There is an unsaid rule of gay bars, or any bar made by and for a niche people: you must abide by the rules of the roost. People on the outside of the community cannot walk into a space and take ownership for what is not theirs. Bars are sacred spaces, for people within a community to be free. There’s a reason why Stonewall is still so beloved now: it is a gathering point for LGBTQ persons from all walks of life. It is a place for us to share our history, to bond.
These spaces are often infiltrated by others because, as it goes, people are curious and these spaces are welcoming. But, as any gay person knows, there is one group that is constantly invading our spaces, for better and worse: bachelorette parties. These heterosexual gatherings of debauchery seem inoffensive enough—Girls just want to have fun, right???—but they often infringe on these LGBTQ safe spaces, driving the locals away and making everyone uncomfortable. This is an unsaid, unresolved non-issue issue. It’s something talked about on the inside of the community but rarely expressed to the outside, for people to see how problematic these hen parties can be for LGBTQ people.
A recent story in OUT explains exactly how bachelorette parties are ruining gay nightlife. The story is a bit hyperbolic but, unfortunately, very accurate. Using historic gay city Provincetown as the example, the story traces how this insider community evolved into a destination for pre-wedded women to get shitface drunk and parade around like queens in a kingdom.
But here’s the issue: these women are marrying men. They are not gay and, while undoubtedly lovely when not wasted, their presence often feels problematic as it is a parade of what LGBTQ persons were historically barred from.
There was a time not too long ago when mainstream acceptance of gay people stopped short at marriage equality and, at least in more civilized parts of the country, a hen party wouldn’t dare invade a gay bar, where flaunting your upcoming nuptials in front of a crowd that didn’t have the same right was inarguably offensive. I once witnessed a hen party get tossed from a gay bar in Brooklyn for precisely that reason. The bartender called them “disgusting idiots” for even trying. But now, it seems, with gay marriage the law of the land, all bets are off for the bachelorettes.
That’s it. Beyond this, there are codes and icons and things in the LGBTQ community that heterosexual male and females may never understand, things that are embedded in our history and reach further back than marriage equality. As the article shares, a lot of times these groups and the like march in and demand specific music and specific drinks, wants that do not align with the LGBTQ audience it was built for. While much of the time the spaces comply, sometimes they do not—and that’s when shit can get rough.
And this is where the catch comes in: these parties want to come into spaces that are not theirs, demand things they don’t see to be wrong, and come and go without an ounce of gratitude or respect. You—as an LGBTQ person—feel like a performer in a freak show that these women are visiting. You and your LGBTQ family, in your LGBTQ space, are not other people but the entertainment for these women to get drunk around, to grope, to fawn limp wrists at.
Summing it up, actress and ally Jenn Harris had this to say in the story.
“I think I know these girls from my hometown,” Harris says. “I think it comes down to comedy. They think they are putting themselves in a comedic situation. And it’s a night where you’re going to have a blast, so you go where the fun is. And where is the fun? Gay men. That is true. But just because it’s a gay bar doesn’t mean there are going to be people in drag who are super-excited to play with you. You kind of have to earn your acceptance.”
She goes on to explain that these groups likely have no idea that they are trespassing or transgressing any norms. They just want to have fun! Her advice, which is quite sage, is to talk to them and explain the situation and—Like any normal person.—they would probably feel bad, calm down, and potentially leave. “Women are way more dynamic than the cages people put them in,” she says. “And this one just happens to be a hen cage.”
The article articulates a lot of issues that I’ve mulled over and gets into very interesting concepts of exploitation and faults. For gay and straight men and women, the story is vital information and, hopefully, will help us all get along.