Saturday, 11pm, Oxford Street Sydney
“Sorry love, we can’t let you in with those shoes.” I glance down at my strappy high heels and sigh. As a former online editor for London’s dance music station GaydarRadio, I’m a seasoned gay bar pro. I shouldn’t be making the rookie mistake of forgetting that some of the biggest gay clubs have a strict no open toe shoes policy.
Let that be my first tip to women unaccustomed to nights out on the gay scene. Always wear closed toe shoes if you want a night of gay bar hopping to run smoothly. Personally, I carry a pair of black pumps in my handbag. They’ve seen some sights, believe me.
Some of my gay friends would kill me if they knew I’d revealed this little nugget to get you past the door and into the clubs. Why? Sure, everyone’s welcome, but there are still certain faux pas made by some women that can cause gay men to wish you’d gone back to whichever straight club you came from.
So to make use of my extensive experience, and to help straight girls and gay men co-imbibe peacefully, I’ve compiled this guide to gay bar etiquette.
DON’T ever, under any circumstances, tell anyone that it’s a shame they’re gay
You might think it’s a flattering thing to say to them. It could be the champagne talking. Whichever it is, bite your tongue. This – and its common variation, “Are you sure you’re gay?” – are the number one sins a straight woman can commit in a gay bar.
“Why is it a shame I’m gay?” asks my friend Jonathan. “I’m pretty sure that, if I’ve been through the drama of having to come out, then it’s fairly certain that I’m gay.”
Think you can laugh it off after it’s slipped out? Think again. “When girls say it, it’s like they’re the first to think of the joke,” says Jonathan. “Well, they aren’t!”
DO prepare to make your own way home
Like any good wingwoman, know when to make yourself scarce and make sure you’ve got enough money to get safely home in a cab. This ‘do’ goes hand in hand with an important ‘don’t’. Try not to be, as they say, a cockblocker.
DON’T immediately get overfamiliar
Top of the list of grievances for my friend Doug is the tendency for some girls to act like they’re his BFF from the word go.
“Girls can talk to me – that’s fine – but they think they’re best friends with me straight away, and say things that people wouldn’t normally say to someone they’ve just met,” he says. Such as? “Sexual questions. I mean, would you really ask those questions to a stranger?”
Don’t believe me about this piece of advice? Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps your gay mates are just being polite in order to spare your feeings? “We don’t want to be rude,” insists Doug before adding, “but please tell them!”
The same goes for touching, as well as talking. You may see men grope other men as they squeeze past each other on the dance floor, but that’s often a way for them to initiate contact. Which means that you probably shouldn’t do it.
Of course, this piece of advice certainly doesn’t apply to everyone, and some gay men are more than happy to be as open as you in terms of both conversation and body contact. Everyone’s different, after all. However, it doesn’t hurt to check out how the other person is interacting with you first to work out what the boundaries are. In other words, don’t assume that they all want to touch your boobs or have their chests stroked. Although, if you find one who’s willing, I highly recommend that you give it a go!
DO expect to wait a long time at the bar
Any Sex and the City fan worth her salt rimmed margarita will recall the episode where Carrie is vying for the bartenders’ attention at gay nightclub:
“What do you need?” asks the man next to her.
“A penis, evidently,” she quips.
It’s true. A woman’s wait at the bar is inevitable and unavoidable. Just have your money ready and be patient.
DON’T point at men kissing like they’re circus attractions
I mean, how would you like it if they did that to you?
DO realize that there still some forbidden places – and you wouldn’t want to go to them anyway
While integration is important, and gay and straight people should feel welcome in all public places, there is at least one exception. There are certain, ahem, establishments that are men only for a very good reason. They are sex clubs. So unless you want to stand awkwardly next to a man in a harness getting a slap, tickle and a hell of a lot more, it’s best to do a little research before you venture out in those cute closed toe shoes of yours.
And about those shoes – you might want to make them flats. In a gay club, the dance floor is your best friend, lover and confidante by about 3am, so you’d best get comfortable with it. In fact, the right footwear is kind of like this guide. It won’t just get you through the door, it’ll make you last – and love – the night.