The landmark gay high school rom-com Love, Simon swept viewers off their feet after its release in March. Two months later, Twentieth Century Fox released a deleted scene from the film, in which the titular star attends his first gay nightclub. The scene is nerve-wracking, thrilling, and ultimately moving which is exactly what it’s like to go to a gay bar for the first time.
Gay men are afforded bountiful opportunities to thrive in queer spaces. In most major cities, and even some of the more welcoming suburbs, it’s easy to find a gay bar or nightclub to blow off some steam with your fellow gays. But for queer women, lesbian spaces come few and far between. As a result, female queerness is less normalized in many respects, because it’s not as conspicuous in everyday or every night culture. Even LGBTQ hubs like Los Angeles and San Francisco have mourned the loss of numerous dyke bars and safe spaces for queer women, and it’s not getting any better. And with no spaces to be out and proud without feeling othered, it can elongate queer women’s coming out process or at least, it did for me.
Regardless, there’s a commonality in rainbow-flooded queer spaces, because gay bars bleed togetherness and acceptance. When I watch the deleted scene from Love, Simon, I feel shivers down my spine reminiscentof the first time I set foot in a gay bar good shivers, goosebumps, heart palpitations and all because this scene doesn’t just depict a fun-loving first encounter with queerness. It also shows the importance of one’s first eye contact with unconditional acceptance and community, and that combination is vital to every queer person’s coming out experience.
I didn’t realize I was gay until my early 20s, and it wasn’t until I started hanging around other queer women that my own sexuality became starkly clear, which I think is a common experience the more queerness you surround yourself with, the more normal it feels, and the easier it is to embrace those parts of yourself. Before my first gay safe space, I had minor confrontations with my lesbianism a same-sex crush, coming out to my best friend, admitting to my queer friends that I was questioning but it wasn’t until my first Pride that it came gushing out of me like Kilauea lava.
In the deleted scene from Love, Simon, the titular character (played by Nick Robinson) can be seen anxiously dipping his toes in the water, afraid to admit any man at the club is checking him out, or that he enjoys the attention. That is until a gay man, played by out gay actor Colton Haynes, approaches and asks him to dance.
Simon’s friend physically shoves him away, forcing him to dive deeper into his gay experience, knowing that the plunge isn’t just important, it’s necessary for the character’s road to self-acceptance.
I remember that feeling so vividly, going to Dyke Day (the famed women-loving-women picnic in Los Angeles), flinching at any lingering glance or arm-brush with another woman, even though I so badly wanted to engage. It took some warming up, but later that night, everything changed for me.
Gay people flooded the streets during that Pride, proudly donning rainbow flags, speedo thongs, drag, and other gay-adjacent paraphernalia. Forgive my triteness, but I had never felt so free to be me. And later that night, when I subsequently attended the Pride concert and gay clubs of West Hollywood, I felt truly free, accepted, and part of a community for the first time. That freedom is echoed in Simon’s eyes in the clip, when he finally drags himself on to the dance floor and lets loose, surrounded by people who are just like him. Via the million-watt smile and creased eyes, it’s clear Simon is fully embracing himself and his sexuality for the very first time, just like I did three years ago, and it feels like ecstasy.
Queer spaces are essential to one’s coming out experience, but also in remaining out and liberated. These days, I look forward to Pride every summer, because it’s the one time per year that I can be fully drowned in queer women, seeking a common goal of togetherness, and that warmth is totally overwhelming.
It’s my hope that every LGBTQ person, whether a teenager like Simon, a twenty-something like myself, or a baby gay of any age, gender, sexuality or gender identity, can be afforded the experience of attending a gay bar. Even if you’re not totally into the culture of pounding G’s and grinding in sweat-stained tank-tops, I promise there’s a level of self-acceptance that can only be unlocked by pumping your fist to Ariana Grande’s “Break Free,” submerged in a sea of your own tribe.
As of today, Love, Simon is available digitally and will be released on DVD June 12th.