Vancouver’s gay district is being inundated by straight people and I think it’s time we made them aware of whose territory they’re treading on.
Now, before you start thinking I’m anti-breeder, I want to specify that I am all about equality and that any person, regardless of disability, race, sex, or sexual preference, should be able to roam wherever they choose–as long as they respect the established environment and act accordingly.
I don’t care if straight people come to our bars or eat in our restaurants or live in our community as long as they understand that our culture is distinct. Gay establishments are run differently, our clientele is different and we have different expectations of acceptable and normal behaviour.
Or so I thought.
Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of stories about straight people antagonizing and harassing us in our own clubs, bars and community-based establishments. In the last few months, I have witnessed straight men making women and gay patrons uncomfortable at Numbers, and I have personally had two run-ins at Celebrities–assuming it still counts as a gay bar–where straight boys have attempted to bully me (unsuccessfully I might add, since I stood my ground).
And just a few weeks ago, I was in the Odyssey when I suddenly felt surrounded by straight people of the antagonistic kind.
It wasn’t the first time I’d felt a strong straight presence in this gay arena. On this night, there were many couples, guys on girls, girls on guys, grinding away on the dance floor, and even a couple of macho boys butting chests like primitive apes.
I was lamenting the loss of gay identity in our community when my friend took it upon himself to walk around the club asking people, one by one, whether they were gay or not. As predicted, close to 25 percent of them, if not more, said they were not gay.
Ironically, as my friend was conducting his unscientific poll, a couple of straight people took issue with the way I was dancing and confronted me.
Now, I don’t mean to toot my own horn but, by any other standards in this club, I get highly complemented on my dancing and gay guys appreciate the sexual overtness I strive to express. But these people seemed offended to see a gay man being sexual in a gay space.
Shortly thereafter the group confronted my friend on his unofficial poll–even though he was only trying to stick up for his right to have a place where he feels comfortable, a place where he can be himself with like-minded people.
I saw the interaction and walked over to see if my friend had the situation under control. It soon escalated into a shoving match between myself and another straight guy, who tried to push his way past me to get in on the action.
When I stopped him and demanded an apology for deliberately running me over, he pushed me. I pushed him back. Luckily the group left the club before it turned into a full-blown brawl.
Now, I’m not normally a violent person but I am furious at the disrespect people are showing our community these days. Furious at the straights for being clueless and the gays for letting this kind of behavior happen in our own home.
When did the all-mighty straight dollar become so important that we need to let it dominate our community, anyway? Why are so many of our establishments catering to a non-gay clientele? Are we not supporting our spaces enough?
I know I consciously choose to spend my money in gay and gay-friendly places, as opposed to those businesses that are just conveniently placed nearby. And I look forward to seeing the lifespan of some of the newest gay joints in the Village, like Priape, 1181 and the creation yet to be revealed in the old Fresgo Inn. But their lifespans as gay establishments may be limited if we don’t support them and make it worth their while to stay gay.
Of course, it’s not just an external straight influx we have to guard against. On an individual level, we have to stop inviting straight people into our spaces as well.
I have made a vow to myself to never invite my straight friends into our establishments again. They are always welcome to be with me, but I refuse be an instigator of discomfort for others in an environment established to create comfort.
There are plenty of neutral spaces like parks, movie theatres, shopping malls, and even our own homes, where gay/straight interaction need never be an issue. Places where it’s just friends getting together, as opposed to straight people undermining specifically gay spaces or vice versa.
I have discussed this issue with friends both straight and gay, and the majority of them wholeheartedly agree that it’s for the best.
Let the gay village be gay, and visitors act accordingly, and let the straights run there own establishments the way they see fit. Stop letting testosterone-driven, mucho macho straight men and their antagonistic girlfriends take over what so many before us have worked so hard to create.
I remember when it was trendy in the ’90s for every gay guy to have a fag hag to call his own, someone they could bring to all the parties. Some fag hags even had boyfriends who were allowed to tag along because she made him understand you were her first love, no jealousy required. I, too, am guilty of forcing straight friends into the community without thinking about the consequences. In hindsight, I should have left well enough alone and gone out on my own.
As a community we have made great strides to carve out our own spaces. Let’s not take that for granted. It’s not good enough to surrender these spaces now and say you won’t go here or there because too many straights roam the premises. You have to be present and take a stand.
Let the owners, managers and organizers of our community-based businesses know if you are unhappy with the way things are progressing. Don’t just bitch and complain amongst yourselves.
Just because our windows boast rainbow stickers, our bus stops are painted pink and we can legally wed doesn’t mean the war is over. Stand up for yourselves, fight for your rights and freedoms, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.