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Full Disclosure: A Straight Person Being Kicked Out of a Gay Bar

SF Mix Bar Full Disclosure Eric Barry

Many, many great things happened for both SF and nationwide LGBT communities this past week. There was something truly remarkable seeing the streets of San Francisco Wednesday night filled not in protest or rallying cry, but in celebration. It was a stark contrast to the night of November 4, 2008 when the city erupted with bittersweet joy for Obama’s win, while letting the agony of the passing of Proposition 8 sink in. Some years later, I’m now skeptical to celebrate progress that isn’t concrete. Obama was an idea, one that proved rather ineffectual against the principals that had us elect him in the first place, high-fiving and hugging in the streets because things were going to change. Every step for social justice is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t mean that things are now better than they should’ve been in the first place.

But last Wednesday was different. This was a change that was palpable, and just two days later, we saw couples lining up outside City Hall to enact that change.

I can’t think of a time I’ve been so excited to celebrate Pride. The Supreme Court rulings and the gorgeous weather (rare for June in SF) only further charged what’s already one of the most powerful celebrations in the city.

So when the girl I’m dating was kicked out of of a gay bar on Pride, being told it was because she has a vagina, it was a real kick in the not-vagina.

It happened at The Mix (one of my all-time favorite bars) Sunday night. We had been drinking. Lots. But there were no blackouts, there was no stumbling. It had been a weekend full of friends and a positive energy I hadn’t seen in this city in some time.

The short version [jump to the end of the article for the full story] is this: shortly after entering The Mix, the girl I’m dating wasn’t allowed to accompany me to the bathroom because the bouncer feared she was going to sneak from the bathroom to their back patio, instead of waiting in line to get there. She pressed as to why I was allowed to use the bathroom and not her, asking if it was because she was a woman, to which he responded “yes” and then promptly called for two bouncers to come over and kick us out. We were in the bar no more than 90 seconds and were refused to have our cover refunded. Then the bouncer literally physically threatened me, charging towards me with his fist cocked back, which prompted the cashier outside the bar to step in to prevent him from hitting me. I have video of the altercation on my iPhone.  The cashier outside assured me many, many times that he would call me the next day to sort the situation out and talk to the appropriate people about the rest of the staff’s behavior. I have yet to receive any such phone call.

I understand that it’s Pride, and I understand that gay bars have an immense amount of stress placed on them during this time. I’m sure The Mix had dealt with plenty of drunk assholes all weekend, and the ability to discern who’s actually a drunk asshole and who’s not probably gets a little muddied over time. But that said, being a bouncer isn’t an excuse to flaunt the excessive power you’re given, especially not when the professed reason is because someone is a straight woman who’s at a gay bar.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been kicked out of a gay bar. My (female) friends and I once were looking for a place to dance on a Tuesday night, and we decided on Q Bar. Once we arrived, we saw a banner out front that mentioned it was ladies night and they were offering 2-for-1 drinks. Upon entering, my friends began dancing as I went to order the group alcohol. When the bartender told me the total, something didn’t seem right – the drinks were awfully expensive for a 2-for-1 special. When I inquired, the bartender informed me that “only women get 1/2 off drinks”, a statement that wasn’t advertised on any of the promotional material or the website (I later checked). I told her that I was buying the drinks for my female friends, and pointed towards them, to which they waved back. She said I could only get the drink specials if one of the girls came over and talked to her, but for now, I had to pay full price. I told her she could keep the drinks – in part because I was indignant and in part because I literally didn’t have enough money. She told me I had to pay, I said I couldn’t, and I walked away, leaving the drinks at the bar.

I approached my friends who asked where the drinks were. I calmly told them, “I think I’m about to be kicked out of here in about 60 seconds.” And that’s exactly what happened. All the way out as the bouncer escorted me, women in the bar who had no idea why I was being kicked out began cheering, telling the bouncer to throw my ass out. They didn’t know anything that had transpired, but in their minds, I was a man being kicked out, which meant that must’ve been the right thing to do, and so forming a lynch mob seemed justified. [Listen to Dr. Carol Queen’s perspective on this here.]

I understand creating a safe space and having a place where people feel that they can hang out with people who they might wanna fuck and who want to fuck them. But it sends a very complicated and difficult message to LGBT allies when they’re basically told “you’re not welcome here.” Should straight people stay out of the Castro? Should gay people not go to straight bars? Should Q Bar be telling men that discriminating drink prices based on someone’s genitals is the truly progressive way to go? Or does that just sound like a gay version of a ladies night at some douchey straight club?

Most of the time, my gay friends feel comfortable at straight bars and my straight friends feel comfortable at gay bars. But those times when it’s not the case, it’s just fucking lame to see from a city like San Francisco.

Good things are happening in the fight for equality. But as we continue that fight we need to realize something: progress is not a zero-sum game. The rights gained by one person are not predicated upon the loss of another’s. Shaming or making someone feel less than welcome because of their gender is not a way to endorse the victories that we’re all celebrating right now.

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Full Disclosure podcast Episode 46: BBW Karla Lane
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Full version of what happend at The Mix:

We waited in the long line that formed down 18th Street, something that while rare for The Mix is to be expected during pride. Once we made our way to the front, Brian the Cashier told us there was a $2 cover. Again, rare for The Mix, but it’s Pride and what’s $2 anyway (as it’ll turn out, a lot to this establishment).

In the time we were waiting I had grown hungry, and on our way in I asked the Bouncer if we would have to wait in line again if we left to get food.

“No, just show your stamp when you come back.” Sounded easy enough.

Once we got inside, we were confronted with an additional line to get into the back patio, which is really the main reason to go to The Mix in the first place. Whatever, it’s Pride, but my bladder sure as hell wasn’t going survive what looked to be an additional 20 minute wait in line.

I approached the Patio Door Guy with the Girl and told him I needed to use the restroom, which is unisex with multiple stalls. He said that was fine, and we proceeded towards the bathroom when the Girl was stopped.

“Where are you going?” he asked.
“The back patio,” she responded, having not heard that I had asked to use the restroom.
“You need to go to the back of the line,” he says.
“No no, we’re both going into the bathroom together,” I clarify.
“She already told me she wants to go to the patio, I’m not letting her in there,” he snaps back.
“You can watch us walk into the bathroom right now. I promise you we’ll come back out and go to the back of the line.” I’m starting to feel ridiculous.
“You can go, but she has to go to the back of the line.”
“I don’t understand. Why can he go in the bathroom, is it because I’m a woman?” She asks.
“Yes. Now go to the back of the line.” The Patio Door Guy’s words leave the Girl and I in a moment of shock.
“This isn’t fair. You can’t do this just because I have a vagina.”

Not more than that moment of shock had passed when the Patio Door Guy yells to the bar, “I’m going to need two bouncers! NOW! These people need to leave immediately!”

Bouncer 2 runs out from behind the bar and promptly escorts us towards the entrance. “You’re not moving fast enough!” he yells at us. We co-operated the entire time. I asked him to treat us like reasonable human beings. He said he didn’t understand what that had to do with us leaving the bar, and yelled again for us to move faster (which at this point would’ve required us literally jogging out of the bar).

We were inside all of 90 seconds, if that. Once we’re back outside we explain the situation to the Cashier, and ask if we can have our $4 back. He says he doesn’t have the authority to do that. The Bouncer (who’s probably about 6’3) begins to move towards me aggressively, and then cocks his fist back, as though readying a punch. I immediately pull out my phone to begin recording whatever the fuck weirdness is about to ensue, backing up as he continues at me with his fist. The Cashier pulls the back of his shirt and pleads for him to back down along with the Girl, which he reluctantly does (at this point I’ve begun to film).

From there we were told that an owner is needed in order to issue us a refund, and that if we gave him our name and number, he promised to call and sort everything out the next day. I hand him my card, and tell him I’d be happy to discuss the situation on my podcast or in an article, to which he says “no no no!” and again promises to call me the next day and sort everything out. I have yet to receive any phone call.

video transcript: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sf99ZGUFhNY

B (fist cocked): Don’t take pictures of me, okay?!
G (stepping in): Hey hey hey!
C (stepping in): I’m sorry. We don’t have the authority to – I’ll tell you this right now, I can’t offer you $4 right now. I’m not in the position – I have to talk to the manager, or the owner.
E: Tell the manager that she was seriously was not allowed in there, and that HE was physically threatening us.
G: Can I talk to the manager
C: Ugh, she’s not in right now, but if you wanna give me your name and your number.

E: We’ll send her the video of him threatening us, and us being kicked out because she has a vagina and that’ll be fine.
C: No no no – I’ll tell you right now. Please give your phone # I’ll write it down right now.”[E gives C card]E: I’ll talk about it on the podcast and the articles I write and that’ll be fine.
C: Alright thank you. No no, we don’t – I’m Brian. Nice to meet you.
G: I’m not trying to be – We;re not trying to be threatening or ….. And the guy was gonna let Eric go in, and he told me I could not go, and the reason why is because of my vagina.
C: If you let me talk to you guys tomorrow. Like today is a very busy day for us.
E: Of course it is.
G: It’s a big day for everyone. We’re celebrating pride. We’re all celebrating pride.
C: I will give you a call tomorrow, I promise. I promise I’ll give you a call tomorrow.
E: I believe you.
C: And I will talk to you about this tomorrow.
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Eric Barry - Starving Fartist

Eric Barry - Starving Fartist

Eric Barry is a writer and comedy nerd, currently living in Brooklyn by way of San Francisco.

When he's not writing or podcasting, he can be found drinking beer, rubbing pesto on whatever will allow it, or doing improv/sketch/standup.