To celebrate Stonewall 50 and WorldPride in NYC, we gathered a group of remarkable people with their own Stonewall stories to tell. Read them all in our blog, and say hello when you see them at Stonewall.
Paolo Krystyan has been working at The Stonewall Inn as a bartender since around 2008. He’s earned a number of nicknames over the years, to the point that he’ll “answer to whatever you call out.” His warm, welcoming attitude have made him equal parts favorite bartender to regulars, and occasional therapist to those at different points in their coming out journey.
Paolo grew up on Long Island, and knew from a very young age that he was gay. He told his sisters first, but coming out to his mother was a different experience. He laughs about it now, saying, “she was crying, saying ‘you’re hiding something from me!’ So I said, ‘Mom, I’m gay.’ And she said, ‘…oh thank God, I thought you were on drugs!’” His strong family support system helped him feel comfortable as he worked to find an LGBTQ+ scene to explore. When he got older, he started to go to gay nights at a local bar. “They maybe had them once a week. But it felt great to be around people who were the same, but so different, and still having fun together.”
He’s still very family-oriented, but now sees The Stonewall Inn as an extension of his family. “We’re all brothers and sisters, we fight, we argue, do all that family stuff. Kurt and Stacy are mom and dad. But we’re all very close, and we help each other out through everything.” He sees The Stonewall Inn as a chance to share that sense of family with the rest of the LGBTQ+ community. “I know there’s a lot of places where people don’t have that sort of family. I like to try and do my part to provide that.”
When Paolo eventually moved to New York City, he quickly found his way to the much more vibrant gay bar scene and started making more real friends. “It was great to go to these places and feel that you got a real sense of these people, and that no one was hiding anything. They’re just being out there, and being fabulous.” When he moved to the other side of the bar, his supportive background made him a key presence for people at the bar. “Just the other day, I had a lady that couldn’t talk to her mom. She was out to everyone else, but couldn’t talk to her mom.” After a night talking in the bar, Paolo says, “she was a lot more comfortable, and said she was going to talk to her mom the next day!”
The sense of community at The Stonewall Inn and other neighborhood spots are an inspiration for Paolo. “Talking to people and hearing their life story, helping them out– I’m hoping that I can help people be more comfortable with who you are, and being yourself, and to just love yourself.” To Paolo, the strength of the relationships at The Stonewall Inn among the bartenders and patrons alike are what make it so special.
I KNOW THERE’S A LOT OF PLACES WHERE PEOPLE DON’T HAVE THAT SORT OF FAMILY. I LIKE TO TRY AND DO MY PART TO PROVIDE THAT.
He’s also getting ready for the “craziness” of this year’s World Pride 2019. “Everyone who comes in– tourists, locals– everyone keeps saying, ‘are you ready?’” He laughs. “It’s going to be wild, it’s going to be crazy, but it’s going to be so fun. It’s amazing to see all the people who come in for Pride every year and have fun, and being able to be a part of that for them is incredible.” For World Pride, he’s most looking forward to seeing people from, “every community, from all over the world come here. We’re all excited just to see what’ll happen!”
When can you find Paolo behind the bar? Good question. “I have a few regular shifts, Monday happy hours, Saturday doubles,” he says, “but I cover all the time. Basically, I’m here.” Don’t miss a chance to say hello to him during World Pride– if you don’t see him when you come in, he’ll definitely be there soon.