Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Here's One to the Ladies!

Okay, in my last post I covered straight guys in gay bars -- now it's the ladies turn.

There have always been women -- sometimes gay, often straight -- in most gay bars. I have to say right off the bat that I hate the term "hag fag," as I find it demeaning to both gay men and women. Not every woman who goes into a gay bar is a stereotypical "hag fag" in any case. In most cases she's simply a woman who has gay friends. The stereotypical "hag fag" is a woman of low self-esteem who hangs around gay men because she supposedly figures no straight man will ever want her. The gay guys may not shun her, except when they're heavily cruising, but hag fags aren't always without some homophobic attitudes. Just as unpopular kids who band together in junior high can wind up resenting each other, some hag fags can wind up resenting the gay men who provide their only social outlet. (Am I the only one who saw a little of this attitude expressed in that silly show Will and Grace?) They really would rather be with what they think of as "men" (i.e. straight guys). And I've no doubt some of the old-fashioned hag fags were deeply repressed lesbians.

Hopefully that kind of pre-Stonewall era is behind us, but I thought a lot of pre-Stonewall notions were behind us and I've been mistaken.

Anyway, I thought of straight women in gay bars recently when I came across a review on a web site of one of my favorite hang outs in New York. On this same site I gave it a rave four-star review. A young straight-identified woman gave it one star and said all the customers were in "la la land" -- whatever the hell that means. She gave four stars to a bar down the street that also caters to a middle-aged crowd of gay guys. What's the difference?

Well, a lot may have depended on her level of intoxication. I think at the second bar she loved so much she happened to run into a few drunk older gay guys (or maybe she accompanied some gay friends) who weren't cruising and were perfectly happy to talk to her. At my bar of choice she may have ventured in by herself, or maybe her friends abandoned her, or maybe the guys in the bar understandably preferred to talk to their fellow hunky gay guys than to a young woman they didn't even know, especially if they were on cruise alert. Naturally, she hates the bar because no one paid attention to her. More on this later.

A quick story: In this same bar I've had a couple of conversations with a middle-aged, possibly senior female who identifies variously as lesbian or bisexual. She's a perfectly nice gal, if not exactly what I'm looking for when I go into this bar. Now one night she came in on a busy, crowded Saturday when I was on a date. It should have been apparent to all that I and my date were very into each other. Nevertheless, when she greeted me I was friendly, and to my date's credit, he was friendly with her, too, even though he hadn't met her before. We talked awhile and she disappeared into the crowd.

She came back a while later and said the men in the bar were sexist. Why? Because no one would talk to her.

"They're not sexist," I told her. "They're horny. It's Saturday night and they want to get laid." Besides, as I've often said, gay men go to gay bars primarily to meet and hang out with other gay men. Especially in a place like this ultra-male cruise bar (it is not some quaint piano bar with a relaxed, "open door" policy, although straights are admitted if they seem cool). She seemed to understand where I was coming from, but who knows?

She really annoyed me with this "sexist" crap, however, since I and my date -- who had other things on our minds, believe me -- went out of our way to be nice to her.

Now back to the straight gal who hated the bar because no one paid attention to her. Have you ever been in a gay bar and heard a shrill, braying voice in the distance, and seen a woman carrying on and being as loud as possible, just begging to be looked at? This phenomenon occurs when a straight woman feels no one is paying her enough attention; she's gonna make the gay guys sit up and pay attention to her no matter what. She's in a room full of men -- regardless of what kind -- and she isn't about to be ignored. Perhaps she thinks in her inebriation that she's so god damn hot that even gay guys will be panting with lust for her. (I'm sure she wouldn't like it if her gay male friends followed her into a straight singles bar and expected her to drop everything and ignore the cute straight guy whose number she was hoping to secure.) Another problem with women like this is that they're the type who think of gay men as "accessories."

It's great that there are straight women who like gay guys (but don't assume even today that this means they can't be homophobic on some level). But there's a big difference between intelligent, sophisticated women who simply happen to have gay friends that they socialize with at parties or at each other's homes, and "wild and crazy" gals who want to party down with the gay boys and be the life of the party -- hell, she'll put the gay boys to shame -- even if she is a woman. There are gals like this who insist that all gay men love them when in truth most of us just wish one of their gay pals would buy her another drink so she'd pass out already and stop being so damn loud and obnoxious.

Then we have the gals who go into gay bars to ogle supposedly straight go go boys. These gals rarely accompany gay friends and are often no more gay-friendly than their homophobic boyfriends. When they start littering up a gay bar, it's time to move on. And a relatively new wrinkle are the clueless ladies who for some reason date men who work in gay bars. Is there anything worse than straight women who come into a gay bar to flirt with the bartender -- and vice versa. [For the record I think heterosexuals (and the bi-identified) who flirt with and/or pick up members of the opposite sex in gay bars are total dorks.] Of course, some women in gay bars don't even want to talk to gay men. Often they're women in relationships who are there to have a girl's night out and are in a gay bar just so that no "boorish het guys" will bother them.)

I've met some great straight women and had some wonderful conversations with them in some gay bars. I like women, and have always supported women's rights. I have both straight and gay female friends and relatives that I love and always have fun with (although generally not in gay bars -- and I can't say I've ever been into straight women who were supposedly "gay icons," whatever the hell that means). But, as I've said before, some women in certain gay bars can be too much of a distraction and detract from the all-male, homoerotic atmosphere. Some women appreciate this and fully understand where I'm coming from.

Others just don't get it at all.

In my last post I explained why some gay men, myself included, can do without straight bartenders in gay bars. I think some gay men would rather have a straight bartender than a female one, even a lesbian. (I think I would prefer a lesbian bartender over a straight guy -- at least they're gay.) This isn't necessarily due to misogyny, but to that all-male atmosphere I referred to above. At least a straight guy is a guy, and he can be ogled even if he bristles at the mere suggestion that he might be interested in ogling back or more.

Anyway, gay, straight, whozit, whatzit, let's just party and not worry about it.

It's enough to drive you to drink, eh?

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