Letter to the editor re: Straight to the gay club

Comments on a story from a few weeks ago

I remember my first time at a gay bar. It was a magical experience. Club Renaissance was a local legend in the K-W community and seeing their doors close was heartbreaking. Two years later and rumors sparked that uptown Waterloo would be home to the city’s newest gay club. Finally, the substantial lack of LGBTQ+ friendly spaces in the K-W community was going to be lessened. It was great; The Order is a very fun space in which individuals of diverse identities can enjoy a more LGBTQ+ inclusive environment as opposed to the Phil’s and the Chainsaws of Waterloo.

As a queer student at Laurier, though, I have a few comments in regards to the edition of The Cord that was published on November 11th, specifically surrounding the Arts & Life’s piece on stereotypes and gay clubs. The Vocal Cords question of “What stereotypes are associated with gay clubs” was painful. If I was a student that only read the Vocal Cords section, the messages conveyed in the responses to the question are doing nothing but perpetuating harmful stereotypes.

After reading those Vocal Cords, I continued on to the article entitled Straight to the Gay Club, but my outlook was already grim. “Here we go again,” I had thought. “Another cis, hetero, white dude coming in to save the day and tell the LGBTQ+ folks how their ‘lifestyle choice’ is so exotic and alternative and cool.” But reading through the article I was pleasantly surprised. “Everyone was themselves. And that’s what partying is all about”, was a great message to convey. Similarly, the overall message of the video piece: “It’s a very welcoming environment … it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it’s sort of an environment that’s inclusive for all and I think that’s something that every bar can strive towards.” And I would have to agree. But there are a few bits about this piece in particular that I, as a queer student at Laurier, found a little troubling.

Although The Order is a bar that promotes acceptance and a safe space, I don’t want people to think gay clubs are a totally inclusive and welcoming environment — there are still very real issues of binge drinking, harassment and judgment that happen in gay clubs, just like it does at any other club. It is an unfortunate reality that comes with alcohol and party culture.

I submitted a Dear Life after reading the November 11th edition of The Cord because of my initial feelings towards how this topic was presented that week. I was really perturbed at the response a member of The Cord wrote back. I am a part of the queer minority the article was written about. I can understand the findings of this piece on the stereotypes of gay clubs were not meant to be eye-opening to the LGBTQ+ community (we already know that these spaces exist) but instead were for those who have a narrow view of a community that they are not a part of. However, I was more than displeased at the fact The Cord did not seem willing to engage in conversation with students whose identities were being represented in the article and video.

While the overall messages conveyed through the article and video were of a positive note, I found the voice of LGBTQ+ individuals largely underrepresented and instead read more about what other straight folks think of the gay bar in Waterloo. It is this kind of approach that is impeding on equal opportunity for learning and conversation between different groups within a broader community. While it can be important to have gay clubs that are catered to the LGBTQ+ community, there are other spaces that exist as inclusive environments for learning and conversation. The Diversity and Equity Office is a perfect example of that safer space on the Laurier campus. By no means can I say my opinions are the most correct, but in shutting down the opportunity to have a constructive conversation about issues that certain groups of people (in this case heterosexual and cisgender individuals) will never have to encounter, the privilege these populations hold is being used in an unconstructive way.

The article explored the stereotypes associated with gay clubs, but there is more to allyship than that. Part of my initial reaction was to write an opinion piece entitled Gay Girl Goes to the Straight Bar, but legitimately feared the backlash that would have received. Which brings me to the following point I hope individuals who do not identify with the LGBTQ+ spectrum will realize about the power of their privilege and the strength of their voice in a heteronormative, cisgender-normative society.

The article may have been able to open people’s eyes beyond the harmful stereotypes and for that I am grateful.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks stereotypes are irritating and I thank The Cord for their efforts in deconstructing some of the ones associated with gay clubs. However, I hope individuals who read the article that have the identified ‘straight frat boy, total bro” and similar privileges use them to be an active and effective ally for LGBTQ+ individuals outside of the club scene. Ultimately, I think that is more important than exploring the party culture at gay bars. Many people may not even be aware of the power that their voice as heterosexual, cisgender individuals holds in our society. These are just some aspects of one person’s identity that are beyond control. But what can be controlled is how that privilege is used. Instead of completely rejecting my comment in the Dear Life section, this could have been used as an opportunity to hear what the minority voice has to say about stereotypes associated with gay clubs; how they are harmful and what can be done to alleviate them, by people that are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and those who are not.

Before Pride seasons were parades and camaraderie, they were riots. LGBTQ+ people all around the world have been discriminated against, deemed as less than human and murdered, all for just existing. So, yes, gay clubs are a place that are inclusive and welcoming of anyone, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. I hope The Cord’s article about The Order showed many people the importance of acceptance, but also allyship because that is what marginalized populations need the majority community the most.

If anyone is unsure of how to be an ally, I have two crucial steps for success: ask that community what they need from you and remember to speak up, but not over. So I hope that while people cheers to drinks on Friday or Saturday nights, everyone remembers to speak up every other day of the week too.

–Karli Ferriolo

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