Blond is a queer bar in Ghent, only a five-minute walk from home. The umbrella term is LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer). I’ve passed by many a time, but clearly too early in the day. This time they were open.

I’m here in my new home city to meet people – all sorts of them. I don’t learn much by hanging out only with folks whose life experience is close to mine. I want my eyes opened, to discover brothers and sisters of different sexual orientations, ages, races, cultures and personalities.

When I walked into Blond tonight, there was one guy sitting at the bar and the bartender Djahid. Two young men. That was it.

I read the menu, loving the message that appears in the photo. “We are all called upon to contribute to making everyone feel safe.” Yes.

After a preamble about beer, I asked Djahid if most of his customers were respectful of differences. He said yes, with notable exceptions. Still, Blond is a safe haven for LGBTQ human beings.

Djahid told me that when I walked in, he sensed that I was a good person, but he’s learned from bitter experience to stay attentive. Sometimes he’s been surprised by a sudden racial slur or a joke about two women being together.

Once he felt comfortable with me, Djahid said that he likes dressing up feminine for queer parties but tenses up when it’s time to walk home. Too much of his life is about being careful, constantly on the alert for aggressive behaviour. I asked myself what all that looking over your shoulder does to the body.

I was sad that there were no women in the café. I had hoped to talk to one or two about their lives and mine. Next time.

It shouldn’t be any big deal. It should be about celebrating our differences by simply talking. “What’s important to you? Here’s what’s important to me …”

I’ll be back

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