After my angsty Facebook status regarding bachelorette parties in gay bars received more "likes" than my picture with the president (as if you had any doubt as to which issues Americans care about), I feel as if I've received a mandate to explain what it is that is just so wrong about brides-to-be in gay spaces.
Stop rubbing it in. We can't celebrate marriage, yet. This is probably the most glaring oversight in the undeniably careful calculations of a maid of honor. It's great that your friend has found the man of her dreams and that they will soon be joined eternally by the institution of marriage. But common sense dictates that you should celebrate among people who will be happy for your gain, not reminded of their country's discrimination against them. I know it's idyllic to have the gay boys flock the bride-to-be and ogle over her ring. But what I'm telling you is that it's imprudent. You may as well walk into Weight Watchers eating a fistful of cake.
It's enough to be made conscious of our second-class status as we file our tax returns separately from our partners, explain to our military spouses why they cannot be enrolled on our military health insurance plans, and have our families divided by borders because we can't sponsor them for citizenship in the U.S. You have so many reasons to celebrate that you don't even realize. But we are all too aware.
Gay bars are a sacred part of our history as a people. Before there were Pride parades, lesbian knitting circles, and gay poetry clubs, there were gay bars. If you haven't read George Chauncey's Gay New York, I strongly recommend it. It documents the ways in which gays and lesbians carved out spaces for themselves in a time when it was imperative that homosexuality remain a secret and iPhone apps and social media couldn't save you from physically going somewhere to meet others like you. With a ban on serving alcohol to homosexuals (unreal, I know), underground gay bars become the logical venue for not only nightlife, but also community-building.
I've heard the argument that gay bars need to appeal to more people to make a profit. At least from a DC resident perspective, I'm not sure this holds water. Gays are loyal patrons to their gay bars (which are always packed), new bars are opening all the time, and -- let's be honest -- they charge and arm and a leg. (When's the last time anyone went to a gay bar to save a few bucks?) Some bars have even explicitly banned bachelorette parties until the Defense of Marriage Act is overturned. On top of that, now more than ever gays and lesbians have become a consumer demographic. Businesses specifically market themselves as gay-friendly to attract customers. If nothing else, there are plenty of instances where gay branding is lucrative for bars and businesses alike.
You're making the "safe space" less safe for lesbians. Time and again we hear that bachelorettes frequent gay bars because they provide a "safe space" for straight women to go out and have a good time. As much as I detest drunk and aggressive heterosexual men and the objectification of anybody -- man or woman -- consider this: gay bars are literally one of the only places a gay person can walk into and 50 percent of the people in the room are datable. Straight people, you'd be excited to meet a massive amount of eligible suitors too if your dating pool was less than 4 percent of the population.
Though gay bars are not always ideal for lesbians to meet one another but at least it's acceptable to dance with other ladies, however rare they may be. But unlike dancing with gay men, some straight women become immediately offended when a woman tries to dance with them. I saw a woman literally pushed away when she entered a three-foot radius of a woman, who I later learned was heterosexual. Safe space for whom, again? The beauty of a gay bar is being able to avoid anti-gay prejudices which pervade the rest of our culture. It's not a problem that you're straight; it's a problem when you make others feel ashamed for not being straight, especially in a gay bar.
I do believe in a world where anybody can go to any bar (or any place, really) and expect to feel welcome and to be treated with dignity. Unfortunately for LGBT people, that's not the reality of the world we live in. Think about it, if straight bars were a welcoming place, they would have drag queens walking around safely and confidently, as they do in gay bars. The last time I went to a straight bar, I was harassed by drunken frat guys who took a particular interest in where or not I was "a chick or a dude." As much progress has been made, a small part of me still thinks that gay nightlife is a more integral part of this community's existence than any other space, and it's disrespectful of others to ignore the importance of that. This safe place has taken generations to build and your actions can easily undo it.