James McGreevey may be the most prominent gay person in New Jersey these days but he is hardly representative. Most gay and lesbian people feel comfortable and in most cases, welcome in Princeton.
While New Hope, New Brunswick, Trenton, Philadelphia, and Asbury Park have more social opportunities, according to the directors of area organizations that cater to the gay community, Princeton and central New Jersey do have some gay and lesbian social organizations :
Pride Center of New Jersey Inc., 1048 Livingston Avenue, Box 5130, New Brunswick 08903; 732-846-2232. Timothy Healy, president. www.pridecenter.org.
“We have a number of members from Princeton, and the feedback we get is that the atmosphere is a comfortable one,” says Timothy Healy, president of the Pride Center. “In general, I think that with the culture and the town and the school, it is really a good environment. But on an organized level, people tend to stay out of Princeton, though they do attend cultural activities and socialize in people’s homes.”
The Pride Center holds events throughout New Jersey and sponsors workshops, seminars, and social gatherings with the next monthly social set for Saturday, October 28, at 7:30 p.m. “The reason people come to the center is that they don’t want the bar experience,” says Healy. “That’s one of the reasons we’re here.”
Membership in the Pride Center is not growing. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to Healy. “It’s at a status quo, and we’ve been working hard to keep it where it is,” says Healy. “But since we started 15 years ago, the environment has gotten much better, so there isn’t as great a need for a place like ours.”
One local group, Gay People Princeton, disbanded for exactly that reason. “It started 30 years ago and had a long run, ago but the need for that type of outlet has diminished. People who are looking for a date can get a date on the Internet,” says Dennis C. McGrath, a technical writer and a member of the board of the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition. “Because it is more acceptable to be gay, the community has fragmented into different groups.” For instance, he cites the gay men’s music listening groups in Kingston and Somerset.
The opera club meets on first Sundays at 6 p.m. in Somerset, and the classical song club meets on third Sundays at 6 p.m. in Kingston. For information call Harold Goldenberg at 732-249-9034 or E-mail: email@example.com.
Trenton Gay & Lesbian Civic Association (TGLCA Inc.), 986 South Broad Street, Box 33209, Trenton 08629. www.tglca.org.
Princeton’s lack of a gay bar makes it less desirable as a place for gay singles to gather and meet. “Princeton has never really been a place (for gay singles) to go,” says Peter Frycki, vice-president of administration for the Trenton Gay and Lesbian Civic Association and the publisher of Out in New Jersey magazine (743 Hamilton Avenue, Trenton 08629; 609-213-9310; fax, 609-599-2304, www.outinjersey.net).
“People tend to go to Philadelphia or Asbury Park. For Mercer County lesbians and gays, most have had to find other venues. And since Buddies Pub closed in Trenton a few months ago, most people I talk to have not gone out as much as they used to, or they go to the Raven in New Hope.”
Frycki says that Nate’s in Trenton (979 Lalor Street, 609-392-9659), though not a gay bar, has become a destination for gay singles on Friday and Saturday nights. “At one time there were several really good gay bars in Trenton,” he says. “But that’s not the case now.
The TGLCA sponsors “Q nights” on Fridays, 7 to 10 p.m., at Cafe Ole, 126 South Warren Street in Trenton (609-396-2233).
Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, 78 New Street, New Brunswick 08901; 732-246-0204; fax, 732-246-4137. Riki E. Jacobs, executive director. www.hyacinth.org.
Advocating for political and social causes is another way to increase social networks. Hyacinth, the state’s first and largest AIDS service organization, advocates for AIDS causes, and it also has many opportunities for volunteering and fundraising. The next fundraiser is Saturday, November 11, in Edison (www.impurityball.com).
The NJ Lesbian & Gay Coalition, (www.njlgc.org).
This group is rallying support for an imminent New Jersey Supreme Court announcement on same sex marriages. (The domestic partnership law, which offers a small percentage of the benefits available to heterosexual couples, was signed by McGreevey in the summer of 2004 when he was otherwise doing everything he could to distance himself from gays in the public’s mind.)
The coalition will hold a gala on Saturday, November 4, at the Radisson in Piscataway to honor eight people, including Frycki. Cost: $85. Register (www.njlgc.org).
PFlag, 21 Wiggins Street, Princeton 08540; 609-683-5155; fax, 609-683-9507. Home page: www.pflagprinceton.org
The Princeton area chapter of PFLAG was formed in 1999 by a group of parents. It is housed at HiTops and meetings are on second Mondays at 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Church, 33 Mercer Street, Princeton. A statewide brunch is set for Sunday, November 5, at 1:30 p.m. at the East Brunswick Hilton.
McCarter Theater Center, 91 University Place, Princeton 08540; 609-258-6500; fax, 609-497-0369. Emily Mann, artistic director. www.McCarter.org
One gay-oriented activity that does attract crowds to Princeton is Pride Night at McCarter Theater. The event features a pre-performance reception at the theater, using the catch phrase “Get in with the OUT crowd.”
Both Frycki and Healy cited Pride Night at McCarter Theater as a major event for single gays and lesbians. “It’s really the only thing of note in Princeton for the gay community,” says Frycki. “The pre-show party, the whole event, is popular.”
The next Pride Nights will be Thursday, January 18, for “Looking Glass Alice.”
New Jersey Gay Men’s Chorus, Box 21, Princeton 08540; 609-396-7774. Home page: www.njgmc.org.
While the artistic director of the Gay Men’s Chorus of New Jersey did not respond to requests for comment, the organization’s former artistic director, Richard M. Loatman, speculated on the state of gay social life in Princeton. “When I was conducting and singing with the chorus, most of my time was spent doing just that, rather than socializing,” says Loatman. “But I would suspect that Princeton was not the place to go. New Hope, New Brunswick, New York, and Philadelphia had greater opportunities, I think.”
The chorus rehearses at Nassau Presbyterian Church on Mondays, 7:30 p.m. and will perform in Atlantic City on Sunday, November 19, at 4 p.m. at the Church of the Ascension (609-396-7774), Saturday, November 25, at the Raven in New Hope (215-862-2081, and Friday, December 8, at the Unitarian Church in Titusville (609-737-0515).
Princeton University, 1 Nassau Hall, Princeton 08544; 609-258-3000. Shirley M. Tilghman, president. Home page: www.princeton.edu
The gay community thrives on the campus of Princeton, which placed 19th in “The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students.” University President Shirley Tilghman, in fact, has said she is more proud of this gay-friendly ranking than of Princeton’s No. 1 rating by U.S. News & World Report.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students are supported by a full-time LGBT center offering two to three events a week. “The social scene is really contained within the university community for the most part, and the students organize some things themselves,” says Debbie Bazarsky, director of the LGBT Center. A student group, the Queer Radicals, hosts the annual drag ball, a major campus event. “I think that Princeton University as a whole offers a warm and supportive environment, and we are part of that,” Bazarsky says.
What Bazarsky and others in the gay community have noticed is the impact of online dating on the social lives of single lesbians and gays. “It has really transformed the way LGBT (people) date,” Bazarsky says.