When RuPaul said “Check yourself before your wreck yourself” after being asked his opinion about bachelorette parties at gay bars on the The Dinner Party Download podcast, many of us in the LGBTQ community applauded him for saying something that we, at one time or another, have thought ourselves. But heterosexual women weren’t so amused. And many of them expressed that the main reason they go to gay bars is because it’s safe — and the only place they don’t get groped or hit on by heterosexual men.
But RuPaul wasn’t necessarily referring to the one or two straight women on the dance floor any given Friday or Saturday night. He was referring to the gaggle of loud and obnoxious women with their blinking sashes and penis pops, who bust through the doors of our bars like they own it and we owe them something. Who scream from the audience at the drag queens on stage yelling “I’M GETTING MARRIED!!” or worse scream-talking and disrespecting the performer onstage. Those are the straight girls RuPaul was referring to.
Just so we’re clear, this isn’t the first time our community has spoken out on the subject. Just last year, Chadwick Moore wrote a piece for Out Magazine titled: “Bridal Party Problems: How Bachelorettes Are Ruining Gay Nightlife” and, PopSugar — a non-queer female lifestyle site, wrote an article aptly titled, “How to Have Your Bachelorette Party at a Gay Bar — Without Being a Jerk.” All you have to do is Google “bridal parties at gay bars” and you’ll see this conversation has been going on for a long time. But this is one of the first times mainstream media and straight girls are hearing about it because the legendary RuPaul said it. The backlash Ru is facing is because it came out of the mouth of someone they (straight girls) feel like they are best friends with.
Therein lies the problem, which dates all the way back to 1998 with NBC’s Will and Grace and the rise of the gay best friend trope in television. Grace made having a gay best friend look like so much fun that nearly every girl wanted one (kinda reminds me of Scott Schwartz’s character in the Richard Pryor movie The Toy). Will and Grace gave soon-to-be fag hags everywhere their first look into their future if only they could find a gay best friend! In 2003, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy came out making it not just trendy but essential for everyone to have a gay male friend who can design their house, pick out their clothes and apply makeup. “I love gay men! Look what they can do for us!” was the narrative. While the show may have helped straight guys live, look, and feel better, it did absolutely nothing for our community except to reinforce the notion that every straight needs a gay friend, desexualized us, and turned us into a commodity.
The fetishization of the gay male best friend has been mimicked over and over again. Sex in the City’s Stanford, Carrie Bradshaw’s best friend. Damien, Janis’ best friend, in the 2013 gay classic movie Mean Girls movie. And even ‘radical feminist’ Lena Dunham’s show Girls reinforces stereotypes with Elijah, Hannah’s ex-boyfriend now best friend. RuPaul pointed out this gay male trope in the same interview when he said, “They [straight girls] think, ‘Oh, you must be here to make me look good. That’s what gay guys are, right? You’re an accessory for my straight life.’” What RuPaul was saying is that as gay black man he is not having it — ever!
So my question is, why aren’t the very same women who are so outraged by RuPaul’s statement addressing his (and our) concerns about being made an accessory? Why aren’t we all talking about this? Because that’s what really matters — gays becoming an accessory (just like little chihuahua’s carried in Louis Vuitton purses) to the straight female.
I hate to be the bearerof bad news, but gay bars aren’t really about your freedom and desire to feel safe, they are about ours. Gay bars were established because, before we became cool and trendy, we were beaten and murdered for being all those things that you love so much now and because our sexuality was illegal and yours has never been nor ever will be. But even in today, we are still not safe. Pulse in Orlando. Eight trans women of color have been murdered thus far in 2017. Derek Whitener, a gay theater director, bashed over his head outside a Dallas Target even after he told the security guards that something was off with the two men that would later assault him. So pardon those of us who may not be sympathetic to your plight to comfortably dance the night away without being hit on while we are still fighting for our basic rights and liberties.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that you’re not welcome in our clubs, but you are a guest in our home, in our sanctuary, in our safe spaces. You wouldn’t bust through the doors to your gay best friend’s house with eight of your best girlfriends all looking like a lit up Christmas tree, start obnoxiously yelling and throwing beer bottles and champagne glasses on the ground, and disrespecting his poor little Shih Tzu by groping his ears and fur, right? God, we hope not.
All RuPaul is asking for — what we are all asking for, is respect and etiquette.