding back the gay community here?
d:: There is a lack of information and lack of demanding access to that information. We have the older gay generation that feels they have lived life. They want to conserve the gay community based on the decades they have lived through. The younger generation is definitely more open to change but less informed about important issues, such as the risks of casual sex. If we can break the stereotype and remove the stigma that to be gay in El Paso just means weekends at the bars, checking your Grndr account every chance you get for the next sexual encounter, then the gay community would be unstoppable.
By J.R. Lujan