Please keep out of gay bars and clubs

It's uncomfortable to start snogging on a dance floor and surface to find a hen party staring in amazement

Share

If you go to any of the "gay villages" of London, Manchester or Edinburgh on a Saturday night, you will, as you would expect, see lots of homosexuals. In London, there is the traditional trolling up and down Old Compton Street, going from Manto's to Rupert Street to the Yard to the Village to Escape and, finally, to Heaven, saying witheringly in every single one: "God, what a dump – it's like Leeds in here."

But along with those, as you make your unsteady way from bar to bar, you will see plenty of straight people, and particularly straight girls, out on a hen night or a birthday jaunt, tinsel on their heads and their eyes round as saucers at every drag queen or Muscle Mary. Some have co-opted a long-suffering gay friend for the occasion; others just go into the gay bars fearlessly. It's a substantial presence, and on the whole people put up with it.

"Putting up with it" is a fair description of the situation, and in Manchester, the gay clubs and bars have more or less decided to exert their rights, and stop putting up with it. A researcher from Manchester University, looking into the culture of Manchester's "gay village" on Canal Street, has found that the gay businesses and their core constituency feel thoroughly besieged by the number of hen parties, and actively threatened by the groups of straight men who follow in their wake.

One club, indeed, has taken the step of barring straight people altogether. It isn't the first place to take the step – many of the coolest gay clubs and bars in London wouldn't let unaccompanied straight people in. Before you ask how they can tell, go and look, straight reader, at your wardrobe. Believe me, we can tell.

It seems rather harsh, I know, and I have to stress that I have absolutely nothing against straight people. Some of my best friends are heterosexual, and it gives one a good feeling to see that heterosexuals are so visible everywhere these days, and not always working in the traditional occupations, either. But there is a time and a place for everything, I feel, and straight people should just accept that if some gay bars don't mind them coming in, others will turn them away on the grounds that a gay bar is for gay people.

The truth is that there are all sorts of situations in life where we are admitted on sufferance, or turfed out. I wouldn't expect to get much of a welcome if I turned up to a black hip-hop club in Brixton with seven gawping white friends, after all. That seems to me to be fair enough. And gay people have a great deal of experience in being made to feel unwelcome, in their jobs, at parties, in social circumstances. An openly gay man might have to look around a bit to find a team he could play football with or to find a job where he would feel entirely comfortable.

You might say that people who know what social exclusion feels like shouldn't themselves perpetrate more social exclusion. In theory that it is true, and anyone would prefer to live in a world without walls between cultures. But the number of places where gay people can just relax, and behave in ways straight people take for granted are very few. In London, you can safely hold your boyfriend's hand in the few streets between Shaftesbury Avenue and Soho Square, and that is basically it.

If a straight person asks, "Why can't I come into a gay bar? I'll behave myself," then it seems rather harsh to refuse. And there is no doubt that many, perhaps most, straight people who are happy to go to a gay bar are going to behave themselves. But even well-behaved straight people, in large enough numbers, start to be a bit of a problem.

Every gay person recognises the sorts of bars that start by being gay, get a reputation for being cool, and then attract straight tourists in such numbers that gay people simply stop going there. One such ex-gay bar in Soho lost so much of its trade by this means that they distributed flyers to the effect that "The Fluffy Bar Welcomes All Members of the Colourful and Outrageous Gay Community Especially Drag Queens, Please," but not even homosexuals are as stupid as all that.

Basically, nobody likes being treated as the free entertainment. It is distinctly uncomfortable to go to a gay club with your young man, start snogging on the dance floor and surface to find that a large hen party is rooted to the spot with amazement at this outrageous sight; it would be worse to be subjected to mockery or abuse, and this has certainly started to happen in Manchester's clubs.

If gay people gave in, they would fairly quickly find that the only spaces they could call their own were sex clubs, and that would not be a very civilised state of affairs. When the ordinary behaviour of gay people is accepted and welcomed everywhere, then there will be no need for specifically gay spaces. Until then, go away and leave us in peace. It doesn't honestly seem a great deal to ask.

p.hensher@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home