Through These Eyes: Bully At A Gay Bar

By Justin Jones June 14, 2012

Categories: Dating & Relationships, Our Lives

The Gay Bar: Where we go to judge other people. Where we feel insecure, where everyone’s waiting for a flaw, for a reason to call you a bitch when you are shy, and laugh when you stumble by. The place where they make fun of your clothes, your weight, your age.

The Gay Bar: Where we went to celebrate community. Where we felt safe. A place where we felt at home away from home. A place where we found friends and explored who we were.

What happened to the gay bar? When did we become our own bullies?

We unite behind mantras like “It Gets Better.” We publicly support measures to end bullying, and yet in gay clubs—places formed out of a necessity to build and empower social belonging and community—we are hypocrites.

“Another kid killed himself,” a friend says over drinks one night. “What the hell?” And we shake our heads knowingly. We’re reminded of the scorching memories of how it was for us, how cruel our own bullies were. We remember the hiding, the feeling of loneliness, the endless fantasizing of better lives in more glamorous places.

We empathize with kids who feel like there’s no way out because we were there. And while it’s gotten better, the memories haven’t disappeared. Sure, they make us stronger. But they also make us more reserved and not as trusting. A little more stoic and a little less secure. “Jaded” is the word.

My friend and I lament the gay youth experience over drinks. How terrible they have it in school nowadays! How awful bullying has become! And in the middle of our conversation, an unshaven man wearing a bright pink wig and a latex skirt walks by. My friend and I look at each other and giggle. “Poor guy forgot to shave,” we joke as the man takes a seat at the end of the bar.

The man in pink sits in the same place for two hours; he sips his drink and checks his phone repeatedly. He makes a few calls and I make out part of a voicemail he leaves: “Hey, I’m still waiting for you at the bar. I’m by myself. PLEASE text me or call me to tell me where you are”—or something like that. He looks down at the bar a lot. He’s  increasingly disappointed as the night wears on.

I find the man in pink an amusement, as if I’m somehow better than he is. Why? Because he’s unshaven and in a pink wig? Because he’s by himself? Because he’s nervous? On this night, I am a hypocrite; I disavow bullying in the same breath that I perpetuate it.

You know this: It feels terrible walking through a gauntlet of judgmental strangers. Especially when you’re by yourself and you already feel as others might perceive you as deviant. Most especially when you hear them snicker once you’ve made your way through. No level of confidence eludes this reality. We are human beings, after all.

I was a stupid jerk that night—a bully. If he heard what we said or heard us laugh, I helped hurt his feelings. And for what? Ten seconds of a fake, mean-spirited giggle?

My actions are sadly no exception in this environment. Gay bars were once the Domain of the Different—a place where, for what society called “deviants”, felt safe and at home. A place where we made friends and felt accepted, no matter who we were or whom we loved. They have since become microcosms of the environments we used them to escape from. They harbor bullies.

While you celebrate Pride this year, think about what it means. It means more than being proud of who YOU are. It means embracing diversity, even amongst ourselves. It means loving one another with open heart. It means being as open-minded as we want others to be. We’re in this together. Don’t be a jackass like I was. This year, make some new friends, celebrate with an open mind, and have a very Happy Pride. 

13 Responses to Through These Eyes: Bully At A Gay Bar

  1. Gary says:

    You are a terrific writer Justin. This article is so true. Not to single out a specific age group, but as an older gay man, I quit going to clubs simply because of the way younger guys treat older guys. I’ve seen and heard the comments and jeers, some even about me. I just think to my self, they’ll be in their 40’s someday. I really wish everyone who frequents gay clubs could read your article.
    Thanks for sharing your great stories with us, I look forward to them.

  2. Chris Conner says:

    Valocchi, Steve. (1999) ‘The Class-Infected Nature of Gay Identity.’ Social Problems. 46(2): 207-224.

    This is a topic I wrote about in several issues of the gay magazine I used to write for… unfortunately no one reads my stuff. Anyway, definitely a need for more writing on this subject matter.

  3. David says:

    I agree with your article Justin. I know of at least 2 suicides perpetuated by gay on gay bullying. We are very judgemental and cruel to our own. It is so crazy to me that we, the persecuted turn on ourselves when we congregate.

  4. Gaea G. says:

    Thank you for realizing/writing this. I have avoided going to gay bars unless surrounded by friends or attending a fundraiser of some sort. As an intersex person (and lifelong LGBT advocate), it makes me sad that I feel immensely safer & more respected in ‘straight’ establishments than in gay bars. Kudos to you for catching yourself and hopefully bringing a bit of light to this topic.

  5. Tom S. says:

    This article hit it on the nose. Unless your young, cute, sexy, handsome and on and on..and to be outgoing also helps. I am in my 40s and I hate going to the Gay Bar. I go by myself and leave by myself. I am a little over weight and so no one comes up to me just to say hi or how’s it going.

    I want to feel a part of the gay community and have friends in it. So I don’t go anymore.


  6. Great article sir!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Kudos for your honesty.

  7. Eric Dollerschell-Petry says:

    Very well written. Of course, like anything broaching controversial material, one can easily go into writing articles about ageism, racism/racial stereotyping, transgender issues, etc. I am fortunate to say I don’t fit the model and I have good role models and friends in my life that come from all walks of life, ethnicity, and professions.

    Keep up the great literary brilliance!! Thank you.

  8. Jonathan L says:

    I’ve felt this for 20 years, this is why I don’t go to Pride or the bars. Gay men, in particular, are mostly stuck in the mindset of a 13 year old girl. Because so many of us never find relationships and the majority of us do not become parents, there’s no reason to grow up. We have no incentive to change our attitudes towards others or become a better example of a man, provider or partner. Nothing’s happening, so why not be a jerk to everyone else? There’s a lot of very pissed off gay men who have no support – straight people can’t relate to what it’s like to have 2% of the population to choose from, while other gay men use your fears as a way to exploit you – making neither part of society a safe place to go.

    So we go to chat rooms, where nobody is who they really are, everyone apparently looks like the straight, college-aged athletes that are force-fed to us via gay websites daily, while in real life, no gay man looks like this. But we have a new generation of gay men expecting to meet someone who looks like that, but he himself has no social skills, no experience talking to or relating to other gay men, no sense of character and no substance. We are so isolated at this point I am more worried about an epidemic of suicide and addiction than I will ever be about gay marriage amendments – if we can’t figure out how to shut this damn machine off and find out where other gay people go, so we can find out how to talk, date and start lives with each other, the whole purpose of marriage will be zero. If most of us are without the skills to know how to be in an adult relationship, marriage will only benefit a privileged few.

    I know of no other minority group that treats it’s own as gay people do. It’s because this lifelong pattern of lying, which begins when we are doing it to save our lives growing up. After coming out, it continues: the lies about how much money we have. Our fancy college degrees. Our $500 sunglasses and what they represent. Illusion is everything because in the gay world, if you have money, if you look perfect, if you appear to have it all, then hey, among this community of soulless people without the ability to see what makes a relationship work, that’s what is rewarded. We are still, and will always be, an anonymous and backstabbing group of people. Fewer of us are even coming out – it’s so much easier to live out gay fantasies online while surfing through images of perfect, young, straight male bodies than the disappointment of the real gay community – mostly middle aged, overweight, socially awkward men that are a stark contrast to the images on our computer screens. As with drugs, I believe that this obsession with online porn and living this permanent fantasy alters our brains – once we are shown these images of unattainable heterosexual athletes over and over as a baseline, once we see everyday gay men, there’s absolutely no interest. The social development to realize there’s so much more to companionship has never been developed, and that’s not something you can really ‘learn’.

    It’s not getting better. It’s getting meaner, more invisible, and indifferent.

  9. Lisa says:

    When I came out, almost 16 years ago, I was made fun of a lot by other women. I wasn’t into sports, I liked to wear dresses, wear “non-sensible shoes”, and get my nails done. In fact, I had one gal say to me once, “You can’t be a lesbian..” I asked her why. She then picked up my well manicured hand (with acrylic nails..not as sharp as the real ones) and said, “Because of these.”.
    I though the gay community was supposed to be more accepting, BECAUSE of not being an accepted group.

  10. Deb A says:

    A friend posted a link to this on FB. I can sympathize with Lisa. My partner is a femme and has told me horror stories about being discriminated by other lesbians simply because she just didn’t fit the “mold”. I have a disability and I have found plenty of discrimination by other lesbians based on this. It is sad.

  11. I like that your story starts this conversation.
    However, there are so many more possibilities inside your story and inside the comments and stories that others have shared! That man in a pink wig might have been waiting for ANYone. Perhaps his cat just died and he was waiting on a friend? Maybe a buddy of his just got dumped and they planned to meet there and his buddy decided to cry himself to sleep instead of go out. Maybe he doesn’t give a fuck about his stubbly face and would have agreed with your assessment. Maybe he wears a pink wig because his mom has breast cancer. Maybe he was abducted by clowns who shaved his head, not his face, and superglued the wig to his head. And he has no idea that he’s in a gay bar and wouldn’t care if he noticed.

    Maybe your jeers and giggles have only hurt you and that guy just does not give one squirt of piss about you or your opinions. Which is a pretty good response to douchebaggery, if you ask me.

    As to the commenter who said “stuck in a mindset of 13 year olds”, um, er, Project Much? For the sake of all that is good in the Universe, get over yourself. All – and I do mean ALL – of my homo friends are full socially equipped adults with complete personalities, complex relationships, and full lives. Even the pretty ones. If all you see in a handsome, young face is a fantasy of acquisition, then it’s YOU who are the problem. Ugly people want to be pretty and pretty people want to be loved for their personhood instead of their face. Greener grass, right? But the root of the problem is this attitude that somehow those pretty ones dislike people your age or your color or your kind in whatever way because they turn away from lechery. It’s avarice, pure and simple. Every time I hear some gay dude talk shit about why he gets no attention from younger guys or how the pretty ones don’t exist, all I hear is greed and emptiness.

  12. andy9279 says:

    My God, I think I might be the OPPOSITE —

    I’m a good looking guy, when I went to bars I got plenty of attention. BUT. When I see a good looking guy in a bar, and who has, to my untrained eye, expensive clothing my immediate thought — GOD I bet he’s a douche! I bet he’s shallow as hell, probably listens to techno music, is obsessed with pop culture and would be about as interesting to talk to as a wooden post.

  13. Tom says:

    I’m sure there are plenty of well adjusted LGBT people. The bullying problem within the gay community is real and it does hurt. I have been yelled at, accused of crazy stuff and threatened by other gays. We are not ready yet to tackle this problem because there are more pressing problems to deal with. We will reach the point when the Gay on Gay bullying problem will be dealt with.

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