I was born and raised by very smart and tolerant parents. I grew up in Berkeley, Calif., historically one of the most liberal and culturally open-minded cities in the world. Using the word "gay" to describe something as "stupid" was wiped from my lexicon right around the time JNCOs went out of style, and in past years I have congratulated and admired the courage of friends and acquaintances who have come out. If there were gay rights trading cards, my character would have high tolerance, 9 acceptance, 10 respect and telekinesis, because that's awesome. But in spite of all this power and pedigree, the moment I stepped foot in The Abbey in West Hollywood and an impish man caressed the chest hair protruding from my modest V-neck, I flipped out.
There are three stages that a straight man experiences at a gay dance club: awe, denial and acceptance. Along with the handsy guy, there were sweaty go-go dancers, neon cocktails, dudes making out, really hot girls holding hands and a bakery(?!). The only words I could muster during the first hour were "whiskey and ginger." I wandered the big, gay expanse, my glass clutched tight to my chest, taking measured sips, ready to hand-check the next fun boy who got too fresh. This was denial. Petty thoughts began to creep in: Everyone in here thinks I'm gay, don't they? They think I like to kiss dudes?! But who cares, right? I am tolerant and accepting! I am from Berkeley! Oh, God, is that go-go dancer swinging his dick in circles?!
It was around this time that I had a moment of clarity, or my fourth whiskey. (Whatever.) These guys were having the time of their lives. There was no pretention, very few games, from what I could see, and nothing shrouded in mystery. This was hollering in its purest form, unadulterated and to-the-point. Guy thinks guy is hot and makes the approach, then they grind and drink, make out, maybe share a bear claw and then go home together. Respect. Gay bar etiquette is far more evolved than straight bar game could ever hope to be.
After a few more whiskeys and a peanut butter cookie (seriously, what the hell is going on here? This place is delightful), I accepted my surroundings. I spent the last hour trying to convince a cute girl from Bahrain that I'm not gay. It was an uphill battle; she pointed out that I was wearing a V-neck and have blonde hair, which apparently are criteria for being gay that I was unaware of. I finally told her that I would have sex with her in the bathroom to prove my heterosexuality, or in the back of the bakery, if she preferred, but she declined, and we didn't speak again.
I left The Abbey proud. It was amazing to see so many happy people leaving one place. I wish all bigots and politicians could spend an evening at The Abbey and experience a similar range of emotions that I did. If only everybody could have the unwavering tolerance and progressive thinking that I... Oh, my god, all these guys are going home to have sex with each other, aren't they? Well, at least someone is getting laid. Acceptance.
This piece was originally published on veryseriousbarista.com.
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