by Susie Hume
With a gay index 60 percent higher than the national average, Rochester is a surprising hotbed of gay culture. From a wide variety of bars and nightclubs, to community groups and special events, to stores specializing in pride merchandise, Rochester offers a little bit of something for everyone.
If you're the type that likes to go out and mingle with the young and fabulous, Rochester has several gay-oriented nightclubs worth checking out. With various theme nights --- including Porno Pictionary, totally '80s dance parties, and the infamous Big Gay Disco --- Tilt (444 Central Avenue, 232-8440, www.tiltnightclub.com) is regularly packed with beat-seekers. If you're in the mood for a show, Muther's (40 South Union, 325-6216, www.clubmuthers.com) is the place to turn. With outrageously fun drag queen and king performances featuring the likes of Darienne Lake, Aggie Dune, Ambrosia Salad, and more, Muther's is a club that every Rochesterian --- gay or straight --- should visit at least once. Speaking of straight, Vertex (169 Chestnut Street, 232-5498, www.vertexclub.com) caters to both gay and straight crowds, with a heavy dash of Goth thrown in the mix, too. Pump (www.pumprochester.com) is a New York City-style traveling party meant to draw the gay and gay-friendly community.
If grinding your way through the sweaty masses isn't your thing, try the more subdued atmosphere of The Avenue Pub (522 Monroe Avenue, 244-4960), a sports bar-type of hangout with pool and darts. Nasty D's (140 Alexander Street, 256-1000, www.nasty-ds.com) offers the best of both worlds, with a bar, restaurant, and game room on the first floor and a dance club upstairs. For a different crowd, The Bachelor Forum (670 University Avenue, 271-6930, www.bachelor4m.com) is the local leather/Levi bar.
Not a drinker? Grab a cup of Joe at one of Rochester's gay-owned coffeehouses, including Equal Grounds (750 South Avenue, 242-7840, www.equalgrounds.com), which is attached to the Pride Connection Gift Shoppe.
For those looking for a good...workout, Rochester has its own spa/bathhouse: the Rochester Spa and Body Club (109 Liberty Pole Way, 454-1074, www.rochesterspa.com), with a sauna, steam rooms, showers and private rooms.
When it comes to an all-out celebration of pride, the Streets of Pride (www.streetsofpride.com) festival is just that. Held annually the second weekend of July, the Rochester festival is a weekend-long event that includes a parade, a picnic, and other events meant to foster pride and strength in Rochester's gay community. This year's event takes place July 14-15. Our neighbors to the north in Toronto also have a fantastic weeklong celebration of pride and diversity (www.pridetoronto.com). Those willing to make the three-hour trek June 15-24 won't be disappointed.
The annual ImageOut Film Festival (www.imageout.org) celebrates diversity through a variety of films and videos. The festival has been a hit since its inception in 1993 and has grown in leaps and bounds since, enriching both Rochester's gay community and preserving Rochester's historical ties to the film industry. The 2007 festival will take place October 5-14.
The Rainbow Theater Festival (www.breadandwatertheatre.org) also has the dual purpose of entertainment and education. Run by the Bread and Water Theater Company, each year the festival takes on a theme from one of the colors in the Rainbow Pride Flag. This year the festival's theme will be orange, which represents healing. Productions include Safe Sex, The Lamda Project: Every Step May Be Fruitful, and more, and this year's festival takes place May 25-June 10.
For more Nightlife articles, and for a list of gay-oriented networking and support groups, check out www.rochestercitynewspaper.com.