(BLSB) - Alex: A Member of the Memphis Gay White Men's Community of the Period from 1975 to 1990 Recalls His First Time

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Aerial view of Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, United States (1981). Dave French Collection.


From Lesbian and Gay Memphis: Building Communities Behind the Magnolia Curtain by Daneel Buring (New York: Garland Publishing, 1997).

Sexual encounters continued to occur in tearooms, although those most popular with older narrators during the pre-liberation era, such as the National Garage, Goldsmith’s (the downtown store), and the Peabody Hotel, were replaced by different ones. Younger narrators identify the restrooms at Goldsmith’s (the Oak Court location), Chickasaw Plaza, and the Park Place Mall as a few of the more favored tearooms of the post-liberation era. Alex recalls his first tearoom encounter:

I was twelve and I lived out in Frayser and there was a department store called Zayre’s. I was just naive as anything. . . . I was kind of a loner when I was a kid because I was kind of a sissy. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I’d ride my bike down to Northgate Shopping Center every afternoon and I just had to use the bathroom and I went into the bathroom. I’d always known I was gay. I might not have known what it was but I knew what was going on. I went into the bathroom and there was this hole in the wall. I didn’t know what it was. I figured out real quickly what it was because somebody else was in there and that was the first time I ever had sex. . . . The guy just motioned for me to put myself through that hole and I did. I figured out what he wanted and that’s how it started. I did that for years. . . . I’d meet a lot of older guys. Sometimes I’d go home with them. They’d pick me up in there or a lot times we’d just do it right there.


Boy on a Schwinn Speedster bike. From the 1970 Schwinn Bicycle Company Consumer Catalog (75th Anniversary, 1895–1970, "Diamond Jubilee" brochure).