Remember all the fuss about gay bars banning bachelorette parties? The story erupted with Dawn Turner Trices's piece in the Chicago Tribune. In it, she wrote about Geno Zaharakis, the owner of Cocktail, putting a sign outside stating that the establishment would not welcome bachelorette parties. According to Zaharakis, watching straight women celebrate their upcoming unions was especially grating given that gay marriage is not allowed in Illinois. And, as anyone who has been within sloshing distance of a public straight bachelorette shindig knows, something really weird happens to straight women in the presence of gay men - they turn into drunken, pawing creatures from the Victoria's Secret Pink Lagoon and treat the men around them... much as drunken straight men treat women in their immediate vicinity in a bar.
Turner Trice's story prompted a lot of discussion, and most of it centered around the issue of gay marriage. But it set me thinking about the history of gay bars, and the different forms of exclusion practiced in and around them. After all, it wasn't too long ago when Chicago bars were constantly raided by vice squads, and there are raids practiced on gay establishments and/or or gay cruising areas to this day. At the same time, a lot of gay bars still perform implicit forms of exclusion by asking for forms of identification only from some, often people of color. Gay bars are often located in gentrifying or vastly gentrified neighborhoods, which makes them complicit, willingly or not, in economic purges that displace residents.
But there are also gay bars that are swept away in the rush to gentrify, the ones that cater to a clientelle that's drawn from their neighborhoods and that disappear once the developers have had their way. My recent piece in Windy City Times looks at such complicated histories of exclusion and inclusion, and places this story of bachelorettes and gays in a wider context.