Dear straight girls throwing their bachelorette parties in gay bars,
Put down your vodka crans, take off those penis hats and listen up. I have a simple request for you: “Can you please leave?”
I understand how you ended up here. Straight clubs are demonic—dark, alcohol-soaked and overrun with dude-bros who wouldn’t even be able to hear your response over the blaring music in the highly unlikely event they even asked your consent to dance. You literally could not pay me to party there (unless you happen to have a cool million burning a hole in your pocket, in which case, please DM me immediately). In my misspent youth, I partied in straight spaces and experienced how brutal dance floors can be for women: The groping, unwanted attention and non-consensual grinding is gross and violating and completely uncool.
Straight women deserve a place to dance and celebrate freely—but gay bars aren’t that space.
It isn’t that there’s a no-straights allowed policy. But your crew of woo-girls tend to treat queer spaces like a zoo. Just as you don’t want to be pawed at while feeling your oats to Tiësto, queer folks don’t want to be ogled at or grabbed either.
This may seem harsh, but hear me out: On any given weekend, queer clubs worldwide are overrun with disrespectful straight folks. In July, for example, a woman in the Philippines asked a bar owner whether she and her bachelorette party would be “safe” from HIV. So, forgive me for wanting to reclaim queer spaces from those who are ignorant about our community.
Furthermore, cis straight people have an established history of taking things that don’t belong to them (see: vogueing, Drag Race, mesh tank tops). So, before you head to the club, think about the space you’ll be occupying. Gay bars were built as safe havens where queer and trans folks could meet, cruise, organize and love. They still play that role today.
After you stumble out of the club at 2 a.m., you can meet with your partner, hold his hand, kiss in public and be sure that no one will give you a second glance. Queers don’t have that guarantee, which is why we need places to demonstrate our love without the fear of attracting harassment.
This past summer, a date and I were sitting on a park bench late at night, cuddling. As a group of loud, drunk men approached us, I felt my body shift slightly away from hers. I knew that, at minimum, they would say something stupid—like ask to join. It happens so often that I’ve come to expect it. One tried to hassle us, yelling, “Girls, it’s best if you keep that inside.” (And by “that” I can only assume he meant our raging LESBIAN LUST.) But we ignored him, and the men moved on. The incident was minor, but it reminded me of the self-policing we in the queer community have to do, that you straight women don’t.
Attacks against queer people aren’t a thing of the past—hate crimes targeting LGBTQ folks were found to be most violent in Canada, according to 2010 data. And the Trans Pulse Project, which surveyed more than 400 transgender people in Ontario, found that 20% of respondents had been physically or sexually assaulted. To be visibly queer, especially after dark, is to be a target. To be visibly trans, especially transfeminine, is even more dangerous. Gay bars certainly aren’t perfectly safe spaces, but they do mitigate some of that risk—homophobes don’t typically hang out in them.
For those straight brides-to-be that simply must spend their final night of freedom in a queer space, at least be chill about it.
Skip the sashes and the penis lollipops. (You might as well scream, “Hello! Straights here to take up space!”) Don’t stare. Don’t use the men around you as dance props. Do not “YASSS” at approximately 100 decibels next to my sensitive gay ears. Accept that you are a visitor in our house and act with that in mind. In other words: A huge part of being a good ally is standing the hell back.
One exception to the no-ogling rule, of course, is when you bring your gaggle of girls to drag shows, which I’ve noticed you do a lot. As a drag performer, I believe a diverse audience is a good one, as exposure to new experiences can foster empathy and understanding. But straight folks watching should remember that shows are still political spaces of resistance. They were built by us, for us.
Some ways to show respect: If you can’t accept explicit references to queer love, sex or struggle, stay home. Be down to celebrate queer, trans and gender non-conforming folks as they express themselves in all their beauty and weirdness. When a king death-drops into a perfect split or a queen pulls off her third wig reveal in a row, cheer loudly and give them the adulation they deserve. And, for the love of Goddess, TIP. YOUR. PERFORMERS. Consider it your duty as a privileged heterosexual to REDISTRIBUTE THAT WEALTH, MAMA.
Performers, and your fellow bar-goers, will appreciate your efforts—I know I would.
A few months back, a bachelorette party was in the audience during a drag show I was performing in at Montreal’s Café Cléopatre. The venue, located on top of a strip club, is an institution left over from the city’s old red-light district. Shows there generally attract a not-so mainstream queer crowd. What I liked most about this particular group of women was that I didn’t realize they were there until someone mentioned them post-show. They cheered and laughed with the rest of us, and otherwise didn’t command any attention. They understood, on some level, that space wasn’t theirs to take over.
So, dear straight brides-to-be and their crews: When you step into a gay bar, remember the privilege and power you hold. And please, party accordingly.