Significant Omnisexual

Sudden death at Universal

Once upon a time, on a San Diego street corner which had long been under construction, four cream-colored concrete walls were raised to the sky. We the people of America’s Finest City sat at adjacent stoplights wondering what the chic, new castle would have in store for us. Further stoking our intrigue was the sign which the sexy structure displayed as soon as it had a roof to hang it from, intrepidly announcing the site of the city’s first omnisexual bar.

The immediate buzz triggered by this curious and highly anticipated description was rivaled only by the neighborhood’s collective scurry to internet search engines in an effort to understand exactly who, and what, kind of people would be welcome there.

Turns out, omnisexual bars invite all zones of folks to board the plane, since omnisexuality is characterized by an aesthetic attraction, romantic love, or sexual desire towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity.

With much fanfare, Universal -- the aptly named nightclub on University Ave. -- blew off its all-inclusive doors back in April of 2008.

In its heyday the bar entertained, en masse, indie swirls, girls and boys, swanky scenesters and hetero hipsters, alike. On Saturday nights, it wrapped lines around the block of dress code obliging beauties with creative flair worth the price of even the most audacious admission in town. Sunday nights didn’t disappoint either, featuring a dance floor rife with attitude and the combustible combination of gay boys flanked by straight pretties. On Thursday nights, lesbian and queer women and a splash of straight sass packed the outdoor patio at Universal where team FlawLes delivered a combination of smooth spinning DJs and acoustic artists. The unique throng of electric femininity that assembled under the glowing heat lamps each week was such -- even in Hillcrest -- that passersby were compelled to stop and stare.

And therein lies the real beauty of what an omnisexual bar is able to accomplish. At a time when many gay bars are still concealed within clandestine, cave-like clubs (think in town-outside-of-big-city thoroughfares), bearing vague, if any, demarcations of gay clientele, Universal proudly showcased progressive sexual integration with flashing lights and advertising nearly every single night of the week it was open for business. It’s fervent appreciation for its patron’s individual aesthetic flair and flippant regard of one’s orientation is what made it tick.

Even in 2010 -- an age that sometimes seems too futuristic to be true -- that’s a really big deal.

To grasp the social significance of an omnisexual establishment, acknowledge first that our community’s major liberation movement started at a gay bar. Consider also that for decades, closeted living was all that LGBT men and women could do, and gay bars provided some of the only refuge and retreat from a stark reality. From there, it is understandable that LGBT social patterns of isolation and seclusion were compulsory at the movement’s inception. Covert gay bars eventually developed from essential safe zones to central hubs of community and social life, but all the while, we effectively constructed the foundation our own social marginalization and segregation.

Social segregation was effectively created and imposed through the sentiment -- shared by individuals in both the gay and straight communities -- that LGBT individuals would be best suited to retreat to private, separate, secretive establishments in order to safeguard the minority and to preserve the sensible social interaction which had traditionally been assumed.

Social segregation continues to exist today, even in cities where safety is not an imminent concern, because vast public policy still embodies the belief in the need for separate establishments and experiences, and worse, surreptitious social interaction for a shamed minority.

That’s why I applaud Universal’s omnisexual integrity as such a vanguard achievement. Sadly, the establishment succumbed to ‘economic times’ and decided to close its doors on the last day of the decade, but this should not be the litmus test of its social success or significance. While the initial financial investment ultimately proved too immense to overcome, the considerable commitment to avant-garde community reshaping is what should not be understated.

Although Universal Hillcrest is already a thing of the past, its omnisexual concept is most definitely a movement worth revisiting in the future.