I was meandering ’round the Twitterverse the other day and saw a friend had linked to Chloe Curran’s recent article: Get Out Of My Gay Bar Straight Girl!

Straight Girl: two words definitely apply to a certain adorkable someone.

It’s a strongly worded title and the ensuing rant pulls no punches. Not that Curran’s a straight-hater. She explains that:

I get it: Straight people don’t come to gay bars because they want to hate on gay people. They come because as the empowered majority, they feel entitled to access every space in the world.

I’m not here to argue for a ban on straight people in gay clubs; that’s discrimination, and clearly wrong. However I will ask you to a) rethink the entitlement you feel to occupy every space and b) respect that no matter how much you “love the gays,” sometimes gay people need to be amongst their peers and therefore apart from you. 

Um…yeah. I can’t speak to any other gay-club-going-straight-person’s motives but I’ve enjoyed getting my dance on in queer spaces for years. Until I read this article, it never occurred to me that my presence might feel intrusive and/or disrespectful regardless of how awesomely accepting I believe myself to be. Looks like the entitlement thing applies to me as well.

Also? This:

“My girls and I just want to dance without being bothered by lame guys dancing up on us,” you’ll cry incredulously, eyes a’ flashin’ and gum a’ snappin’ with (what you think to be) righteous indignation, “Why is that so wrong?”

I admit, I’ve totally been that gal. I’ve sought refuge in gay clubs, using them as dance-sanctuaries when I wanted to flee from dudes who thought crotch grinding was an appropriate introduction.

I would never snap my gum, though. The odds that I’d swallow it and choke are too high.

Now I’m thinking about it and yeah…that shit ain’t on. I would never go into a synagogue and be all “Hi, folks! I’ve got some sick cantor music on my iPod but it’s just not the same as live davening. I’m gonna chill here with y’all because even though I’m not of your faith, it’s cool because I am TOTALLY DOWN with the Jews.”

I’m not beating myself up or saying I’m a horrible person. This is just a situation where I wasn’t aware. Now that I am, I’ll try to be more respectful of people’s need to have a little time and space away from the dominant culture. That doesn’t mean I’ll never set foot in a gay bar again, but it might best if I wait for an invitation before I boogie on in.

If you have a moment, I encourage you to read the entire article. Then come back here and tell me what you think. I’d love to get some other opinions on this, particularly from my queer readers. How do you feel about straight people hanging out in gay bars and other queer spaces?

In the meantime, I’m thinking I should open a club specifically for dance-lovin’ ladies, where come-ons are strictly forbotteen. There’s clearly a market for it.  I can call it “No Hitters”. Huh? HUH? Who’s with me?

Comments

  1. Alisa says:

    I recently saw a new (to me!) definition of queer.

    Queer: Someone who resists heteronormativity.

    I dig that – it’s way more inclusive. I read the whole article.

    Girls wanting to escape creepy dudes who grab crotches… super fair, but not sure being in a gay bar is the right answer.

    Girls wanting to take a field trip to see the Others: hell no

    Queer folks whose sexual orientations are straight but they themselves identify with queer culture, support it, and promote it such as what I perceive you to be: COME ON IN.

    But, how would you know that you’re considered a part of our community? I guess by invitation? I don’t know.

    The article makes some great points, though, I agree.

    • Bryn says:

      Agreed. If I go to a gay bar (which I haven’t in years, mainly because I no longer go to any kind of club), I’m not there to take over. I’m just not flustered by differences in sexuality and I’m there to party with cool people.

      Also… the soccer analogy makes no sense. I know all sorts of hooking up happens at these establishments, but I’m pretty sure sex isn’t the only game on offer.

  2. Fiona says:

    The only time I’ve actually been to a gay bar (other than for expressly inclusive events) was at the invitation of a recently out guy who wanted some friends with him. Asking female friends was understandably easier. We definitely got the “do you know where you are” question from the bouncer, but were otherwise accepted, or at least tolerated.
    Yes, in my more partying days, I also craved a way to get away from het guys and just dance. This pacifist has shoved or hit a few guys in my day and always in a bar/dance situation. For that very reason, I understand the desire to have a space all one’s own that feels safe. As a person who once defended the women-only area of the women’s support centre at my university, I can do the same for queer-only places. I’d dance in Nadine’s “no grinding” bar.
    Oh, and interesting analogy about religion. People often go to religious ceremonies entirely for the music and spectacle – and are completely welcomed. Sometimes there’s an underlying “we’re going to convert you” agenda in that, but more often it’s about sharing our beliefs and cultures to promote understanding. That said, I’d never go without an explicit or implicit invitation.

  3. Bryn says:

    I don’t know how common this opinion is. Every gay person I’ve ever broached the subject with has been totally cool with straight people going to gay bars. Do we get upset when gay people go to ‘straight’ bars?

    I’m not convinced by the religious analogy either. Most faith groups welcome people of all faiths to their places of worship, and I’ve definitely been included in a Jewish sabbath meal.

    That being said… it is, of course, important to be aware of and sensitive to other people’s viewpoints. Waiting for an invitation is probably a good idea.

    • Nadine says:

      I agree that people of different faiths can mingle and participate in each other’s rituals. My partner and his family are Jewish. I take part in rituals such as shabbas dinner, celebrate Jewish holidays and attend synagogue on occasion.

      However, I do those things because I’ve invited by members of that faith. They’ve made it clear that they are comfortable with my presence/participation. But I wouldn’t feel right taking part in a ritual or being in a sacred space of worship without an invitation simply because I was looking for something interesting to do.

      Clunky analogies aside, I think the issue isn’t just about straight and gay people having differences. I’ve no doubt that *you* would be friendly and welcoming if you met some gay folks at the not-gay bar. But not would be. People who may react with hostility or even violence. So I can understand why gay people might want their own safe space where they can hang out, dance, make-out and do all the things straight people can do without fear of reprisal.

      But you’re right. You and I don’t get upset when gay people go to straight bars. But consider that when we leave the bar, we walk out into a world that reflects and validates our sexual orientation at every turn. We might feel differently if gay people essentially ran the world and that bar was one of the only places where we a priority.

  4. Alisa says:

    I can’t agree that gay people going to straight bars is a similar thing. Gay people ARE routinely informed that they are not welcome in ALL KINDS OF straight environments. Informed includes verbal assaults, physical violence, and… ya know?

  5. I’m glad you wrote about this Nadine. I saw the tweet and article, but I didn’t think Twitter would be the best space to continue the conversation.

    I’ve been to gay bars with gay friends. I’ve also made the case to a girlfriend that it would be an intrusion for a heterosexual couple to go to a gay bar on their own, for whatever reason.

    So, stripped of its rhetoric, I agree with the rather straightforward premise of the article: a gay bar is for gay people and there are good reasons for them to want to have their own space. If you are present in that space and not gay, be respectful of that fact.

    The shortcomings of the article is the rhetoric. The author doesn’t really have a problem with straight people at gay bars. She has a problem with disrespectful straight people at gay bars. I consider the rhetoric a shortcoming because it obscures her sensible point.

    I’m also concerned about the soccer metaphor. I’m sure she can’t mean this, but, as presented in the article, it looks like she is claiming that only people who are looking for same sex fucking should be at the bar. I’m sure there are plenty of gay men and women who would like to go to a bar, without it being expected that are trying to get laid. I hope this is just a case of her rhetoric getting away from her.

  6. Michael Roesler says:

    Here’s my gay two cents.

    As Sterling mentioned above, its an issue about disrespectful straight people. There is a growing trend for groups of loud, drunken straight girls, especially those enjoying a bachelorette party, to come to gay bars. These types of people are obnoxious, and often get a little too hands-on without asking. I’m the type of gay who is never going to play with a girl’s boobs at random “because I can” and neither should the straight girls grab my junk uninvited. So that’s category 1: no to uninvited obnoxious drunks.

    Category 2 is the one gay who isn’t a regular at the bar, but decides to bring in a gaggle of straight girlfriends. These people get similarly obnoxious (I frequent a relatively subdued place) and they often get quite pushy when it comes to them thinking you should suddenly marry their gay friend, because you’re both attractive and gay. In reality, I’m probably just there to hang out with my friends, and I’m not looking to marry someone on the spot. So to sum up, no to invited obnoxious drunks.

    Category 3 is the good one. Straight people, invited or not, who come into a gay bar and are there because of the positive atmosphere, to support a friend, etc. For example, there is one older straight couple who used to be in my bar religiously because they liked to dance there. They mostly kept to themselves, but were very friendly and presented no issues to anyone. They liked the music. Basically, the rule of thumb for straight people being welcome in a gay bar is that they can come invited or not, but they need to realize that its first and foremost a gay space, and they might see things they might not be used to or expect, so leave your judgement at home and come have a good time, meet some new people, and dance with the people you’ve come with, or with your new friends who may choose to dance with you.

    Also? There will be men in the women’s bathroom, and its not up to you what they might be doing in there. Deal with it. LOL

  7. I’d like to add a few points to this great discussion. :)

    1) While this conversation is still valid here in Canada, let’s not forget that the article was written in an American context. Many commenters are telling stories of bachelorette parties coming to gay bars in states where queer folks can’t marry. And that is just such a slap in the face, I can’t even handle it.

    2) Not all queer folks hit the bar just to pick up, but if you’re a single gal who would really like to meet a special someone, I can understand the frustration. Remember that in non-queer spaces, the majority of women are not interested because of your gender — never mind whether you’re their type, or if you have anything in common, or if they’re single. A gay bar is one of the few places where you can at least improve the odds of having a compatible sexual orientation, and that is a valid thing to want. I think many of the rough edges in the author’s rhetoric might come from a place of legitimate frustration.

    3) Cases in which girls self-identify as straight is one thing, and the “omg prepare to be hit on by girls” type is annoying. But I’ll be honest that a lot of the original article and the subsequent comments had a distinct element of “UGH, FEMMES”. Just because a bevy of femmes wants to get their dance on and drink cosmos does NOT mean they are straight. I’m a queer femme who sometimes happens to find herself in gay bars with other femmes. We shouldn’t have to substantiate our sexuality in some fashion in order to be welcome. Don’t assume someone is straight just because they look a certain way; we do quite enough of that in non-queer spaces, thank you very much!

    4) Bottom line, just to echo everyone else: it’s about respect. Straight folks (or queer folks with their opposite sex partner who might be read as straight; let’s not forget that bi and pan folks are part of the community, too) are welcome as long as they are aware that they are in a queer space and they respect that.