A few weekends ago I was basking in the sunshine in the wonderfully queer section of “Cherry Grove” in the wonderfully queer ~Fire Island~ with my girlfriend, Meghan.
We were sucking back mudslides whilst indulging in the palpable gay-energy at our favorite bar, an outdoor haunt, that overlooks a healthy mass of sparkly seaside. The place was teeming with all kinds of queers; baby lesbians with their cute, little, half-shaved haircuts confidently clutched sweaty hands and exchanged intoxicated kisses with their equally green girlfriends.
More mature lesbians held court in the center of the bar, flicking their ciggies, gossiping with old friends they hadn’t seen since labor day weekend 2016. A drag queen extraordinaire performed back-to-back covers of feel good pop songs, her sky high wig gracing the clouds with its sugar-pink synthetic prowess. A deeply tanned gay boy couple leaned up against the wall by the bathrooms, batting their flirty long lashes at each other. A leather-bikini-clad girl in her mid-thirties stood all by herself, facing the glorious bay minding her own business, squinting into the teal blue sky.
“There’s just something magical about gay energy.” I drunkenly purred to Meghan as I gulped down the remains of my drink.
She smiled and took in the scene.”Well, when you’ve been bullied, beaten-up and shamed in silence your entire life, it feels good to come out the other side. We’ve earned it.”
“Yes, we ha-”
Before I had the chance to finish my sentence I was interrupted by the devilish tickle of nicotine breath dancing across my vulnerable, bare shoulders.
“MAKE OUT!” a male voice roared behind me. I whipped my head around. We were suddenly surrounded by a group of seemingly heterosexual men, jeering at us. “MAKE OUT!” The crew roared in perfect unison, collective wild looks in their red eyes, their sunburnt shoulders stiff and tense as they stared hungrily in our direction.
And BAM. Just like that, my brief moment of unabashed queer joy had was knocked out of my fingers and lay broken on the ash-laden bar floor. Had our safe, cozy, gay bar been highjacked by a group of drunken straight boys?
I found myself suddenly craving a cigarette as I watched a tall boy creature sporting a backward baseball cap aggressively hit on a young lesbian couple. I sighed into the thick, humid air as I watched another bro pretend to be disgusted by a gay boy strutting across the bar in a tiny cherry-red speedo. I crossed my arms and huffed and puffed as the whole pile of them proceeded to man spread their board-short-clad legs in the center of the bar (the mature lesbian territory!).
The vibe had gone from free-spirited and safe, to suddenly unpredictable and scary. My tired eyes had borne witness to this scene one too many times, babes. It had been happening more often than usual, not just in Fire Island but in the city too. I’ll be dancing my problems away in the sanctity of the gay bay when suddenly an army of straight people will burst through the doors and wreak havoc. And not the same kind of havoc we queer kittens get into, a different kind of mayhem. The kind of mayhem I try to avoid by going to the gay bar to begin with.
“Stop hetero hating!” I can hear some of you scream through the static of the computer screen. And please, allow me to disclaim (though I’m pretty tired of disclaiming, disclaiming, disclaiming, aren’t you, girls?): I don’t mind straight people in queer spaces.
I know certain queer people who prefer heterosexuals don’t attend gay events, but I’m not really one of them.
What I do mind is when straight people enter the queer territory and disrespect it. After all the gay bar is our church. Our mecca. It’s our sacred, safe place. It’s where I locked eyes with a woman for the first time. I had my first real kiss in the gay bar. The friends I’ve made inside the four walls of the gay bar are my family. It’s my place of worship. It’s where I came of age, accepted my sexuality and became comfortable in my skin.
The gay bar is not just a bar. It’s a home.
I understand why everyone wants to go to the gay bar! It’s fun, it’s full of pretty rainbows, there lots of sequins and the rare vibrations of unrepressed sexual energy! Who wouldn’t want to go to the gay bar?
However, if you’re straight and you’re going to spend your night in our zone, there is a specific etiquette guide one should follow, in order to respect the gay bar as the proverbial church that it is.
So here is my ~official~ etiquette guide for straight people who want to go to gay bars.
Don’t act offended if someone assumes you’re gay
“Dude, back off I’m NOT GAY!” Is a sentence that should never roll off your tongue. Part of the beauty of the gay bar is that gay people don’t have to a play a guessing game when it comes to figuring out who plays on our team. It’s the one place where it’s safe for us to assume everyone is queer, which is exactly what straight people get to do uh, pretty much everywhere. The world is your flirting oyster. Straight people are everywhere: In banks. On the subways. At weddings. In bars.
So if a queer hits on you, simply smile and feel flattered. After all, we gays are a picky bunch. If we think you’re cute, you must be really, really, really fucking cute.
Don’t jeer at the lesbians (or ask them for threesomes)
Don’t stare at two women kissing, talking, flirting, dancing, grinding, groping each other or canoodling. The gay bar is the one place where I can make out with my girlfriend without the fear of harassment. When you come into the gay bar and harass us, you’re not just wildly disrespecting me by objectifying my love life, you’re also stripping me away from the one public place I feel free.
Oh, and PSA: Girls and boys, do NOT, I repeat DO NOT ask a lesbian if she wants to have a threesome with you and your partner. If she’s interested (which is doubtful), she’ll ask you. Remember, you’re in her territory. It’s like going into a foreign country and demanding that everyone speaks English. It’s rude, ignorant and terribly presumptuous, babes.
Don’t raise an eyebrow at the gay boys
Let gay boys be gay boys. Don’t pretend to be “shocked” by their fabulous behavior! Gay men are splashed all across the mainstream media. Don’t feign “surprise” at the sight of boys canoodling with other boys. I mean come on, Will & Grace came out on network television in 1998.
Don’t interrupt a drag queen’s performance (even if it is your bachelorette party)
I understand the drag queens put on such a fantastic show that it feels almost impossible not to jump on stage and twerk next to them, but ladies, however strong the urge is, I get you, hold it in! It’s embarrassing to watch.
I don’t care if it’s your bachelorette party or your 21st birthday or your “my divorce papers just went through” party—it’s simply not your show. Clap, tip, but remember you’re in the audience. You’re paying to watch them, not the other way around. Would you hop on the stage during a Broadway musical number? I didn’t think so.
Don’t get aggressive
Don’t bring your aggressive, pent-up, angry energy into the blissful gay bar, please and thank you. I don’t care if you see two lesbians screaming at each other on the dance floor. This is their home so they can act as they please. You’re a guest in this house so you better behave as such!
Do spend loads of money and tip like a champ!
Do spend loads of money-honey! Gay bars are shutting down at an alarming rate, so if you’re going enter one, support the community by ordering loads of drinks. LGBTQ people generally struggle in finding a workplace that accept us, as we don’t have the straight privilege of fearlessly being open about our sexual identity like you do. So recognize your privilege and help us stay alive by ordering the top shelf vodka.
(Oh, and tip your bartender. Bartenders at gay bars put up with more than you can imagine. So show them how much you respect them, by leaving a hefty tip. Thank you and enjoy!).