When we're gauging the size of a city's gay community, short of a real census estimate, we tend to look at the number of gay watering holes a town has.
Over the past few years, those weary of the local bar scene have found other ways to connect. Charleston Pride founder Lynn Dugan has been bringing lesbians together with the Charleston Social Club for several years. And young gay men routinely gather for Champ, a self-empowerment and safe-sex program.
Last year, Jeff Lange and Ken Immer were both closing in on turning 30, a point when you're expected to grow out of the Champ program.
"We don't go out, so actually meeting other gay men can be challenging," Immer says of the bar scene.
Lange adds, "We're both non-drinkers and felt there wasn't a lot to do socially without having to go to the gay bars."
So the two formed enlightenMen (enlightenmen.org). With more than 50 members on Facebook, the group routinely meets for yoga, art walks, and cooking classes. "We're trying to offer things that are different from what is traditionally out there," Immer says. "It's an opportunity to meet in a more mindful, heart-centered way."
They hold dinners and discussion groups on topics like sustainable living, the use of pornography, and where artists find inspiration.
"We're letting our members drive the way the group is forming and changing," Lange says. "We want to create a brotherhood and use that as a forum."