Although society has more or less progressed in becoming an increasingly open space for the LGBTQ+ community, the world still remains an unreliable place for LGBTQ+ safety. Although others may seem more accepting than in the past, the same weird looks that other straight couples don’t get while holding hands, ill-thought out comments regarding sexuality, and the exoticism and commoditization of the queer community persists. Gay bars exist as a haven and 100% safe space for queer individuals, where the pressures and microaggressions of other “straight” bars do not exist. It is unacceptable that it comes to the point where safe spaces are needed in the first place, but nevertheless they have become a positive environment where the queer community can hang out judgment-free. If cishet individuals can already enjoy typically any bar of thier choosing judement-free, why do they feel the need to take over and infiltrate gay bars? Gay bars are a safe space, and the increased participation of straight people in these safe spaces defeats their purpose while promoting scrutiny of LGBTQ+ individuals.
First things first, there are multiple problematic ways to view gay bars. This is not the place for an “exotic experience” or for you to hold your bachelorette party. The point of gay bars is to create a safe space. If a straight individual is making inappropriate comments or using the space for something that it’s not intended for, the space becomes less safe. Many people view gay bars as an added experience or bucket list item for them to try which may not seem problematic but can be fundamentally harmful. This mindset implies that gay bars are almost like a tourist attraction or commodity for solely entertainment purposes, which diminishes the validity of them and the community they house.
The reality is that they were created as a response to homophobia in other establishments, and viewing them as another “product” for straight consumers is downright disrespectful. This includes bringing the entire bridal party to the gay bar just to sexualize the men. The space is not for you, and you should respect it as such. Additionally, this leads into the other frequent view of gay bars as overly sexual and experimental places. The LGBTQ+ community is frequently sexualized and their relationships are not taken as seriously as straight relationships. When straight women come into gay bars to adopt, use gay slang, and constantly make suggestive comments about the gay men there, it threatens the validity of queerness in the first place, because it implies that being queer is yet again about the services it provides to the straight community. Generally speaking, if you are indeed going to a gay bar, do not go into it with the mindset that it stands as entertainment for you and your friends.
Furthermore, in the case that straight people do decide to attend gay bars, they need to do so with their gay friends or be invited by their gay friends. It is in fact, the space of the LGBTQ+ community, so it should be their choice whether they are comfortable with you attending or not. If they are not comfortable with you attending, understand that it is their decision and their safe space and move on. If they do decide you can come with them, ask and listen to them about what to say and to not say. It is important that you make it clear you are supportive and want to make the community feel safe. As explained previously, prepare yourself by going into the experience with the mindset of taking a part in your friend’s community, and that it is not yours to seize or control. If these tasks seem too hard to do, then it’s as simple as not going. Moreover, if you do not have gay friends that are going or inviting you to the gay bars, it is simply disrespectful to attend.
To all of the straight community, next time you want to go to the gay bar for an exotic, entertaining experience, skip it and go to another one of the infinite amounts of bars. Chances are, with the amount of safe spaces and bars there are for the straight community, it shouldn’t be hard to find one.
Art by Michelle Deng for The UCSD Guardian.