Alex Blaze

Should gay bars ban straight people?

Filed By Alex Blaze | December 31, 2010 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Australia, gay bars, ireland, LGBT, Melbourne, straight people

A long time ago I posted on a Australian gay bar that started screening people at the door for sexual orientation (I can't look it up because Bilerico, as well as some other LGBT sites, are blocked at the library where I'm working). peel-melbourne.jpgAnd now they lost their legal right to do so:

In a fresh ruling this month, VCAT senior member Cate McKenzie granted the Peel a new three-year exemption minus the gay ID provision.

Instead the new exemption allows Peel staff "to explain the nature of the venue to prospective patrons ... and to permit them to choose whether or not to enter".

The pub can still bar those it believes may threaten the safety or comfort of patrons or the pub's nature as a gay bar.

The Peel did not oppose the changes.

Back when I first wrote about this bar I was a bit more gung-ho about the bar's choice to ban straight people, but now it all seems a bit sillier. It's partly because I've soured to the idea of "safe spaces," since every time I've seen that concept deployed it's a way to solidify group-think and the power structures within an identity, and partly because I've stopped seeing sexual orientation as neat categories and more as several continuums with lots of between space as a result of some more varied experiences.

That's not to say that there aren't gay bars that have been ruined by straight people, at least on certain nights. There's one in Indianapolis, whose name I won't mention, that used to be a great bar filled with boys and lesbians and friendly straight people and a great drag show back when I was in college, but has been overrun by bachelorette parties (one woman at one such party even came up and asked if she could take a picture of me making out with a boy, as if... sigh).

Perhaps the compromise solution will work for that bar. I know there was one gay bar in Cork where Alberto and I were told that it was a gay bar and asked if we understood, so perhaps that was their way to work around a human rights ordinance. I didn't have a great time there and we left after about 20 minutes, so maybe the solution didn't work all that well.

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I am a straight woman, and my best friend is a gay man. We go out to bars. Sometimes they're gay bars. If people were to start "screening" me for my sexual orientation at the door, I would be offended. It's discrimination. At a gay bar, of all places.

I'd say that I feel welcome at gay bars 90% of the time. But sometimes, people either give me the cold shoulder because I'm "not one of them" or try to convince me that I'm bisexual. Look, I don't give a rat's ass about your sexual orientation. I accept you the way you are. Why can't you do the same to me? Isn't that what we all want?

With that being said, I agree that bars (all bars) should be able to remove people who are a threat to the patrons. It's just common sense, really.

DaveinNorthridge | December 31, 2010 10:26 AM

I'm not sure about this. What I DO know is that straight people should stop reviewing gay bars on, especially if they refer to not feeling welcome.

I think the gay bars should adopt the [_Czech Republic Peter Meter test_]. The men should have to drop their pants, put on the wienie cuff, and watch gay porn right there at the door. (Their wienie will be none the wurst for it!)

I don't know how to test the women, maybe that ingenious electronic tampon that you mentioned in the other post, link above, Alex -- don't confuse it with the temperature probe that plugs into your mom's new deluxe microwave oven.

I think you all know how serious I am. Imagine the length of the line getting in on Friday night -- worse than going through customs at LAX, or waiting behind an illiterate person trying to write a check at Wal-Mart.

The gay male world does have "safe spaces" -- they are called bathhouses, and they are set up legally as private clubs so that the "only men" rule can be enforced legally. Of course, they have to maintain a "membership list" which is a headache, but that's just business overhead that comes with the territory. If a bar wants to be a "safe space" of any sort, that is the approach they can take.

That's hilarious AJ. I wanna add that... besides the baths, there are gay men's bars that are specifically known as cruise/pickup bars. Although I love socializing with women, when they come into those particular spots, they have a tendency to (through no fault of there own) inhibit the action.

Wow. Just think. If everyone is interrogated at the bar entrance regarding sexual orientation, law enforcement officers won't be allowed inside a Gay bar to physically and verbally assault patrons as they did not long ago in Atlanta.

I know the bar of which you speak and go there quite a bit. Two years ago it was a great mix of LGBT folk and straight people. Nowadays, I sometimes feel like there's a minority of queer people in the room. Lots of office parties, bachelorettes, people looking for an exotic time, etc.

The worst part about the whole "This is an LGBT space" thing is that I feel a little prejudiced saying what I said above. LGBT people (And their allies, fag hags, stag hags, etc.) create a space that's really fun. Progressive-thinking, cis, straight people start attending and discover how fun LGBT spaces can be. They invite their friends to come along, and suddenly the makeup of the bar is no longer overwhelmingly LGBT. The ambience changes, even if the place's policies, decor, wait staff, or show is unchanged. Once this happens the place loses the ambience of "gay bar" and becomes just another nightclub - is it prejudice to say that I want the gay bar experience when I go out to a gay bar?

Anywho, I don't think that the answer is screening. Smart advertising and the creation of an environment where queer identities are held up on high - that's how it's done.

I guess this would mean no trans people allowed, right? We are, after all, all straight, right? I mean - if John Aravosis says it, it must be true, no?

MinistryOfLove | December 31, 2010 9:57 PM

Not to mention bisexuals. As a 50+ year old bi-guy, it would be nice to go out to a bar and have a friendly libation or two. But I'm not "gay" and worse, I'm old. And even worse than that I'm Asian. Even here in SF, I've not been served when I was younger, and the only conclusion I can come to is that it's because I have Asian-cooties.

A bar is a business, it should be in the business of being a business. Yes, I don't look like the dream date of a gay white 20 year old, but you should still sell me a beer.

Even when I show up with my FTM date.

I want to know where I go to sign up for my gay ID.

While I have seen heteros ruin queer spaces, or come for the purpose of being condescending asses, I wonder how the heck you would even do such a screening. Ask? That seems easy to bypass. What else? It seems like a worrisome gender presentation test would likely be involved here.

Paige Listerud | December 31, 2010 5:27 PM

If the irritation is bachelorette parties by women who don't know the patrons and matrons of the LGBTQ establishment and, therefore, behave rudely to the other customers, then there's a more than easy solution.

Advertise the LGBTQ bar as a great place to hold a straight bride-to-be's next bachelorette party. Charge an exorbitant amount. Make an appointment with the maid of honor or bride to go over the guidelines for appropriate behavior at the bar. Any inappropriate behavior and the chicks get thrown out. Any straight girls who show up en masse for the bachelorette party without paying the fee get thrown out. They either pay and behave or they go. Easy-peasy.

Seems to me the answer is for the bar to not allow party bookings of any kind. Here in NYC, if the phone rang in a gay bar and the person on the other end wanted to book the joint for a "special" occasion, after the laughter subsided, the caller would be (hopefully) politely directed to a more appropriate venue.

It is hard for me to relate to this question. I seldom go to bars and when I do I am usually looking for a tryst. The type of man I would be seeking doesn't typically hang out in a gay bar.

So, I guess I would say banning straight people is probably mostly unnecessary.

"I've stopped seeing sexual orientation as neat categories and more as several continuums as a result of some more varied experiences."
Bravo! I identify as gay but life has taught me there is so much between gay and straight.

And not just between, but all around gay and straight as well :)

It helps to think of sexuality as a space with many dimensions rather than a pole with only two ends -- the most important reason being that the Kinsey spectrum encourages marginalization of bisexual people and completely dismisses pansexual people.

It also promulgates the notion that sexuality is based entirely around the objective of coitus, while dismissing or effectively censuring ALL other legitimate libidinal impulses (or lack thereof, as with asexuality) such as fetishism, exhibitionism, sadomasochism, voyeurism, and so forth.

The reality is, there are hundreds of sexual orientations practiced around the world. But we usually only lend credence to the myth of "gay vs straight", because that is all the media wants us to know about (despite overwhelming statistical evidence that bisexuality, pansexuality, and so forth may be significantly more prevalent than once believed :)


When I was still in my infant swaddling cloths, I discovered a gay bar in the late '50s called "The Hay Loft" in Baldwin, Long Island. The building was an old barn which was shaped like a "T". The stem of the "T" is where the bar was and the cross bar of the "T" was where they had tables and, in the center, a large dance floor. The dance floor was full of gay men and *women and an almost equal amount of straight male and female college kids from Hofstra University.

It was great fun and everyone got along really well. The only trouble they ever had was when 2 of the gay women would start fighting. It was almost always the same scene. A butch would think that her fem was flirting with one of the college guys (or visa versa). Suddenly you'd hear a loud crash as the butch would break the neck off of a beer bottle and start trying to use it as a weapon. Thankfully they always had a couple of huge bouncers (male and female) at the door to deal with the "show".

Oh... dems were the good ole days!!! :0

*(this was about 10 yrs. before, unlike their straight counterparts, gay women decided to separate themselves from gay men by insisting on being referred to as lesbians)

There have always been exclsively Lesbian clubs; I belong to one in Paris that has been around since the 1750's

It'd be too hard for the gay people to distinguish between the straights & bi people. We seem to try & write them out of existence with each opportunity and unless they're currently dating a same-sex person we lump them in with straights.

Very well put! At least someone else understands :)

I've put myself out there so many times, and usually people think I am being facetious. Apparently bisexuality has evolved from ignominious to downright ridiculous.

If people ask me whether I'm gay, I simply say "no" because I'd they misperceive me for straight than bisexual because at least then they'd believe I'm a real person, not a work of comical fiction.


Regan DuCasse | January 1, 2011 1:41 PM

This is an interesting question. I started becoming a regular at a paticular gay bar ( being in bars is an extremely rare thing for me anyway).
It started out as just running an errand to make a charitable donation. The bar was having a fund raising drive.
But I realized that, for a straight woman it was a safe place too. But two of the bartenders became really good friends, as did several of the regular patrons and I became known as just another regular.
I don't cruise gay bars in general as a means of slumming or showing how down I am with the gay folks like some straight people are known to do.
That's sort of like doing that, but having NO contact with anyone gay otherwise.
I think bigger cities are going through a change where there are less and less gay bars outside of a certain ghetto zone, and they are concentrating in those zones.

In smaller towns, especially like what might happen in Australia, the aspect of still needing something that's not so ripe for straight exploitation is understandable.
After all, straight folks ARE a huge majority and ALWAYS have more options than gay folks do.
I can understand questioning the motives of why straight folks do that, despite the many options they have.
In a way, it seems another level of entitlement and lacking in understanding or empathy for the needs of gay folks.
Correct me if I'm wrong.

Kathleen O'Neal | January 1, 2011 11:49 PM

I agree strongly with your views on safe spaces and sexual orientation, Mr. Blaze. I agree that that happens all too frequently.

I can't get too worked up about the regulations surrounding the social consumption of the most detrimental drug in our society. It's not the alcohol; I think all drugs should be legal. The issue for me is that I rarely see anyone questioning why so much of our queer culture and social interactions should be based on corporately glorified inebriation. If bars suddenly no longer existed, would that be the end of us? Why are alternative queer institutions so few and far less popular? My experience is that while many queers will have strong opinions on subjects like bar door policies, few give much thought to how and why much of our culture requires a harmful intoxicant.

What really stands out to me in this post is your evolving views on safe spaces. I have experienced this idea as a justification for various types of exclusion, from large queer organizations to the queer collective home in which I live. Your words crystallize some of my thoughts and general dislike of the concept. However, I still feel that I don't well understand the issue and its history, nor have I come across much written about it. I believe it may have originated from bars or institutions that sought to protect women from misogyny and abuse in a male-dominated world, an idea that certainly has merit. I would be very interested to read a post about this topic alone, especially from your insightful viewpoint.

I think that straight people should stay out of GLBT bars and dance clubs.

Like the author of this post I have seen GLBT bars that are great completely ruined by bachlorette parties, drunk and loud/aggressive fag hags, and straight women who want to find a gay or bisexual man or watch us.

I've been around straight women in gay/GLBT bars and clubs who acted shocked when they saw two men kiss.

I do not have ANY issues with the Stud being a men's only bar and banning women from it. I wish more bars for bisexual and gay men would do this.

I've known about Lesbian or bars/clubs for bisexual and lesbian women where men are not allowed in yet nobody calls this discrimination or some grandiose accusation of an actual violation of human rights.