acceptance isn’t enough

“We had so much fun! I mean John was definitely overwhelmed by being at a gay bar with so many girls around so we had to leave, but it was so much fun!” When one of my childhood best friends said this, referring to the night of my birthday, a couple weeks ago, I didn’t consider the implications of her words for even a second. I probably chuckled (yes, I chuckle) and moved on.

Days later, for some reason, her words popped into my head and I realized in that moment the double standard and slightly discriminatory statement I had blatantly missed, likely because I know my friends to be the most supportive and least homophobic.

What went through my head as I broke down my friend’s words was twofold: 1) Why was John so overwhelmed being around a lot of gay girls? 2) Why is that reaction acceptable when I spend much of my time, as a gay woman, in straight bars?

I have no answers to either question.

Unfortunately, I, and many of my gay friends, can think of multiple instances in our lives in which this situation has occurred with our “allies.” People have been “overwhelmed” being in a gay bar and I can’t understand it.

MAYBE if you were a straight female in a gay bar and you were facing a firing squad of girls hitting on you…I could get on board. But let’s be honest…being a straight girl at a bro-tastic bar isn’t much better, is it? When you’re a male at a female gay bar, I’m even more confounded because, unless you’re dancing with a long trenchcoat on and not much underneath (things I have gotten the pleasure of witnessing), you are just another person at a bar, likely invisible to a majority of the population there. Again, not much different from any other bar.

Because I’ve been to these “bro-tastic,” other bars a thousand times, I feel I’ve done the research required to also question the double standard my friend’s statement represents. People would be confused if I, as a lesbian, said I had to leave a bar because there were too many straight people around. “Why are you being such a lesbian?!”

We’re not yet at a place with LGBTQIA+ discrimination that saying you are uncomfortable in our presence is off-limits and offensive; it’s not yet a social norm. It’s not yet surprising when someone who loves you and supports you says or does something that makes you pause before you invite them out with your gay friends again.

I don’t want to pause. For the rest of society maybe I’m ok with acceptance…right now…but for the people in my life, I need more than acceptance: I need active and joyful participation.

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Colette is a 26-year-old lesbian from NYC, working at a brand strategy consulting firm during the day and functioning as a people-watching, sarcastic, nerdy jock at all times.