Actor Daniel Craig, who is straight, says he prefers gay bars to straight ones, and I have conflicting thoughts.
On the one hand, what’s the harm in letting allies into gay spaces? It benefits the LGBTQ community when other people see us living our lives authentically. We are no longer an abstraction; we are individuals.
On the other hand, gay bars have historically been safe spaces. It’s liberating and validating to know that you’re in a place where everyone can relate to and empathize with your genuine self.1 When you think about gay bars this way, straight visitors are akin to tourists, not residents. They’re there to take in the sights, but then have the luxury of returning to a world that accepts them fully. For them, the stakes are low. If the gay bar becomes less of a refuge for LGBTQ people, it doesn’t really affect them.
What’s the takeaway from Daniel Craig’s story? I don’t know. I want to welcome straight people into gay spaces, but I worry that doing so will alter the character of those spaces and make them less beneficial for the people they’re supposed to serve.
1 I once had a conversation with someone who said things were totally fine for LGBTQ people now because he saw a gay couple holding hands in a mall. I invented a new term that day to describe when straight people tell gay people what they should think: “straightsplaining.”