How Gay Is Gay Enough?

Just in case you weren’t aware of my sexuality I’m bi-sexual, I like the men and I like the women. I’m rubbish with women but I still like them and on the rare occasion I can persuade one to get into bed with me I tend towards being so overawed by the sheer awesome of the occasion that I have been known to sing/dance/behave in a way that virtually guarantees no repeat performances.
Nevertheless, being crap with women does not diminish my sexuality from being bisexual in any way shape or form. (If it did millions of straight men would be queuing up for the nearest gay bar.)

Earlier this year (when I had that rarest of things, a regular job) a group of work colleagues of mine suggested we all go down Canal Street on a work night out. I said yes, without really thinking about it, it is years since I was any type of regular down Canal Street, I found it much more Gay Men friendly than Lesbian friendly (yeah, did I just invisible myself there…we’ll talk about that later) and I haven’t really been along to an LGBTQ(…bloody Quiltbag) organised social activity in years. Well, apart from Pride. But just out drinking and dancing down Canal Street, that sounded fun. So I said yes and started planning in the back of my mind what to wear.
It was only days later that I realised that a group of straight people planned to go down Canal Street. Obviously I kind of knew that, I hadn’t quizzed my work colleagues about their sexuality but the ones in couples had mentioned their opposite gender partners and the single ones had been fairly gender specific about who they were looking for. This suddenly gave me pause, I remember looking up once in the office when the Canal Street trip had been mentioned again, looking around and wondering when exactly did straight people start going to gay bars?

I’m well aware of course that we members of the LGBTpatchworkquilt are inherantly cooler, sexier and just all-round more badass than straight people, it’s like black people are inherantly cooler, sexier, more bad-ass and better dancers than white people and all asians are ninjas, or smarter than your average computer, or both…(Please do notice the dry tone in which this should be read.) However, Canal Street was my first experience of somewhere that I could go in order to ‘go out’ ie. dance, drink etc. and potentially KISS A GIRL without being aware first of exactly who was around or where I was. I suddenly realised that the clothes I was thinking of wearing were ones in which I would hope to pick up girls and the idea of going to Canal Street with a bunch of straights I had to work with started to worry me a bit.

It possibly seems weird to you that I did segregate the communities of gay and straight in my head like that. Currently I hang out in a largely bisexual environment, it used to be a largely bi-curious environment and that was mainly confined to girls being bi but over the last four or five years that’s changed. The thing about bisexual environments is…they’re not straight but… well they aren’t gay either. I know, I know, people are judging me for further invisibling my sexuality and I am hugely aware that I’m massively lucky to have a bisexual environment to hang out in and enjoy. The thing is though, I did my coming out and the only place for me to go was into the Quiltbag. Once you’re out, once you know you’re gay, lesbian, bi, trans and if you want to find more people like you tm then you head into the Quiltbag and when I did it it was mainly Gay, in fact Gay and Queer tended to be the words used not just if you were actually a Gay man but if you were any letter at all in the whole thing, to let people know that you were family. That was another term used and I think that that’s kind of the point.

The LGBT rights movement has come so far. In my lifetime. I was out and doing from about 16 upwards, that’s only 14 years of any real type of involvement, in fact for two years that was basically only online on occaisional lunchtimes at school so let’s say 12 years. IN TWELVE YEARS I have seen an entire civil rights movement move forwards unbelievably fast. When I was at university being in anyway known to be involved with an LGBT group could seriously damage your career prospects. Closeted was assumed to be the normal, default state for most people who hung out. Now, it’s really, really not. Being in an LGBT group, heading down to Canal Street meant going somewhere that your friends could kiss whilst not looking over your shoulder, I’ve been in groups thrown out of pubs because we’d heard they were gay friendly but hadn’t realised that didn’t include when gay people were holding hands or acting in anyway ‘gay’. There are still pubs that you’d be better off not snogging in but you don’t get thrown out of most normal pubs for two guys/girls kissing.

Going out in gay villages was usually done as a group, and usually the girls were outnumbered by the boys and us bisexuals completely outnumbered…or at least us bisexuals who were comfortable with admitting it…out-loud. It was a gay crowd, it was relaxed, full of those references that happen when you’re part of a sub-culture…but also those references that bond you closer than your average follower of Lolita fashion/World of Warcraft Guild because these are references that mean that you feel safe. Safe is a big word, it means you’re not going to get beaten up for being yourself, it means that you’re not going to get ostracised for being yourself in front of people it means so many things. That’s what I found in the gay family, that’s what going down to Canal Street meant to me. It helped that I liked cheesy music, it helped that I dressed in a way the gay boys liked and it helped that when there were obviously no girls for me to pull I didn’t mind being a wing-girl.
Later on when I moved to a place with an actual lesbian scene that was distinct and separate from the gay scene there was yet another sense of family for me to discover but in this country and on Canal Street the gay villages tend to be male heavy and being a lesbian in a mixed scene is different to when it’s girls only. I’m fairly sure that if any of the boys have noticed that then they’d agree…sorry – bit too catty there. The thing is, in the everyday world most people assume you’re straight, in the Quiltbag you’re largely assumed to be gay. Both assumptions are wrong for me but the Gay one I wore with relief, it was wrong the other way and it was nice, relaxing and fun to be out like that.

Canal Street, it’s not somewhere I ever went regularly, but it was home and family, kind of like visiting cousins or people you’ve known for a long time. You enjoy each others company, promise to keep in touch and know that you’re not really going to but that the next time you head out there you can fall into the same conversations.

It was the conversation with one of my workmates that really did it, the conversation where I had to actively persuade her that two lesbians would be capable of adopting and raising a child. This workmate intended to go into social work.
Now, I’m aware of varying perspectives on the subject of homosexual adoption. Reasonably enough you can assume my position on it. ie. That there is nothing wrong with it and that gay couples can raise children and indeed should…I’ll rant another time. However, if you are seriously talking about going for a night out in a gay area and yet do not believe that gay couples should be awarded the same rights as heterosexual couples…I need to really re-assess whether I want to hang out with you there.

That conversation made me realise something, that I really was planning on going to the gay village with Straight People, and that the Straight People weren’t planning on going because they had any of the same associations I do with Canal Street…they were planning on going to a Cool Place TM as tourists.

I’m not in a straight environment much these days, as I’ve said I’m lucky, bisexual is the norm where I live, fluctuations of sexuality and gender, that’s my environment. I wasn’t gay in a gay village but that was where I came to because that was the place where I could be out. Most of the people in my environment haven’t done what I did, they’ve gone from the Straight world to this Bisexual fluctuating world and in some ways I feel they’ve missed out. Our little subculture is fluctuating and fluid, because we’re bi, for all the freedom of the word. It’s only able to have come about because the Quiltbag was there with it’s rules and it’s ettiquette because it had to have rules and modes of being because it was there before it was illegal never-mind socially unacceptable. It was a very solid subculture that I got to belong to. Being a part of the family, when the Quiltbag was a necessary place to be safe and you had your gay brothers and sisters was a weird type of home for me. Sure the assumptions were wrong but I loved how it made me feel. The idea of going home with a group of tourists who were talking about it as if it were not a safe space but a curiousity made me completely chicken out of going with them because I always want Canal Street (even if I never go again) to be that safe place, to be that home for me.

Except that I read The Independent the other day. There are so many tourists in Canal Street that the gay bars need to turn them away…I am a bisexual girl and I don’t always read gay. When I came out there were very few lebians and bi-girls out there, to get involved in the LGBTetc. I needed to hang out with my Gay Guy Friends, would I have been turned away because I was read as straight? Very probably. The writer of that article says he can tell if you’re straight just by looking…that’s nice…so the gay village, which has always been predominantly Lesbian and Gay is going to drive us bisexuals completely away then?

I can understand the desire to keep Home Home, it’s what made me unable to go out with a group of straight people to Canal Street after all. But when we are becoming so accepted in mainstream society to try and stop the mainstream from flowing back into our haunts when we no longer need them as much as we did, it’s just so sad.
To try and reinforce stereotypes, albeit presumably without meaning to, it makes me want to cry. We’ve come so far, lets keep going. There are still groups that meet, still bars that are friendly but the gay villages, the ghettos maybe we don’t need them so much?

The guy in Pink News is hoping for a day when gay and straight clubs don’t exist and I agree with him. But we are going so fast that this is inevitable. I don’t want to slow down but I do want people to think, to act with full knowledge of what they are doing.

And I always want to imagine that I would be able to go home again even whilst I’m bitching about Canal Street to everyone who has ever been involved in the scene.

2 thoughts on “How Gay Is Gay Enough?

  1. Not to mention anyone who appears straight but isn’t can get barred.

    I find the whole thing debatable, while I can see a need for safe space I’m not quite sure how best to go about it.

    And I think the problem is the conflict between those who no longer see a need for safe spaces and those who still feel the need for them, there are a number of comments on both articles about the issues with hen nights coming in is that they’re followed by straight men on the pull, so this causes a rush of tourists into the safe spaces and many people seem to feel no longer safe there.

    Not sure, interesting one, I certainly never really wanted to hang out with LGBT groups after I came out as they seemed to be focused on "taking the bus to canal street to get drunk and go dancing" which … yeah no. On the other hand I had an accepting social support network so I didn’t really need another one, which I guess makes me lucky.

  2. I still feel that you missed out. The Gay Scene is like any other ‘scene’ in that it’s crap and cliquey and full of gossip but, it was awesome too because it felt like there was something to belong to because of my ‘otherness’, and it’s nice to have that feeling of belonging specifically about something that previously othered you.

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