I go to straight clubs about as often as I bowl or play bingo — just often enough to remind me why I try not to do those things in the first place. But as many queer artists develop a larger mainstream following, the lack of performance venues in Canada’s urban centres forces me to attend gigs in spaces I never thought I’d visit. I’m not talking cultural venues or artist run centres. I’m talking bars that squeeze in acts before the regular frat-boy-chasing-women-in-high-heels crowd comes in.
Sometimes straight bars can be a positive experience and the visiting predominantly queer clientele get along with the staff members. Apart from the boogers stuck above the urinals and the fact that people respect the gender divisions in the washrooms, it doesn’t feel all that different. They like that we play nice and drink lots.
Sometimes it can create tension before we walk through the front door.
Maybe it’s because the last time a bouncer grabbed my balls at a gay bar my hands were on his balls too, but it strikes me as uncivilized every time I get frisked by bouncers at straight clubs. I’m not saying that all bouncers are assholes — they aren’t — but there’s something about men who are used to working in environments where they risk getting stabbed that never meshes with a queer audience.
I suppose I’d be gruff and rude too if I feared getting shot. And I suppose “please” and “thank you” would drop from my vocabulary if my clientele tried to pick fights with me all the time, but I think if I were a bouncer I’d realize that the two twinks holding hands with matching PETA buttons on their jackets who want to see The Hidden Cameras or Gentleman Reg or Patrick Wolf probably won’t be a problem. Frisk ’em, but don’t treat them like terrorists.
If I’ve learned one thing during my years producing queer and sex-positive events, it’s that nothing can transform transgressive space into aggressive space faster than macho male bouncers.
While I once defined the difference between the queer and straight worlds by baby strollers and marriage licenses, I now define the difference by the severity of the club bouncers. This may strike some as overly simplistic or trite, but at a time when even Harry Potter characters have been outed and so much of the two cultures have cross-pollinated, it’s the most honest manifestation that I encounter.
As more queer acts receive mainstream acceptance promoters need to work with club management to ensure that supposedly queer-friendly environments understand that our queerness isn’t just about the kind of genitalia we prefer. Sometimes queerness is more about respect and demeanor. That’s why a gay club’s bouncer can frisk me anytime.