[Ed. – Bulwer-Lytton Prize-worthy opening-line candidates ensue.]
Wiggling through some faux-choreography with my co-hostess Monet X Change, I was startled by a sudden burst of screaming just beyond the stage lights. Then, swerving and stumbling, a romper-clad blonde woman crawled onto the stage. I assumed she’d leave when we ignored her bid to join the show, as such party girls used to do. But she stayed on, galvanized by wild cheers from her many girlfriends. She ignored verbal dismissals and the hisses of gay audience members. She ignored gentle pushes. Even when Miss Change (who stands about 6 feet, 2 inches in flats) picked the woman up bodily and tossed her away, she came jogging back. With the backing of her comrades, Miss Romper 2015 felt empowered to turn a gay haven into a straight jungle-gym.
As I struggled to regain control of my show, I thought, hey, haven’t I been fighting this fight a lot lately? I asked Ms. Change as we de-dragged later on. “Girl,” she said, “At least once a week now …”
Unlike straight men, straight women have always had a prominent place in gay bars. From divas and Broadway starlets to so-called fag hags, fruit flies, and princess fairies, they have been welcomed or at least tolerated. But whether they functioned as pull-toys or ring-leaders, they have usually come as guests of gays who can vouch for their status as queer allies. In the past, almost every girl has brought along a homo willing to serve as her “pass” (if not a crowd of homos). A few weeks back, I saw a woman march into a Chelsea bar at the head of a veritable gay herd, snapping open an enormous hand-fan to the cheers of onlookers. Now this is a girl in her element, I thought, as she gave a Paris-is-Burning turn and draped herself across the laps of her boys. Versed in the semiotics of gayness, she was instantly welcomed as a native.
More and more often, however, straight women are appearing in gay spaces in the way white downtown folks pop up to Harlem in the short stories of Langston Hughes—as enthusiastic but naïve, other-izing, and sometimes disruptive tourists. As aspects of gay culture are repackaged and mainstreamed and the divisions between homo and hetero worlds appear to collapse, the bachelorette parties and office sisterhoods that once tip-toed into neutral zones like cabarets and drag-dinner-theaters are now pouring into the gayest of spaces.