I Went To A Gay Bar By Myself And It Was (Almost) Totally Awful
Have you ever seen the film Weekend? The gay love story was released back in 2011, and it won a shit ton of awards, including the ‘Emerging Visions’ at the prestigious SXSW festival.
Basically (spoilers alert!) there’s a scene in it pretty early on where the lead character stops off at a gay club completely solo on his way home from a birthday party. Whilst in the club he meets a guy, they get it on, and essentially fall in love.
It was definitely a bit of a game changer compared with most other films I’d seen in the cinema. You know, what with two boys falling in love and everything.
Anyway, recently I had been at a birthday party. No prizes for guessing where this story is going… It was one of those things where you only know a few people, and even them you don’t know too well just yet. I’ve still not really been in Sydney long enough to cultivate a lot of ‘real’ friendships just yet. That, I’ve learned, takes a fair bit of time.
I’ve always known when I want to leave a certain situation. As a child, there was none of that forcing me to go to bed when I didn’t want to type of thing. Quite the opposite. As soon as I felt tired, I would poke my head into the living room and wish my parents goodnight. Simple. No fuss.
After a few conversations and a couple of drinks, and having had someone cry on me after they’d maybe drunk one wine too many, I felt like I’d stayed at this birthday for a reasonable amount of time. I wished everyone a good evening, made my exit, and jumped on the next bus headed towards my neighbourhood.
As I navigated the route home on Google maps and tried to work out roughly what time I would get back, I realised two things. Firstly, that it was actually a little earlier than I had thought, and secondly that the bus route actually went right through where a lot of Sydney’s gay bars are.
Weekend popped into my head. I suddenly remembered how the lead character had been at a birthday party very similar to the one I had been at earlier in the evening, and how his night had ended with love.
“Interesting”, I thought to myself.
I’ve never really been the biggest fan of gay bars. Partially – and I’m aware this will only make me sound like an old person – I just find them a bit too loud. You know, there’s the pushing and the shoving (which aren’t unique to LGBTQ+ bars), the (often) techno or disco blasting out of the speakers. Like I said, I sound like an old person.
However, I’ve also never really related to much of the culture of them. Sure, I understand their relevance, and the need for LGBTQ+ spaces, absolutely. I am most certainly grateful to all those in the past who fought for places like these to exist, and I am also the biggest advocate for everyone being able to just live exactly how they want to live. Undeniably.
But because I have relationships with men, does that mean that I want to spend my weekends watching the latest drag act in town, or taking my top off and dancing to techno beats into the early hours? Simply, no I don’t.
Sure maybe there are spaces that aren’t like this, and perhaps this is a bit of a generalization. But on the whole, that has largely been my experience and I’ve never really found that I relate to much of it.
“But damn it”, I thought to myself as I considered stopping off for one last beer before I headed home. “If the guy in Weekend can fall in love with someone in a gay bar, why can’t I?!”
It was on the way home. Plus, I am after all living in a city where I barely know anyone. No one needed to know if I didn’t want them to. Don’t I pride myself on my open-mindedness? Isn’t it sort of arrogant of me to assume that I wouldn’t meet any like-minded people in a bar like that? Don’t I value having different experiences in life?
At the very least, I would have a story to tell out of it.
I was still toing and froing about what to do as the bus pulled up to the stop outside the gay bars. I had told myself that if there was a big queue to get in, I’d forget about it and just head home. But there was no queue. I didn’t understand why something was stopping me.
“Won’t people look at me like I’m some complete weirdo?” I wondered. “Isn’t it just sad, lonely people who go to gay bars on their own.”
Then there was a beep, the bus doors closed, and we started driving away. I checked Google maps again, just to verify that I had missed the stop. That was it. I hadn’t gotten off, I’d chickened out.
And it was in that moment that something in me changed.
I realised that I would never judge somebody alone in that situation, because I think that everybody has their own story or reasons for doing what they do. Plus, I felt frustrated at myself for letting my fear win; I didn’t get off the bus because I was scared.
Something hurled me off my seat and towards the door of the bus. I pressed the button, we pulled over at the next stop, and before I knew it I was marching myself back towards the bars.
“No more letting the fear win! Push yourself out of your comfort zone! Stop making this a big deal, it’s just one bloody beer!” I told myself.
My heart was thumping in my chest as the bouncer handed back my ID and waved me inside. I bee-lined for the toilet, which at the time I put down to adrenaline but in hindsight I think was just the beer from earlier in the night catching up with me. I then ordered a drink from a barman with incredibly white teeth wearing a vest, sought out a corner of the room where I could stand on my own, and took a sip of my beer with my head held high.
I then kept sipping, and sipping, and sipping…
There was a table of four guys to my left who I could tell were talking about me. Two of them glanced my way. There was an old man chatting to a young guy whose body language indicated that he wanted the conversation to end. And there was a drag queen dwarfing everyone in her heels drinking a pint at the bar.
I felt happy, looking around, that all these people had a place that they could come to and enjoy themselves. That’s something everyone should have I thought to myself. But I also felt extremely uncomfortable.
Perhaps it’s because I still have some work to do myself in accepting myself. I know that I do.
Perhaps it was because I was on my own, or because (like I had thought) it was super loud. But that same feeling I had felt earlier at the birthday party came over me again: I wanted to go home.
I finished my drink in under ten minutes – which anyone who has ever been drinking with me knows I can’t usually do – and left.
In the short walk home I messaged my best friend back in London. I told her that I had gone to a gay bar by myself and that it was totally awful. But actually when I came to write this, I realize that it wasn’t totally awful.
I had made another step, a step towards living as authentically as myself as I can. I had overcome fear, which you know, they say you should do every day, and I had tried something new.
There’s nothing awful about that. In fact, it’s something that writing this today I feel quite proud of!