Sunday, January 03, 2010

Our community

The Eagle benefit was financially successful, but it brought group tensions to the surface. Many of us were grossed out to find ourselves surrounded by the apolitical scenesters who never came to our demos, swarming around us in a sea of beer. But we did get excited when someone noticed a newspaper ad promoting an event for our good friend Gavin Newsom, his own benefit one week later at the LGBT Center. And, get this -- Newsom’s Valentine’s benefit was called “Hot Pink” -- what a great opportunity for outfits! Maybe we could use the benefit to get the word out.

While I attempted to announce the upcoming festivity, Eagle staff turned off the sound on the microphone, telling me that I was too loud, my queeny voice too irritating. Louder and more irritating, apparently, than the three bands performing that evening. I told the bartender that we weren’t just there to make money for their bar, we actually wanted to promote our actions. He told me: “you need to stop prancing around in here.”

I was enraged; I went over to Brodie and told him the story, but he just stared at me with a drunk, glazed look in his eyes. I guess we were still friends afterwards, I mean our relationship looked the same from the outside, but I didn’t believe in it anymore. Later that night, after a femme friend in a band confronted the manager, he came up to me and explained that the Eagle didn’t allow people to announce outside events. When I told him that was ridiculous, he pushed me halfway across the bar, forcing me out the door.

Worse than the incident at the Eagle was the unwillingness of many at Gay Shame meetings to critique the Eagle -- they’re part of “our community,” their logic went. Since we had formed Gay Shame specifically to expose the violence that lurks beneath that type of rhetoric, it was particularly unnerving to hear it at our meetings. As I was fond of repeating, I’d spent plenty of time getting smashed in horrible gay bars, but I never thought they were my community.

Kelvline was incensed; she wanted to organize an action against the Eagle. She was obsessive about it. When we were alone, our eyes would get wild and she would say Mattilda, what are we going to do about it? What, I would say? The Eagle, she would say, what are we going to do?

Several people went to talk to the manager on behalf of Gay Shame -- I thought it was just a way to make them feel better about themselves, but I didn’t fight the proposal. That’s how consensus works -- you agree to some things you aren’t interested in. Kelvline said the manager kept repeating that he was just a big guy, and that was how big guys behaved. I was annoyed that everyone was treating the whole thing as an isolated incident that happened to me, rather than an example of how women, queens and other people perceived as feminine were treated at leather bars all the time. I wasn’t interested in protesting the Eagle because of what happened to me. I wasn’t interested in protesting the Eagle at all, why give them any more attention? But if we were going to organize an action, I thought we should hold the entire culture of leather bars accountable. It disturbed me that hardly anyone else seemed to share this analysis.

No comments: