Gay Bars: Straight Friendly?

I recently read an article in a national newspaper from a male writer who ended his piece talking about the fact gay bars are for gay people only and straight people should not go. I’d never come across something like this before but somebody told me to have a look. As a person who goes to gay bars quite often, this of course, was of interest to me.

There were certain parts of the article I could agree on – of course you don’t want these bars ending up as typical ‘straight’ bars and it can be annoying having big groups of straight people in but, what really caught my eye was the bit about some clubs, especially in London, rejecting people who look straight. In my own experience, I know a lot of gay and lesbians (especially), who look straight. By looking straight, I mean by not looking stereotypically gay.  One example of this is the girls who turned up to see a popular boy band at a well known gay club in London.  It was understandable that it was put on for the LGBT scene, but a lot of lesbians who didn’t look butch got turned away from the club. The article writer in the newspaper mentioned that they know who are gay and who are not, but these days I just don’t think it is as easy as that.

“As long as they respect my bar and club as a gay bar and respect my clients, then I don’t have a problem.”

Straight bars aren’t just for straight people.  It’s the attitude of our society that can make them unfriendly places and make the LGBT community feel unwelcome. I have friends who frequent these ‘straight’ bars every weekend or so, and they don’t seem to have a problem, especially in the rock clubs. If it’s owned by someone homophobic then they might eject you for your sexuality, but this is completely wrong. In the 21st Century and living in a modern society here in the UK, you would have thought that people might have just gotten over the fact that people are different and that it’s okay to fancy and engage in sexual activities with someone of the same gender as yourself.  We hear stories in the newspaper about gay men and women getting rejected from such and such a place, but doesn’t this make the gay bars that turn down straight looking people hypocrites? If they do this, then isn’t this giving them no right to campaign for the rights they deserve?

With the exception of a few narrow minded people we get everywhere, gay clubs should be just as welcoming as straight clubs should be to gay people. If they aren’t causing a scene, I’m not too sure what the problem is. “I feel that it is a good thing [for straight people to go to gay clubs] though I do feel they need to respect the majority and understand that we respect them and they respect us,” a gay male told us. Another said, “No problem at all [having straight people in gay clubs]. Just don’t start any trouble or intimidate people and recognise that for some people it’s a safe place and to respect that.”

The guy who wrote the article for the newspaper also mentioned the fact that straight people go to marvel at the ‘entertainment’ of same sex couples. Now, I don’t know about you, but I go to dance, have a laugh and spend time with my mix of straight, gay, lesbian and bisexual friends in an environment I won’t get judged in and if I do, let’s hope it’s a girl eyeing me up! And anyway, a lot of girls who go to these bars are usually there because they want the atmosphere of feeling safer and not being hassled by men. Of course we can’t speak for every girl (or straight guy) in the UK, but the majority are there to have a good night out no matter what their sexuality is and they are not there to cause a scene.

What I have noticed is that most people aren’t opposed to straight people attending clubs generally for the LGBT community and instead want people to know that it is a gay club therefore they want the respect and acknowledgment that this is a club for them. I asked Sanctuary club owner Scot what he thought about straight people attending his club that has recently opened in Nottingham: ‘As long as they respect my bar and club as a gay bar and respect my clients, then I don’t have a problem. My door staff do inform straight people that arrive at my bar that it is a gay venue to prevent them intimidating my staff and cliental. I don’t just employ gay people either so as long as they respect my venue then I’m happy.’

At the end of the day, should we have to prove our sexuality or look a certain way to get in to a club or bar? Certain bars do want it to be exclusively gay, but surely rejecting straight people is sexual discrimination and shouldn’t be allowed anywhere? And what about bisexuals where the majority might not fit into the category of looking gay? I am a member of a Pride Committee and would certainly get rejected for not fitting the stereotype. Maybe we should all concentrate on equality before separating ourselves even more.

All words copyright Vanity magazine issue 10, Jan/ Feb 2012
Image copyright Vanity magazine 2012 (photographed at Birmingham Pride)

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