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Straight-Friendly Venues In The Gayborhood

As members of our community, I think it’s important that we know which establishments are known to be straight-friendly so that we know where we can safely introduce our straight friends to our community, and vice versa.

I have a lot of straight friends and allies who visit me from all over the world. Like my queer friends, my straight friends come from all walks of life. Some are born into religious households that wrongfully taught them “homosexuality is a sin.” Society has long told most of us that it is not okay to deviate from marrying the “opposite” sex. Yeah, you read correctly: Society tells us that men and women are of opposite sex and gender. They haven’t really caught up with modern gender and sexuality research that tells us there are other sexes and genders besides the dichotomy between male and female. Sad, but true.

Luckily for me, most of my straight allies are perfectly comfortable with all types of people in our community. Some have begun taking their first baby steps into our community. But still others have only recently started to crawl. They grew up with very limited and narrow ideas about sex, gender, race, religion, you name it! But they have slowly warmed up to the idea of diversity in all of these matters. Most importantly, they’ve “evolved” (yes, political pun intended) to accept that a person can have a different sexual orientation and/or gender.

Almost everyone in our community can relate to having a friend or a family member that fits this description. Our new allies may not be completely comfortable in an all-gay or all-lesbian or all-transsexual/transvestite setting.* My cisgender straight male allies may not feel very comfortable in a bar where there is a lot of cruising. Likewise for my cisgender straight female allies. And others may not even feel comfortable thinking about different gender expressions.

You know it, and I know it. Even straight people know it. There are places in the gayborhood that are not very welcoming towards straight people. But heterosexuals, you’re not alone in this unjust discrimination. There are venues that cater specifically towards gay men that are not very friendly towards lesbians. There are venues for lesbians that are not friendly towards gay men. Then, if that’s not enough, there are gay and lesbian places that are not very trans-friendly too. Yes, we discriminate even within our own LGBT community. It’s sad but true.

For the most part, if it’s a venue targeting gay men, it’s welcoming towards men in general. If it’s a lesbian venue, it’s welcoming towards women in general. I don’t look like your stereotypical butch lesbian so I look straight to most folks, even to those within our community. I am girly; I wear flowers and ruffles on my shirts, skirts and dresses, high heels, red and pink lipstick, etc. Until you speak to me, you may not even know that I identify as queer and I like women. You see, because I look straight, I know exactly which LGBT-friendly establishments are also straight-friendly. However, as a femme, I obviously know more about gay men’s establishments that are friendly to seemingly straight women. I know a little less about how a straight man will be perceived if he steps into a venue catering towards lesbians. On the other hand, I do want to point out to straight men that I wouldn’t suggest going to a gay or lesbian bar to pick up women. I’ll be honest: Us queer women kind of think you’re sleazy if you do this at a lesbian-friendly establishment. Yes, we can tell what your intentions are. Don’t be a creep. For the straight women, I imagine the sentiments may be similar if you’re going to an establishment catering towards gay men.

With all that said and done, let me recommend a few places in Chicago, five to be exact. Most of these venues are located in Boystown because I frequent Lakeview more often than I do Andersonville.

1. T’s Bar Restaurant

A lot of women who like women hang out here, but straight women are welcomed here. Straight men are welcomed too, to a certain extent. Most straight-seeming people (because in all honesty, I can’t know for sure what their sexual or gender identities are unless they tell me) are usually in the front part of the restaurant and bar. The general rule seem to be the queerer you are, the further back you’d most likely end up. T’s is great because it’s very laid back. Love sports? They usually feature a sports channel on their TV screens. There’s a pool table and a jukebox in the back. They also have karaoke on some nights. You’ll love it here.

2. Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club

I absolutely love taking my friends to Kit Kat. The entertainment value is superb. A lot of straight people go here for parties. It’s a great restaurant with a great martini menu. There is outside seating during the warmer months, where you can enjoy some great neighborhood people-watching. They have drag shows every night. Everyone loves it here, and it’s very non-threatening to baby allies.

3. Scarlet Lounge

I have a preference for lounges over dive bars and dance clubs, and Scarlet Lounge is one of my favorite places to go grab a drink in Boystown. Do you feel like dancing? Sure, they’ve got that too. That happens later in the night though as most dance places do. I like to come here in the early evenings before 10pm when all the bump and grinding starts on the dance floor.

 

4. Roscoe’s Tavern & Cafe

I’ll be the first to admit that I have two left feet and no sense of rhythm, but I love to go out for drinks and to dance with friends. Roscoe’s is a great place for both those things. They’ve got a great dance floor out in the back. They also have a little something for everyone– a pool table, karaoke nights, etc.

Oh, and yes, they serve food. I’ll try it some day and I’ll get back to you with my thoughts. What I do know is that like Kit Kat, they have outside seating during the warmer months.

5. Berlin Nightclub

This dance club is open until the wee hours of the night. Berlin is known as the last spot to hit in Boystown. Everyone is welcomed–lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, straights, etc. The dance floor is a little small, compared to Roscoe’s, but I’d say that Berlin gather a larger crowd of straight people than Roscoe’s does. There’s always a fun, diverse crowd at Berlin.

If anyone can identify other establishments that are straight-friendly to our straight allies, I encourage you to please do so in the comments area!

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* Sidenote for the politically correct: Yes, I am cognizant of my word usage. Transgender is the umbrella term to mean the opposite of cisgender, or not identifying with the sex you are born with. For some people, this is not necessarily a trait that you can obviously see. Agender or androgynous? Who could guess? Skirts have even surfaced for men’s Spring 2012 fashion! What is usually visibly-alarming to transphobes are the people in our society who may look like they’ve undergone a sex change. Thus, I chose the words transsexual (someone who has gone through a sex change) and transvestite (someone with a sexual fetish for dressing up in the usual fashion of the other sex for sexual pleasure).

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About JT

JT is originally from San Francisco, CA. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in psychology, focusing primarily on gender and sexuality research. Seeking a change in 2008, she moved to Chicago, and what a change it has been! She can been seen walking and yelping about various Chicago neighborhoods. JT identifies as queer and bisexual, and she is currently dating a straight man. She has an unapologetic love for civil rights, whether it’d be for racial, gender, sexual, or political socioeconomic equality. Occasionally, she volunteers with Howard Brown Health Center to promote safer sex in Boystown.

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