My most recent outing to a gay bar was a night at G-A-Y Gay Porn Idol and for some reason despite the warning the name provided, I was that gay with a group of five straight girls.
Gay bars are intimidating. They’re generally entertaining. They’re always borderline messy. But they can also be depressing and disappointing. Pretty much every time I go to a gay bar, I feel like I’m performing for someone, be it a potential hookup or the straight friends that I’m there with. It’s fucking stressful. Therefore my solution tends to be: get sloppy drunk and give no fucks. Sometimes it works out, but it usually doesn’t. My night at Gay Porn Idol falls into the later category.
It was my second month studying abroad in London and I’d been hearing about the gay nightclub Heaven for the past, well, two months. Gays from home, gays from school, gays from study abroad—they’ve all somehow been to this magical place. I’d been to clubs, warehouses, pubs—even a Bavarian beer hall—but I had yet to visit Soho for a night out at the gay bars. Yet, for the optimal night out at gay bars, I needed the right group and the right night.
Just to preface, I’ve never been the type of gay that actively recruits members for a gay posse. I gravitate towards interesting characters and go from there. The vast majority of my best friends are straight girls. By extension, the vast majority of my British friends are straight girls and guys. It also doesn’t help that British kids are much more experimental when it comes to sexuality. So while my US gaydar is pretty on-point, I had a hard time figuring out where my gays at.
For my couple of months in London, I played the familiar roll of gay court jester for my gaggle of girlfriends. I’d go to clubs with no expectation of hooking up and dance, drink and play wingman. It was always fun and the friends I made doing this are amazing people, but I was in need of some gay time. I needed to be around gays and I needed to be able to talk about gay things.
I had been planning our night out to Heaven since the first week of our trip, but we’ve always had an excuse to cancel for some reason or another. I was starting to get pretty apathetic about the entire night and by the time it arrived, I felt like the boy who takes his friends to a party he’s not sure will be good. I didn’t want the night to disappoint.
When we arrive at Heaven’s gates—pun intended, but in all seriousness, there are actually some intense gates complete with his-and-hers metal detectors—it seemed like all of my anxiety was all for not. A hot club promoter approached me and asked if I wanted to be a contestant on Gay Porn Idol. (Great! I’m not even in the door and someone is hitting on me!) However, as soon as we entered, it seemed that the contest was more desperate for humor than interested in my potential gay porn stardom.
Heaven’s apparently a cavernous basement of what must be an old warehouse sigh Rihanna, One Direction and Scissor Sisters blaring over the speakers. It’s your standard gay club with shirtless men, go-go dancers, overpriced drinks, and a sprinkling of drag queens. At one end of the massive room is a stage, upon which contestants stripped to nothing. Some buttoned up gay, a drag queen, and a dog that she had on her lap critique the now-nude men to a hilarious effect. Normally, I would be unabashedly entertained by such a ridiculous event, but in my group of girls, my discomfort was apparent.
As the contest ended, the dance floor gets progressively sloppier and I realized there was no way I’m going to get hit on when I’m dancing with girlfriends. I’m over it and all I wanted was my bed. Doing my best to avoid making a drunken scene by parading my disappointment, I gathered my friends and belongings and we took a night bus home. The night at Gay Porn Idol was unsuccessful for a variety of reasons that should’ve been blatantly obvious from the start.
I went to the wrong club on the wrong night. Was I really expecting a British gentleman to sweep me off my feet after we watched grown men play with their foreskin in front of hundreds of people? Who was I kidding going to a gay mega-club? I hate clubs and I hate being flamboyant. It seems the only way to get attention from prospective hookups at a place like Heaven is to have the perfect, twinkish six-pack, wear angel wings, and throw heaps of glitter onto your shirtless body. Gay bars aren’t like McDonalds. They’re not all exactly the same.
I also took the wrong group of people. Listen, as much as I love my straight friends, going to a gay bar as a straight girl just isn’t the same as going to a straight bar as a gay boy. It’s not because straights shouldn’t come to gay bars, because really, who the fuck cares. The whole, “I’m going to a gay bar tonight with my bachelorette party because those gays are so wacky!!!!” thing that sends gays into a fucking flurry just doesn’t seem to be a real thing. Almost every straight person I’ve ever met in a gay bar is supporting a gay friend’s night out. I brought those girls with me and every time I’ve been to gay bar, it’s been with one or two straight friends in a larger group of gays. Having a good night out isn’t about excluding straight friends, but it is about being able to let your guard down and that’s hard to do when you’re mother duck with a flock of girlfriends on your tail.
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