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How straight people should behave in gay bars

Lizzi Sandell November 30, 2018
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A picture of gay people dancing in a club

Indian revellers party at the 'Kitty Su' nightclub in the Lalit Hotel in New Delhi, as members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community celebrate the Indian Supreme Court decision to strike down a colonial-era ban on gay sex. - (Noemi CASSANELLI/AFP/Getty)

Gay bars are less common and they’re now filled with straight people who want to have a good time. For that reason, we’ve put together some guidelines for heterosexuals to stick by.

A moment of silence for gay bars everywhere.

If you frequent gay bars, you will already be aware that gay nightspots are becoming less and less common. Perhaps your favourite has closed down alreadymine was The George and Dragon on Hackney Road, where I first met my wife. Perhaps you’ve discussed it with your friends in hushed tones; it can make you feel guilty. It seems counter-intuitive to long for a time when our community had to be annexed away. But, while we don’t want to need our spaces, we still want our spaces.

Dos and don’ts for straight people in gay bars

I made a list of dos and don’ts for straight people. While heterosexuals are welcome to hang out with us if they please, I’d like them to consider a few guidelines to stick by:

  1. Do spend lots of money. Think of this as a “straight tax.” One of the most legitimate reasons for you to be at a gay club or night is to help ensure its longevity for the people that actually need it.
  2. Don’t make out with your heterosexual love interest. It’s offensive and demonstrates a total lack of awareness for your surroundings.
  3. Do dance in a self-aware way. Do you remember the depressed, cool people from the “Homerpalooza” episode of The Simpsons? That’s how I’d like you to dance. The last time I was at a night for queer women, I was faced with a grown heterosexual man using up floor space like a small child at a wedding disco.
  4. Don’t hit on anyone. I mean, wow. This should be obvious, but clearly, it isn’t. Repeat after me: Lesbian couples do not want to have a threesome with me.
  5. Do go with gay friends. Being invited by a queer friend is a perfectly legitimate reason to be out having fun at a gay club. Don’t have any? That’s awkward. (But please don’t ask anyone to be your “gay best friend.”)
  6. Don’t mistake you being there for allyship. There are plenty of ways to be an ally. Co-opting queer spaces isn’t one of them.
  7. Do consider donating to an LGBT cause instead. There are still higher rates of mental health problems, homelessness, and HIV infection in the gay community; it’s not all tank tops and vodka sodas.
  8. Don’t mistake you being there for queerness. Wearing glitter doesn’t make you queer. Nor do space-buns, booty shorts, culturally-appropriate face accessories, onesies, or any other party attire. It just makes you someone who likes to do MDMA in the daytime.
  9. Don’t go for a heterosexual stag or hen do. Even in the age of marriage equality, it’s tacky, tone-deaf, and seems like sexuality tourism.
  10. Do remember that this is more than just a fun party. Gay nightlife is not an extension of your personality. I’m glad you like Robyn as much as we do, but that isn’t all we’re there for. Never forget this.

And if my rules sound boring, they can always go somewhere else; I hear there are good straight nights on Monday, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at… um, every other bar. TTYN!

Why are there so many less gay bars now?

Reasons offered for the decline of gay bars range from things like app culture diminishing the need for IRL fraternising, gentrification driving bars out of traditionally gay neighbourhoods, and, perhaps most thorny of all, social progress rendering uniquely queer spaces obsolete. We can make out anywhere now, can’t we? Well, not really. A lesbian couple got kicked out of an Uber for kissing this summer, in the year of our lord 2018.

Despite the progress suggested by certain social changes—same-sex marriage, increased trans and non-binary visibility, Cate Blanchett relentlessly queer-baiting us with her sartorial choices (please Cate, never stop)—gay bars are still sacred spaces, perhaps all the more sacred for being increasingly rare.

In particular, lesbian bars are dying faster than our hopes for American democracy or a decent Brexit deal.

Where I live in New York, the hottest spots for queer women are not clubs or bars at all but semi-regular nights at non-gay establishments. These bi-weekly or monthly gatherings have become critical for our community.

So, why is it that every single time I’m out, at one of these rare and blessed nights, I witness what can only be described as heterosexual tomfoolery? In fact, why are straight people there in the first place?

“But I come here all the time,” said a straight man to me in the taco queue at Brooklyn’s longest-running queer night, PAT. Sure, but not on this night. Not for this type of taco, if you will.

After an uncountable number of perplexing interactions with straights in gay-allocated spaces, I’m beginning to think that something has been misunderstood. Do they simply not know where they are? They must do—there are far too many women who look like a young Leonardo DiCaprio to be mistaken for anywhere else. All I can surmise is that people simply don’t know or comprehend their significance.

So, to all the gay-loving straight people who frequent our bars, please take my advice and respect our gay spaces.

Related topics: Going Out

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