Sunday, March 11, 2007

What's up with that?

So I go into Marie's Crisis in the West Village on Friday night, hoping to see a larger gay constituency than the last time I was there [when I met the straight-identified bartender who has “a gay brother.”] The place was pretty straight that night, a Thursday evening, but I figured the weekends would still be pretty gay. Standing around singing show tunes isn't one of my favorite things to do, but I generally found a sympathetic, pleasant group of people to talk to at the bar. Until recently, Marie's catered mostly to a crowd of gay men of mixed ages, with straight women, lesbians, and less often, straight men or straight couples mixed in. Most of the straight people seemed aware that it was a gay bar and were respectful for the most part.

I went over to the bar and saw a group of people sitting at the far end, three guys and two women. I perceived them as three gay men and two “sisters,” supportive straight female friends. Because you never know these days, I asked them in a light, friendly way if they were gay.

I didn't get the reaction I expected and was hoping for.

Nope, they weren't gay. None of them. And they didn't seem thrilled that I'd asked. [Let's just say they said they weren't gay. These days – who knows?]

Obviously referring to her boyfriend, one gal said, “I would know.” [Sorry, lady, you probably wouldn't.]

I was rather surprised and said so. I won't say the reaction from these people was necessarily homophobic, but it wasn't especially friendly. I later learned that none of them were aware that Marie's was [or at least used to be?] a gay bar.

Looking around the place, I got the sinking sensation that there were more straights than gays in Marie's that night, and, worse, many of them thought they were in a straight bar -- and maybe they were. I had a conversation with the other straight gal in this group which did not begin auspiciously. She said she thought the bar might be gay because of the show tunes. I told her in a nice way that that was stereotyping. She had the good grace to be a little embarrassed. She turned out to be a nice person who did me the courtesy of letting me talk to her about the bar, how I worried that some of the straight people [including the men she was with] were not the gay-friendly kind that used to come into Marie's. Because I could tell she was decent and probably gay-friendly [if a little young and naïve, which is forgivable] I assured her that I thought she was a nice person and that people like her should certainly be welcome in the bar. She told me that I seemed like a nice man, too.

Then something very odd happened. A very drunk gay guy at the bar turned to me and said. “You were terrible to those people. You're an asshole.”

I was flabbergasted and told him that I and the young lady had just had a very nice conversation, and that I hadn't been “terrible” to anyone. I felt like I'd been bashed in a gay bar. And not by straights, but by a fellow gay [or at least homosexual] man. What the hell was this guy's problem? It's possible that his inebriation, which made him rather incoherent, also made him incapable of really hearing or understanding anything I was saying. I realized that his negative reaction might also have been due to my sounding to him like some kind of – gasp! -- Gay Libber or something [although I wasn't on my Gay Lib soap box] and how dare I make the probably closeted asshole [except when he's in a gay bar] feel uncomfortable by reminding him that some of us gay men have an unapologetic gay identity to go along with our self-esteem. I'm too nice a guy to say to the man what was on my mind: “I'm not an asshole but you're a self-hating homo who is drinking himself into a stupor because of it."

I used to feel sorry for guys like that. Now I just wish they'd get into therapy or seek counseling at the gay center and for crying out loud accept themselves and their orientation already. You can't always help these guys, mired rigidly as they are in their alcohol and misery, attacking gay men and women with a relish that almost rivals that of the straightest homophobe.

What a sad schmuck!

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