Almost everyone loves gay bars, even straight cis people. Jess Jones explores why that can be a problem for LGBTI revellers.

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In a gay bar, years before my gender transition to male, I was assaulted by a straight guy.

I say he was straight because he was trying to get me to go home with him and his girlfriend.

He did so by, apropos of nothing, grabbing my breasts and calling me a slut. There was more, but I’ll spare you it.

I left immediately—that’s a night ruiner—and had to ask security to stop him from following me while I got into a cab.

It’s far from the only time as a woman I’ve been assaulted in a bar, but it stands out as the most infuriating because it was a gay venue. Women should be safe from predatory men in gay clubs of all places.

Cisgender heterosexual people, especially men, do not belong in gay bars.

They’re a place for us to be ourselves and celebrate our community in a space where we don’t have to worry about being hassled or gawked at by straight folks.

Most cities in Australia only have one or two gay bars, but there are hundreds of other places where people who are not LGBTI can go—and they should.

When cis het people decide they like a gay bar, it stops being much of a gay bar. Straight women start going there so that men won’t hassle them, and then the straight men catch on and follow them in to sexually harass lesbians.

Hen’s nights start being held there, as gaggles of drunk straight women start treating the place as their own personal zoo exhibit: See The Living Homos.

You have to line up around the block to get into what’s meant to be your own community’s space, because all the straight looky-loos want to come in as well. And because we’re nice, we do let anyone into our clubs, but I don’t think we should have to.

I’m not saying cis het people should be banned in any sense from gay bars, if only because it would be impossible to enforce. However, I do think they should have the courtesy to let us have our few spaces.

Also, I’m not suggesting straight partners of bi or trans folks shouldn’t be allowed in gay bars with them. I’ve taken the occasional straight friend to a gay club myself, and I think if someone is a respectful guest of a queer person it’s fine (the guy in my story was there with his presumably bi girlfriend, and if he’d behaved himself he would have been made welcome).

I would like people who are not LGBTI to generally let us have a few spaces of our own where we can be ourselves without them. Just stay out of the one or two gay bars each city has, please. Yes, some of them are good bars, I know.

In Brisbane, we have (or had) three gay clubs. One is the aforementioned bar, which is always full of straight people. Another has been bought by a corporate entity and is now so aggressively not a gay bar, they put up a portrait of Joh, former Premier of Queensland, on the wall.

There’s one bar left that still attracts a predominantly LGBTI crowd and feels like a queer space, and I’m loath to name it lest straight people hear about it and move in. As it now stands, when cis het people are there, they appear to know they are guests in someone else’s space.

We don’t ask for much, honestly. Let us have our small number of bars and clubs, just for us.

The rest of the city is your safe space.

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