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Girl in a Gay Bar: A Femme’s First Time

(This is part one in a series of Girl in a Gay Bar posts. Be sure to check out part 2 – Girl in a Gay Bar: Femme Fashion Edition.)

Hi, I have ideas about going to the gay bar as a femme! But before I bestow them upon you like the pearls of wisdom that they are, I’m going to share my very first gay bar experience with you. As further incentive, this story also includes my first girl kiss! I want to hear your stories too, so I hope you will share your first gay bar experience in the comments as well!

*******************

It was summer, I was living in an apartment with my teammates, and I wasn’t out to a soul.

I had spent the last several months haunting the website of the one bar in the city that had an exclusively lesbian night once a week. Over and over again I would return to the page, each time feeling a little jolt of adrenaline as the screen loaded. The homepage featured a video of one of the dance floors – I must have watched that thing a hundred times. All those women dancing together! It seemed impossible that such a place actually existed, that it was real, that there were hundreds of women there like me. The fact that all of this was just five minutes away baffled and excited me.

It was summer, I was living
in an apartment with my teammates,
and I wasn’t out to a soul.

But I couldn’t possibly go there, I thought. Who would I go with? What if someone I know sees me?

After months of allowing the fear to hold me back, I could take it no longer. I had to see this place for myself.

One Saturday night, I convinced my teammates I was staying in because I was too tired to go out. While they prepared for a night on the town, I pretended to get ready for bed: washing my face, brushing my teeth, getting into sweats. It was 12:30 by the time they left and I was finally alone. In a flurry, I got changed for the club, ran out the front door, and climbed into my Jeep. (Incidentally, his name is Travis, he’s a stud, and he’s the only man in my life.)

Femmes and folk, I was nervous. This was it. I was driving to a gay bar. All those days spent reading lesbian websites, all those hours pining for Kristen Stewart and listening to Tegan and Sara – that was all just in my head. No one in the world knew about that but me. Now reality was about to break in.

Be still my heart

Because I was driving myself there, I didn’t have the luxury of even a little courage in a bottle. I sat with the music off, in absolute silence, both hands vices on the steering wheel. I remember laughing to myself and repeating over and over, “Oh my god. I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

I was completely sober, and here I was driving myself to a bar that I had never been to, alone at 12:30 at night. No one even knew I had left. (This is just one more way homophobia endangers the lives of LGBT people. I was too scared to come out, so I took part in risky behaviors I ordinarily wouldn’t have dreamed of. PROMISE ME if you ever do go to a gay bar by yourself, you will wait until you have at least one friend you can inform of your location. Do as I say, not as I do!)

As I was pulling up, I could see the packed parking lot and the women spilling out of the club onto the back patio. Another shot of fear coursed through me. I parked, smiled at myself in the mirror, and took a deep breath.

At the door, I knew I would have to show my license (still under 21 at the time) and pay the $12 cover for underage patrons. I was prepared for all this because I had practically memorized the club’s website. What I wasn’t prepared for was the beating in my chest, the wads of cotton that seemed inexplicably to be filling my mouth, and the sudden sweatiness of my palms.

The woman checking for IDs lazily reached for mine. Suddenly my fingers wouldn’t work. My hands seemed to have grown three sizes, or maybe my wallet shrunk three but either way my fingers were tripping all over each other and then as if in slow motion I could see my wallet tumbling out of my hands in a swan dive for the ground before landing with a thud and spilling its contents across the floor. I could feel my cheeks flushing as I knelt down to scoop up my credit cards and receipts splayed out on the carpet. So much for playing it cool.

What I wasn’t prepared for was
the beating in my chest, the wads
of cotton that seemed inexplicably
to be filling my mouth, and the sudden
sweatiness of my palms.

When I finally made it into the club, I was no less intimidated. There were people everywhere – and they were all together. In groups or in couples, everyone had someone to talk to, dance with, and generally not feel like a loser with. Except me.

I sat down at a high bar stool table and pulled out my phone. I was too petrified to look around. And because none of my friends knew I was there or even that I was gay, I had no one to talk to. So I did something I’m not proud of – I fake texted.

I believe my inner dialogue went something along the lines of: “Oh my god, everyone knows I’m here alone. Everyone is staring at me thinking I am a huge creep… Wait a minute. No one is actually looking at me. Why is no one looking at me?? Am I not attractive to lesbians? F*ck, here comes someone. La di da, don’t mind me, I’m just looking at my cell phone, checking all my text messages from all my hot lady suitors… Okay, phew. They passed.”

This went on for an hour. I literally sat there, surrounded by sexy women and fun music, staring at a blank cell phone screen. It was getting late. The bar was going to close in 45 minutes.

Suddenly, something clicked in me. I stood up, mumbled “F*ck it” under my breath, and walked into the crowd of dancing lesbians.

Do you know how awkward it is to dance by yourself amidst a crowd of people all dancing in couples or groups? I’m pretty sure it’s up there in my nightmares with showing up naked to middle school and my teeth falling out of my face. But nevertheless, with a little help from my friend Fergie, I started dancing.

Then I saw her. I had never seen a real boi before, and this one was all abs in a sports bra and cargo shorts. She looked like she was having the time of her life and I was positive I had never seen anything like her in mine. I audibly said, “Wow.”

I stood up, mumbled “F*ck it”
under my breath, and walked into
the crowd of dancing lesbians.

I continued dancing with my eye on her for awhile, but I had no intentions of approaching. She was older and the hottest girl in the room and I was a babydyke alone at my first gay bar. So I let it go and just kept dancing. I couldn’t believe I was actually there, surrounded by other girls who like girls. In spite of my lonely awkwardness, it felt like coming home.

Then by chance, the hot boi and I made eye contact. She smiled. I smiled back. Then suddenly she was heading my way and I couldn’t believe what was happening.

She came up and said hi and we started dancing. Beyoncé’s “Get Me Bodied” was on, and I knew the whole music video dance to it, so the hot boi and I laughed and danced and laughed.

She shouted over the music to me, “You’re awesome!” There was such sincerity in her voice. It was years ago, but I know I will never forget that moment. My infant gay heart needed to hear those words right then. It was like she saw all my insecurities and doubts about being gay and being loveable, not only in spite of, but because of that part of me which I had been unable to share with a soul until I set foot in that bar, that night.

“So are you!” I laughed and shouted back. We danced together for the next half hour, until the lights came on and everyone was clearing the floor. The hot boi asked me my name and told me hers was Ines. Then she leaned in and gave me a peck on the lips; my very first girl kiss.

I never saw Ines again, but that didn’t matter. It was better that way, in fact, because I got to keep the memory of that night as a pure moment in time, untainted by future interactions. The kiss wasn’t romantic or sexual. Rather, it was as though Ines somehow saw me for what I was – scared, alone, excited – and she gave me what I needed in that moment. Like some kind of lesbian fairy-godmother, Ines showed me that I was going to be okay; that no matter how dark or scary the path ahead might be, this was where I belonged, and it was all going to be okay.

**********************

Now it’s your turn! What was your first experience in a gay bar like? If you haven’t been to a gay bar, WHY NOT? (Just kidding, but you should go. They are family fun for everyone – minus the family part.)

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Categories: Femme Theory, The Archives

22 Comments on “Girl in a Gay Bar: A Femme’s First Time”

  1. July 26, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    ha! I can’t even remember my first time at a lesbian bar (now, i will have to think about it all day!). but I am super positive I had a lot of liquid courage.

  2. July 27, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    I remembered (finally) —- My first time at a gay bar was around my 18th birthday and one of my gay friends wanted to check out this gay nightclub in NYC. I tagged along wearing the gayest outfit possible because I wanted the very few women there to know that I was not a fag hag but in fact a skirt chaser. I got trashed with the gay boys and I was practically eye raped by big thuggish lesbians waiting for the bathroom…

    Memorable isn’t it?

  3. j.
    July 28, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    I don’t remember my first time at a gay bar other than the feeling of it – it felt like coming home, as cliche as that is! I remember the first gay event I went to: it was a gay dance, and I definitely had to do a shot beforehand. I remember worrying about what to wear and “if I looked gay enough” as a new queer femme. I ended up having a great time, laughing and dancing with a bunch of friends.

  4. July 28, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    @the.writer.says and j:

    I experienced the same sensation in wanting to make sure I looked “gay enough” to fit in at the gay bar. I definitely went through at least three wardrobe changes trying to find something that I thought would make me recognizable.

    But that’s a good way to lose sight of yourself, you know? A topic for a future Girl in a Gay Bar post, I promise!

    • j.
      July 30, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

      oh i agree completely! now i embrace my femme identity, but for a long time i struggled with it and whether or not i looked ‘gay enough’. now i know i am recognizable; i make myself visible!

  5. Sarah
    August 2, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    Awww I loved this story. And I love Gallery!! I don’t really remember anything about my first experience there except for the part where I finally smooched the girl I had gone with. :) That part is very clear…

  6. August 6, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    Loved this post!! My first gay bar/club experience was my fresher week of university when I went along to the LGBT society night out. Luckily my straight female flat mate came along for moral support. I was already very out though and had a girlfriend at the time from my home town. As we were together my first year of university, it was not until my 2nd year that I went out and experienced trying to meet girls. As I went out with mainly gay guys, I was most likely always seen as the straight fag hag, but I would never change the way I dressed. My friend & I joked we would dress butch to see what the difference in attention we would get would be. We never did it though.

    M x

  7. Genny
    August 7, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    I love this part one post. Can’t wait to read part two. My gay bar/club experience took place during the summer when I was in Avignon. I ended up going with one of my straight friends. After about an hour, I spotted a boi and we later started talking (or at least had as much of a conversation you could ever have with the loud music in the background). My friend ended up leaving, but I wanted to stay. And so, I stayed. We ended up dancing and by the end I asked for her name and number. Normally, I wouldn’t ask a stranger for their number, but I figured it’s the summer. It ended up being one of those light summer flings.

  8. Justa Notha
    August 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    My first Lesbian bar experience was in Fort Collins–high off flirting with a bi girl in a straight club, I ambled into a Dyke club. I was dressed very femme, and felt extremely out of place amidst the small town Gay Cliques. I felt like people were glaring at me & the bar tender carded me when I ordered a coke!

    I drank my soda to bad Karaoke and didn’t go to another Dyke night for 5 years.

    • August 7, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

      What an awful first experience! I want to go back and give younger-you a hug!

  9. September 9, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

    I will admit, i haven’t been to a gay bar yet, and I really, really want to go. I am terrified tho b/c I am a BiFemme so I don’t even know if there’s a point to me going. I don’t want to be seen as a straight girl, which i’m not, but I have read some pretty scary stories online about how badly femme’s. and Bis are treated at gay bars. mostly about being ignored, or rude comments being said but that would be my worst nightmare. I wouldn’t know how to respond to such things, or even what to say… Guess I just need to find some courage and take the plunge…

  10. Beth
    November 6, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    I loved reading your story! It literally had my in tears when you were describing wanting to fit in, the anxiety, and then suddenly feeling like everything is going to be okay. I am not out and have never been to a lesbian bar but I can relate to reading blogs, and staring at pics of lesbian and women in genral, and wondering what it would be like! I have often wondered what exactly goes on and how other lesbians interact. I felt like I was right there with you entering the bar. I am not out to anyone and I hope my experience when I’m finally brave enough and willing will be Just as positive as yours!

  11. Yemaya
    January 8, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    That was a cute story. I have yet to go a gay bar, as the one around here is 21+, and I feel like trying to wiggle my way in won’t be as easy as with straight 21+ bars

  12. Tasha
    December 19, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    First off, I just want to say that I am so glad there is a site like this! I am from a small town where being gay just isn’t an option, and I have struggle with the fact that I know I am, but I don’t feel comfortable telling anyone. One of my straight guy friends is taking his sister and her gf to a gay bar next weekend, and he invited me along. I have never been to a gay bar, for one, and two, none of my friends even know that I am gay. Does anyone have any helpful incite as to how I should respond. I definitely want to go out and have a blast, but I’m not really sure how my friends would respond to me. Also, I don’t know that I would fit in. I’m not really sure what to expect, or what to wear out…..I don’t know! Help!

  13. Kaycultivate
    January 15, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    Unfortunately for me, my first gay club experience was a complete accident. My roommate from college came down to Florida to visit me, and we were bar hopping along the strip in Pensacola when we stumbled upon a green flashing sign and an overplayed pop song blasting from the club. We reached in to pay the way into the club when we noticed a huge gum ball dispenser filled with condoms. We looked at each other and laughed until we almost collapsed. That was until a big burly woman scooped me up and half carried, half dragged me to the dance floor with my friend in tow. I was handed a jello shot and we danced until it was time to go. I would have loved to plan a gay night out, but i had the rest of my life to succumb to the Bette/Tina lifestyle.

  14. Linds
    January 26, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    I’m goin to my first gay bar tonight for my 23rd birthday! I just came out and am suppppper excited guys ;)

  15. Ella
    January 29, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    How good is this site!?! Am so glad to find a place for femmes to feel a sense of community! My first gay experiences were with femmes, so I didn’t realise we are a minority. That u derstanding came from my first gay bar experience.
    I was going out with my girlfriend (the rest weren’t really relationships) but it was a bit unusual in that she had been out for years, and I was just emerging. I had no idea what to wear. My gay friends were all fairly androgynous, but I’m a heels girl, who can’t survive without mascara. I squeezed into my newest clubbing bod-con, and some extravagant heels, knowing whatever I picked was going to be wrong.
    Walking toward the club holding my bois hand, I felt her demeanour change, a sense of… Determination? Pride maybe? I don’t know what it was but I realised that it was going to be difficult for her too. This wasn’t a time to be self-conscious. It was a time to show my gorgeous gal a great time.
    I drank (way more than usual), met her friends, danced, laughed and then realised that no one cared, because they were too busy checking out my girl. Understatement. there was the chick in the corner who was so transfixed on her that my girl became uncomfortable, and the other one who waited until I went to the bathroom so she could ask for my girl’s number. What the hell? Aren’t LGBT communities supposed to be more respectful? Was I invisible? Isn’t kissing her and holding her hand an indication that she may be there with someone? Not to mention the insecurity that crept in when I realised that no one was checking me out. Do I need a sign that says “skirt wearer who likes what is under skirts”? The final blow came when on the dance floor I was having a great time with some friends of my girl that I had met two hours earlier, and the person who I am sure was the only straight guy in the place, asked to buy me a drink. Deflated. I left wondering what this all meant, and I still do at times. Were the people that I admired for being so openly gay, really expecting me to conform and adopt the andro/butch look in order to be recognised? Was I being too sensitive? Maybe we should start femme bars and clubs…

  16. January 30, 2013 at 1:40 am #

    Well, at the risk of telling all the world my age–not that THEY would care, but you know! My frist lesbian bar was in North Beach in San Francisco called “Mona’s Candlelight Cafe” the year was 19 mumble, mumble and I have to admit that I simply loved the place. Two floors, as I recall. Bar upstairs and show room down. Huge attraction was a gal who sang and told stories. She dressed in a man’s suit, but with a pleated skirt of the same material as the jacket. And a man’s tie. Intgerestingly enough, I still have two of those ties…….
    nr1cowgirl

  17. MV
    March 9, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

    Oh my goodness, I am loving this so so so much, not in small part because this is so similar to my own first gay bar AND first kiss-that-counted! I was way too old for either of these things to be firsts, totally terrified, and I had no idea what gay women do or don’t wear, therefore no idea what I should or shouldn’t wear. That last one was actually a mercy, because it meant I had no fears about looking gay enough, something I worry about lots now, lol, but that night I was so scared about whether or not the gay women would love me back that I just wore my standard LBD and let the chips fall where they may. (And ohhhh my goodness, that was a good call). So many fears – that I am too fat, too ugly, that girls would never like me – assuaged all at once. It was the first time I danced with a woman, the first time I kissed a woman, the first time I got someone’s number, all in two glorious, sweaty, magical hours. I smiled nonstop for a week afterwards.

    Most of all, I felt that I was exactly where I belonged, being exactly who I was made to be, on my way to the life that I was meant to live. I’ve always been a religious person, and that crazy glittery night was definitely one of the most intense religious moments of my life. Is it too weird to say God led me to a gay bar? Whatever – it’s true. I felt like God was saying “Here they are! The beautiful, amazing gay women you’ve dreamed of! Now go, start trying to find the one I made for you!”

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