Walt’s Soapbox: One Night at a Drag Bar

It all started out as a moment of personal frustration.

I had a rough night Saturday night. I was slated to perform at this coffee house and ended up cancelling the show because they wanted to charge me five bucks to do the gig and I have a long standing policy against pay to play. I’ve been doing live poetry for ten years and I’ve never paid to do a gig. So not being completely deterred, especially since I had on a new dress and had done my make-up, I suggested to my fiance and our buddy Rabbit that we go out to our favorite local drag bar and catch a show.

Sure enough, we got there, paid the door lady three bucks a pop and walked in. We sat down at a table, ordered a round of beers and started watching the second half of the early show. While we were digging one of the acts, we were told we had to get up from our table at 10:30. It was reserved for a bridal party. We looked around and saw that virtually every table in the joint had been reserved for this party. Half an hour after paying to get in, we were pretty much squeezed out because there was no place to sit.

I was pissed. I was having a bad night. I just wanted to make up for it by having a beer with some friends at our favorite drag joint and lo and behold we couldn’t because a bridal party had reserved pretty much the entire bar for the late show.

So me being me, I vented a bit about it online, saying I felt a bit slighted that we had to leave so a straight bridal party could hoot and holler at the drag queens. A drag bar is one of the few places I can walk in while wearing a dress, make-up, and jewelry and know I’m not gonna get any shit for it and I didn’t much care for being squeezed out of one. I didn’t think anything of it, I’ve vented online before, surely no one would take it all that seriously.

I was wrong on that count.

I wake up and it’s a shit splatter all over my digital wall. I got accused of not showing cis straight people any respect. I got accused of supporting segregation because during my venting I said straight people should go to their own bars and leave us the hell alone. I got accused of every form of straight bashing under the sun short of actually kicking the shit out of a cis het white Christian.

Normally I’m pretty empathetic to the feelings of others, even if we happen to disagree, but not this time. I reserve the right to be a son of a bitch every once in a while without having straight people jumping on my ass and turning it into a parade of how their feelings were hurt by me being pissed off.

We as a community are made of iron; we have to be in order to survive day to day, yes even as much progress as we’ve made over the last ten years, times ain’t all sunshine and rainbows yet. And we do speak about the shit we still swallow, we would like speak loud and clear and not be drowned out by straight people who want to jump up and down and claim “Me too!”

No, not “Me too!”

What safe spaces we have, our bars, our bookstores, etc. were paid with fifty years of blood, batons, and bullets. Straight people have the luxury of not having to have paid that price to have a little sanctuary of their own where they can go, relax, be themselves, and not catch any shit for it.

If the straight community wants to enjoy our bars, our bookstores, whatever, that’s fine. Welcome! But show some respect while you’re there, we’re not something to be gawked at, we’re not something to laugh at, we’re human beings and if you can’t treat us that way, we reserve the right to kick your ass out. It’s that simple.

We also reserve the right to vent without you trying to hog the spotlight. We have our stories, our frustrations; let us speak them openly without you trying to grab the mic from our hands. A stone broke boy in a dress doesn’t have many luxuries and if they get frustrated because they couldn’t relax in their favorite bar because a straight bridal party booked every table in the joint, have some empathy and listen to them for once.

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