The Truth About Women In Gay Bars, From A Gay Bartender

As a gay man bar tending in a gay bar, do I prioritize my level of customer service based on gender? Hell, no.
Publish date:
February 5, 2014
women, gay bars

Did you guys see that recent article entitled “The Myth of the Fag Hag and Dirty Secrets of the Gay Male Subculture?” It didn’t sit well with me, for a number of reasons. There were all of these generalizations and blanket statements about gay men that I thought were deprecating and insulting. How are we supposed to defeat these stereotypes if we keep perpetuating them about ourselves?

My real issue with the article started right from the very beginning. About women’s experience in gay bars, the author writes, “While there aren't any publicly posted placards posted to the effect of NO BROADS ALLOWED, the unnecessarily long wait times they have to endure to get drinks -- watered-down drinks nonetheless -- and the degree of stink-eye they receive from bartenders do a great job of conveying that same general message.”

Hold on, dude. I know that there are a lot of ongoing conversations about straight people in gay bars and women in gay bars and bachelorette parties in gay bars. But let me say as someone who spends all week bartending in a very popular gay bar, women in gay bars are just fine.

I realize that I’m writing this from a man’s perspective, seeing that, well, I’m a man. But this article was accusing male bartenders of giving poor service to women, so I thought it was appropriate to respond.

The article had me all bugged because I felt like the author was trying to speak for me, so I’m not going to try to speak for any of you, either bartender or patron. I’m sure some of you have been discriminated against when you were just trying to order a drink. I know I have. I’ve been iced out of straight bars because I’m gay, sure. I’ve also been given the cold shoulder at other gay bars for whatever reason, because I did or did not look a certain way, because I was with girls, because I was hanging with a certain group of guys, whatever. We’ve all been there.

As a gay man bartending in a gay bar, do I prioritize my level of customer service based on gender? Hell, no. Why would I? And I am sure that a good handful of my friends in the service industry, if not all of them, a lot of them gay men, would agree with me.

I work in a bar that welcomes everyone, and let me assure you that women’s money spends just as easily as men’s. It’s my job to make sure you guys are happy and having a good time, and that job doesn’t end with just dudes.

It’s more than that, though. The stereotypes of gay bars and gay men being hateful toward women are damaging because, to me at least, gay bars have always been a place of acceptance for everyone. Not everyone is comfortable in their own skin 100% of the time, and no matter where you are on your journey of coming out or becoming who you want to be, or just being yourself, which is sometimes enough of a battle everyday, it’s nice to have a place to go where you know you’re among friends. Safe spaces are important, and oftentimes few and far between. No one needs to do anything to make them any more exclusive, especially the bartenders who are running the show.

And where is the value in going to a bar that’s filled with people just like you? Women have played an invaluable role in my life. They still do, and always will. Straight women, gay women, trans women, you name it. Being gay doesn’t mean swearing off all contact with the opposite sex and no one should be saying that that is the case, no matter what gender they identify as. As gay men, we can’t seriously be fighting for equality while at the same time breeding a new generation of sexism and misogyny.

The author goes on later to say, “You can't exist in spaces that promote the interests of one gender above another and not end up with skewed moral values as a result.” Here, he is assuming that “gay bar” equals “boy bar,” which it does not. My place of work is so aggressively accepting of others, no matter where they fall on the LGBT spectrum, and I have never thought of gay bars being synonymous with “no girls allowed.” If I knew of a gay bar that was, I wouldn’t be bringing my business there. Again, I think it foolish of anyone to turn away service based on gender when we’re all just trying to make rent.

I’ve learned so much from working in a bar and being surrounded by so many amazing, diverse members of the queer community and allies alike, and that is not an opportunity that I’d want to keep from anyone else from having. That’s one of the reasons I take so much pride in what I do, and why it’s more than just bartending. It’s being able to facilitate the learning and growth that I’ve seen in myself in other people. That’s why I have such a big issue with being painted as judgmental, bitchy member of the service industry who only serves the men.

If women come into my bar to feel safe and not get hit on by aggressive, drunk men, then great. If they feel comfortable there, then that’s where I want them. If they come in because they just like the look of the bar, fantastic, so do I. If they come in because they like gay guys, no prob, it’s better than someone else f#&king hating us. And if they come in because they think I’m the best bartender in town, then they’re right.

LADIES. What’s your opinion of gay bars in general? Love them? Have you been discriminated against while being in them before? Tell me in the comments, I’m genuinely curious. Let’s talk this out.

Tynan is bartending on Twitter @TynanBuck.