OPINION: No Girls Allowed!

Gay spaces are being invaded by women


Friday night in West Hollywood is something gay men look forward to. It is part fashion show, part pissing contest, part hook-up culture. The bars that line Santa Monica Boulevard are all different but with a lingering familiarity; they say a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Inside these once-sacred spaces it is easy to find a plethora of men drinking and enjoying themselves while their gal pals hang on their arms laughing. Sometimes you’ll see a group of women alone on a “ladies night out” tipping the go-go dancers and being overtly obnoxious.

For the past decade, perhaps longer, the places where queer men gathered have become infested with women who seem to view the gay male as a sort of accessory to be flashed around like some new handbag. The problem is, gay men are getting tired of it.

“I can’t stand it anymore, I hate seeing girls in the clubs acting stupid like they own the place. They don’t,” said Felix Ramos, an office manager from Silverlake, a very trendy area in Los Angeles. According to Ramos, many of his friends have a similar sentiment — except when it comes to his own female friends. “My girls are alright because they don’t act stupid.”

Although it may seem misogynistic to some, Ramos’ aversion to women in queer spaces does have a legitimate basis. According to an article published on Vice in July, San Francisco has seen the closure of many gay spaces due in part to gentrification and the Silicon Valley boom. Vice reports:

“The last five years, in particular, have brought hell for the city’s queer spaces: 2012 brought the shuttering of drag dive Deco Lounge and gay cocktail lounge Club Eight; 2013 saw the demise of “infamous SoMa leather den” Kok; Latino drag mecca Esta Noche closed in 2014; last year, bear bar Truck and lesbian bar the Lexington Club shut down, and this July, gay nightclub Beatbox also shut its doors.

But what do women have to do with this? The truth is that not a single gender or gender identity are the ones closing the spaces, but that does not mean there is no harm being done. Once upon a time, queer spaces were revered as all-male areas of masculinity. They were known to be perverse, raunchy, campy, and cruisey.

In these spaces there was no need to restrain one’s self from whatever the desire. There were pitch black bars that hosted men giving blowjobs and walking around naked in the middle of the afternoon. There were places where men would go around the building and drink pee, and there were places where men could be gay men. More importantly, these spaces provided a place where queer people could escape the heteronormative environment in which we all live.

For Javier Ninos, this is what is being lost when women come into queer spaces. “I have been around for a while. I’m 56, and I have seen things change. I was fortunate to survive the plague and I think things started to change in the 90s when there were more treatments for it,” said Ninos.

For him, the bars and clubs were places he could retreat to during his time in the closet.

“I lived a straight life, had a girlfriend and all that crap. But I would go to places like the Eagle and whatever other bars to be free. For me they were places I didn’t have to hide the real me, the me I locked away when I left.”

Ninos added that it makes him upset to see women in gay bars because although women can have private areas sans men, queer men are not given the same privilege.

“I don’t think women are evil, and I definitely appreciate them. I am for pure gender equality, but sometimes you just need to be alone with other gay men to be gay men. There is just a need for that that we no longer have.”

Some would argue, however, that bringing women into queer spaces has helped the fight for equality. Jason Falkner is a regular at the bar Fiesta Cantina and said he appreciates all that women have done for the community.

“A lot of gay men don’t like women for some reason and I really don’t get it. Like, our fag-hags are really the ones responsible for getting us so far. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have equal rights.”

Falkner added that although he understands how other queer men feel, he believes it’s a veiled misogyny that drives the distaste for women.

“I mean, it can be annoying to see a group of girls alone without a gay dude, but they’re just having fun. Everyone is welcome at gay clubs.”

Back in the West Hollywood night, the iconic nightclub the Abby is alive and crawling with people. there is hardly space to get close to the main bar adjacent to the dance floor. Looking around, it is more of the same; cookie-bored cutouts of one and another, low-cut fitted shirts, tight jeans, hair styled to the point of breaking, and of course a gaggle of women with pink boas and one with a sash that reads “Bachelorette.”

This group peruses the go-go dancers — a great deal of whom are straight — and stick bills in the men’s jockstraps and g-strings. The many, many gay men vying for the dancers attention stand no chance when a straight woman gets near the man’s junk. The sex appeal these men hold over the gay men vanishes, and the fantasy is ruined when a woman starts grinding on one.

“This isn’t the place for them. Those men, they dance for me, for us. These woman, they’re having a good time sure but they’re taking our space,” said Ninos. “It’s hard to see the sex appeal in a stranger when he’s grinding some drunk girl.”

Ninos’ major issue with the bachelorette parties is simple to understand: they are tourists. According to Ninos, these women only come to gawk and get drunk without actually aiding the gay community.

“What have those women done for us? How have they helped us? They’re the kind of ladies who ask you things like, ‘do you want to be my gay?’ It’s so disgusting and offensive.”

Although Ninos’ view may seem a little outlandish to some, it strikes home with other queer men.

Joe is a 28-year-old man who is still in the closet. He goes to West Hollywood only when the mood strikes, generally when he is looking for sex. For Joe, it becomes uncomfortable to see straight women when he is trying to enjoy himself because of the fear of being outed.

“It makes me nervous to see women alone there without their gay friends. I don’t know if they’ll out me if they see me on the street somewhere. I work in Los Angeles so it’s a possibility.”

This fear has caused Joe to hold back from going out as often as he would like. And in his opinion, the presence of women take away from the sacred space he needs to be free.

“It’s supposed to be a place where gay or bi or trans men can go to escape from the straight world and all those pressures. Now, it’s just another place where drunk women go and the straight men follow. They’ve taken our space and no one seems to care. I guess the gay scene is dead, isn’t it?”