Dear straight women,
RE: the toilets.
Firstly, this isn’t relevant to all of you, let me state that straight away. I’m aware many of you come for nights out on the gay scene and never cause any issues, and we love having you. So if this letter isn’t relevant to you personally, please feel free to pass it on to someone else who might find it useful.
Let me cut to the chase. I know that a lot of the time straight women come to gay bars in groups, or to accompany gay male friends which is fine of course. I totally abhor door policies that refuse entry for someone because they are perceived straight. However, if you are going to come into gay bars there are some things you need to understand.
You may not have considered the fact that the space you are in is not only filled with gay men, it is also filled with gay women as well. (There are other people who are neither, or bisexual, or something else altogether, but I don’t want to blow your mind too much at this stage.) In case you don’t know gay women (or lesbians) are women who like other women.
Now, some gay women look completely how you would expect any women to look, right? But, there are those of us who don’t look so feminine or conventional. We might have short hair, or be wearing clothes that you are used to seeing on men. This is called being “butch”.
Now, the thing with these butch or boyish looking women, is that they have to piss, just like everyone else. Often, outside of the gay scene, butch women can get quite a lot of hassle in women’s toilets, from other women who think that for some reason a bloke has swanned in.
This has happened to me personally more times than I can remember. I’ve been forced to re-affirm my gender to an attendant on the way into the toilets at Kings Cross station in front of a waiting crowd, and once in a pub had a huge (male) security guard burst into the women’s toilets to forcibly remove me after someone complained I was in there.
As you can see, this sort of thing has the potential to be pretty humiliating, embarrassing, irritating and inconvenient. Which is why yesterday, when two women in a GAY BAR toilet accused me of being a bloke, when all I wanted to do is go for a piss, I got really, really angry. This is the third time this had happened to me in a gay bar.
You see, the reason gay bars exist is because, despite huge advances in equality and tolerance of us queers, we still can’t go out with the general population and not be harassed for being gay. Gay men would probably find themselves beaten to a pulp if they tried to make out on a straight dancefloor, and gay women would very possibly be physically and sexually harassed to shit.
THIS IS WHY, WHEN I WANT TO HAVE A FEW DRINKS WITH MY FRIENDS AND NOT WORRY ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE HARRASSING ME, I GO TO A FUCKING GAY BAR.
So listen up; if you want to come into our spaces for a night out, by all means come, but be prepared to show some bloody respect. You are coming into MY space. The space where I go so I can know that when I need to use the toilet I can do it without snide comments. So next time you’re in a gay bar toilet, and someone who looks like a bloke walks in, before you shoot your mouth off, ask yourself why on earth a bloke in a gay bar would want to go in the women’s toilets, right? If I was a bloke, I would use the men’s; it’s usually quicker, and I wouldn’t have to see you.
The feeling of indignance, and of being intruded upon, that you feel when you believe a chap has walked into the women’s toilets, is only a fraction of the discomfort that YOU are causing to me when you, not only accuse me of being a bloke in the women’s toilets, but also do it in a gay bar, on MY turf.
If you do make an honest mistake. Apologise and leave it be. Do not create a huge scene of apologising, you will have already caused the person enough embarrassment.
So please, do your best to engage your brain and open your mind when you come into queer spaces.
Entrepreneur and author ShaoLan Hsueh is developing a book, Chineasy, that makes it more simple to learn basic Chinese words and phrases.
Find more at chineasy.org