This is something I’ve read a lot about recently. The LGBTQ-every-other-letter-under-the-sun-because-I’ve-lost-track community wanting to be accepted in society, while not quite accepting those we don’t believe pass some sort of imaginary gay test. Bear with me with this one.
Some four/five years ago I went to Manchester on a trip with college, where we found ourselves on Canal Street in a gay bar I can’t even recall now. The place was pretty dead, and so we asked the barman where would be a little livelier at that time mid week. He quickly scanned the group – 98% female – and said some bars may not let us in for not looking gay.
In fact, I was one of three in the group that (openly) identified as anything other than straight. Wahoo, look at us go.
An LGBT place of safety
The thing is, I totally understand the point of gay bars, clubs, cafes, whatever. They’re a place of safety where the LGBT community can feel themselves, be surrounded by like-minded people and usually find hookups. C’mon, we both know the latter is true. Nevertheless, I also understand how fun it can appear to those outside of the LGBT network to go to a ‘gay bar’.
The Facebook status the following day usually goes something like this:
‘Last night was [enter irritating ‘totally amazing/random’ phrase], I ended up in this gay bar! I’m not gay but…’
Catch my drift? And sure, to others, it’s just a bar. Especially when the drinks are cheap and its open late.
The problem is, this topic can go both ways. Gay people want their bars to remain gay only, avoiding all homophobia, discrimination and so on. Straight people don’t think ‘normal’ bars are strictly hetero and see gay bars as an opportunity for a good night out somewhere different. I guess, it’s a matter of respect. I personally have no issue with those of any sexuality having a good night in a gay bar, just don’t be perving over seeing two girls kiss and we’re good.
The problem with ‘passing’
Unfortunately, this ‘looking gay’ thing very much exists. Have you ever heard of the invisible femme lesbian? Well, what do they do? Unless on the arm of a ‘gay looking’ girl, their entry to the gay club (both LGBT societies and actual bars) may not exist. Let me put it this way… A guy I went to school with came out as gay pretty early on. Nobody was surprised, he probably ‘looked gay’ or whatever. Fast forward a few years or so and he’s head of the LGBT society at his university. Fast forward a little more, he no longer identifies as gay, gets a girlfriend and marries her. They then kick him out of the LGBT society. Is that right? Well, I guess they don’t want someone who now says they’re straight as their leader, but how’s that for acceptance?
Fortunately for me, I suppose…
I look pretty gay. Sure, I went through my short hair ‘gay phase’ – someone once said I resembled Russell Howard (not quite so keen on that one…). But while ‘looking gay’ and the gaydar (FYI, mine doesn’t exist) go hand in hand, I’m still not sure it should be used as your ID to a gay bar.