Un-Safe Space

The gays are asking: How can we keep gay bars gay?

It’s an all too common problem these days: by virtue of being inclusive (and throwing the best parties), spaces meant for queer folks get overrun with cis, straight people.

In a viral post from X user Donny (@dgschell), he broke down the process he’s seen time and time again.

“Evolution of LGBTQ spaces:

  1. Queer people make space for themselves
  2. Venue gets popular
  3. Straight cis women start coming as safe/fun space
  4. Str8 cis men show up to hit on women
  5. LGBTQ folk get pushed out of space/no longer feel safe
  6. LGBTQ stop returning/lose the space”

Donny clarified in the replies that he does welcome “allies who are respectful of our spaces,” and that his “critiques are reserved for those who are not.”

When his post gained traction, Donny followed up with a question for the gay masses: “How do you keep LGBTQ spaces predominantly LGBTQ?”

The most common suggestion by far was to return to tradition and play gay porn on every screen in the bar. It would certainly harsh the vibe of most bachelorette parties and squeamish straight men — but it would drive away lots of queer folks, too, which seems counterintuitive.

Contrarily, gay bars could do the exact opposite and embrace the least sexy aspects of queerness — like academia, as one commenter suggested.

“I wonder if the move is to make the place aggressively uncool to straight dudes,” they wrote. “Toni Morrison readings, talks on queer history, etc.”

Similarly, another comment suggested keeping things as queer as possible by leaning into the less sanitized side of things without necessarily resorting to porn.

“This is where leather/kink queer spaces have succeeded,” they wrote. “We are so unapologetically our queer selves that it’s harder for straight people to really enjoy. They’re welcome to visit, and once in a while there’s one that just likes the atmosphere.”

Beyond all those suggestions, there’s another question at the heart of the conversation: should the goal of a gay bar even be to keep straight people out? In the current cultural climate, yes, says Donny.

“Some have said that inclusivity (including hets) and safety of everyone should be the goal, which is a worthy aspiration,” he wrote. “However, I still think that some things are lost from the experience when we become a minority in our own spaces.”

Instead, as the comments agreed, if straight folks want to be included, they should have to welcome queer folks in their spaces, not the other way around. The onus should be on the majority, not on a minority like queer people.

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