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

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A sculpture illustrating the WW1 Christmas Truce football match in Liverpool  

It's been 100 years since the Christmas Truce, but football is still changing the world

Jim Murphy and Dan Jarvis
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there