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New York: Yea. Bachelorettes: Nay.

2011 June 30
by Genya Shimkin

On Friday night, when I first heard about the passage of marriage equality in my home state of New York, I was at a cook-out in Baltimore, in a large group that included just two heterosexuals: a pro-equality Army captain and a neuroscience graduate student at Johns Hopkins.  We were a loud, excitable, and endlessly joyous crowd, and when our host pulled out his iPhone and announced that the bill had passed, there was much celebration.  I immediately called my dad and younger brother in Albany (they were both thrilled) and soon received a text from my Brooklyn-based older brother: “great news.”

Great news, indeed.  On Friday night, New York became the first state in the country where a Republican-controlled legislative body approved either same-sex marriage or civil unions.  The four Republican state senators who put politics aside and voted for equality are owed a huge debt of gratitude.  This kind of courage is extremely rare these days.  Without their votes, the bill would have died in the Assembly, which has approved the measure in four of the past five years.  There was much to celebrate.

So on Saturday night, my lady and I headed out to one of Baltimore’s big gay clubs.  Figuring that much of the crowd had headed to New York City for pride weekend (we considered going but thought better of it), we thought we’d just go grab a drink and head home early.  As soon as we settled into a spot where we could sip our drinks and watch the go-go dancing twinks, they arrived: bachelorettes.  Three separate bachelorette parties, complete with sashes, tiaras, and blinking “diamond” rings.

I despise this trend.  It’s offensive.  Gay bars and clubs were born out of a history of discrimination and oppression. They were places where people who were literally tortured for who they were could seek solace, company, and community.  These days, gay clubs are places of celebration, where LGBT people come together to share the joy of this community.  Somewhere along the way, though, gay bars and clubs become a bachelorette party destination.  Perhaps it’s the promise of hot, hard-bodied men who know how to dance but won’t hit on you.  Or the thumping bass and cocktails (pun mostly intended).  Or any number of stereotypes.  Either way, it’s annoying.

When you and your six straight friends show up at a gay club to celebrate your impending nuptials, it reminds us, in a very in-your-face way, that we cannot get married in 44 states.  And when you grind on a young gay man to Lady Gaga because your fiance “won’t feel threatened,” you further “other” us and our sexualities.  And when you get drunk and stick sweaty dollar bills into a go-go dancer’s underwear and try to kiss him, it’s kind of gross.  Do you even support gay rights?  Do you know what we’re fighting for?  What we’re up against?  Do you have any idea how badly some of those couples on the dance floor want the security and stability that you get when you marry your man tomorrow?  Do you care that your marriage license entitles you to 1,300 rights and privileges guaranteed by the FEDERAL government, while the licenses we can get in six states are recognized and honored in fewer than 10? (As a disclaimer: yes, I realize these bachelorettes could be queer-identified, and yes, I realize that not all gays want to marry.  But I believe both are in the minority in this instance.)

I absolutely believe that we in the LGBT community need our straight allies, and I believe that LGBT history is human history.  I want kids all over this country to know who Harvey Milk was before they graduate high school.  I want my kids to grow up in a world that isn’t so divided between black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight.  I want all of us to stop essentializing, stereotyping, and mocking each other.  But I also want to go to my favorite gay bar, drink a beer, dance with my favorite queers, and not constantly be looking over my shoulder for a bachelorette who will inevitably spill her cosmo on my fly new kicks.  Is that too much to ask?

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