For years, St. Louis remained the second largest Mardi Gras festival in the country. Fair St. Louis also happens to be one of the largest Midwest celebrations of Independence Day. And St. Louis is home to one of the larger Gay Pride Festivals in the Midwest as well. But St. Louis is not known solely for its parties and festivals.
The city of St. Louis happens to be one of the most gay-friendly cities in the Midwest. Most people aren't aware of the fact that the city of St. Louis maintains a Domestic Partnership Registry for both homosexual and heterosexual partners. The city also provides some protection for gays and lesbians with a legislative clause prohibiting discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation. Many local companies have taken a chance and adopted the same policies for all their employees.
Despite the protections and equality given by the city, gays and lesbians in St. Louis County and elsewhere in Missouri continue to fight for their rights and their acceptance. Thus many local organizations continue spreading a message of tolerance and acceptance throughout the state and beyond.
Personal Rights Of Missourians (PROMO) works with the state and city legislatures to help stop any legislation that may take away rights from the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender/sexual) community. Pride Saint Louis, Inc. and St. Louis Effort For AIDS promote workshops and events throughout the year to raise awareness. And hundreds of other organizations continue to work to bring equality to all gays and lesbians.
Many online resources also exist to help the local GLBT community of St. Louis. Gaystlouis.com, for the past four years, has been one such resource. The website attempts to provide a place where any information about the local gay community can be found. Like much of the Internet, the site constantly evolves. New sections are being added constantly to provide better access or allow more involvement from visitors.
As the webmaster of Gaystlouis.com, my priority focuses on providing a free resource to the community. There are no banner ads, no pop-up windows, no subscriptions or even charges for any of the services. Yet the site provides news, a calendar of events, an online community guide, a message board, classifieds, games, photos and coverage of local events and links to other local websites that may be of use to the community.
With such open access, a few strange requests and messages come through from time to time. These range from simple curiosity from people who are not aware of what 'coming out' is, or what being 'gay' means, to those people who shower the Internet with hate mail. But the entire community experiences that on a daily basis; the Internet should not be different.
The gay and lesbian community of St. Louis remains in a constant state of flux. People who have recently 'come out' and wish to get involved help take over from the veterans who tire out from years of work. So nothing ever remains the same.
Businesses have vanished from one block only to reappear on another. Organizations close from lack of support while a new one blossoms. In reality, the gay community mirrors the entire St. Louis community, but on a much more integrated scale.
Many people who are not a part of the gay community only know of the gay bars or the special "news" stories that air every year during sweeps week. The truth is, the gay and lesbian community has many more aspects, from bowling leagues and tournaments to a group that will be attending the upcoming Gay Games. The gay community includes everyone from choruses to camping groups, doctors to teachers.
Anyone curious about what the gay community of St. Louis is about, please do not hesitate to get involved. Almost all organizations welcome anyone with questions, regardless of their orientation. The quest for acceptance and equality starts with education and understanding.
For the past four years, Tony Bossaller has operated Gaystlouis.com for the community of St. Louis. He has lived in St. Louis his whole life (except college) and now lives on the South Side with his partner of five years.