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Dan Savage: There Are 'Corners' of Gay Bars Off-Limits to Women

Alex Cheves and Dan Savage
Alex Cheves and Dan Savage

The podcast host discussed the sanctity of gay spaces with Advocate contributor Alex Cheves.


Dan Savage called it the piece "that launched a thousand posts on gay blogs": an op-ed titled "Dear Gay Men, Stop Telling Women They Can't Be in Gay Bars."

There was indeed much outrage in response to the article, which called men who didn't like women in gay bars misognyistic. "If you can't dance to some shitty house song or go down on a stranger just because a woman is in the room, you need to examine what that says about you, not call for that woman's removal," declared Rose Domuu.

However, Savage was impressed with one response to Domuu's piece in particular. In his most recent episode of Savage Lovecast -- a weekly podcast hosted by the sex columnist -- Savage brought on writer Alexander Cheves, who recently penned an op-ed for The Advocate, "Straight Folks, There Are Some Spaces You Don't Belong In."

"The fact is, everyone needs permission to be in bars that don't cater to them. You are a guest. There are cultural zones for certain demographics that are intentionally exclusionary -- not out of hate, fear, or prejudice, but because everyone deserves space, and you must respect it," Cheves wrote.

In the episode, Cheves expanded upon the ideas from his commentary piece by pointing out how discrimination has limited the places where queer people can feel safe in the real world. Responding to the author of the piece, Cheves said, "She does say in 2017, straight women can go anywhere. My biggest criticism is -- I'm sorry, gay men can't. We can't go anywhere."

As an example, he recountered how a woman called the police after wandering into the back room of his local Atlanta gay bar, the Heretic. The incident led to the establishment getting rid of the space, where gay men had cruised, because they had been historically shut out of heteronormative places.

"If you get catered to almost everywhere you go, landing in a place where you aren't catered to can fell like you're being discriminated against," Savage remarked.

"It becomes a problem when you try to threaten or change it, or honestly, when you just disapprove of it," Cheves said.

The pair also discussed how, in addition to barging into spaces that might make them feel uncomfortable and demanding they change, clueless straight people can also treat queer patrons of a gay bar like animals at a zoo.

"I'm not a sideshow attraction," Cheves said. "And that's often what it feels like. They may not intend to make us feel like we're a spectacle, but when you do flood the gay bar and you're in fact not gay, it does create that idea that you are a piece of entertainment. And that makes me feel inauthentic."

The pair ultimately came to the conclusion that it was wrong to say women should be banned from gay spaces. However, Savage added a caveat.

"Straight women, you are welcome in gay bars. You are not welcome in every single corner of every single gay bar in the world," he said. "And if you like gay people, and that's why you're in a gay bar, be thoughtful about that and respectful of the aspects of gay culture that you as a woman may or may not understand fully."

Listen to the conversation below. And don't miss Savage Lovecast, where listeners can ask Savage their own sex questions.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.