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July 29, 2005

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Volume 33
Issue 30

 
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General Gayety by Leslie Robinson
A bar that rounds up everybody
It's pretty easy to criticize Gay bars. They feed our community's extravagant substance abuse problem, for a start. But for all the concerns about much of our culture being bar-focused, there's no doubt these clubs perform more of a service than slaking thirst. More of a service, even, than providing that libationary delicacy, the Jell-O Shot.

Perhaps ever since ancient Chinese eunuchs gathered on the sly for Bloody Marys, the Gay bar has served as the place for LGBT people to gather and actually be themselves. The sheer relief of dropping the mask! Of schmoozing and cruising with your boozing!

And beyond that, Gay bars can be bastions of inclusiveness, as I was reminded last week during a trip to Texas. My friend and I walked into the Round-Up Saloon in Dallas on a Thursday night, and she steered me toward the dance floor to get a good look at the country dancing. It wasn't long before my can't-we-all-get-along heart set to thumping.

A petite man who appeared to be from Southeast Asia was decked out in baseball cap, Western shirt, a belt with a rodeo-sized buckle, Wranglers and cowboy boots. This cowpoke wheeled around the floor with a Hispanic fellow. In the middle of the gliding couples a Latina instructor wearing a mic delivered reminders. She's straight, I was told. How's that for inclusiveness?

My white friend introduced me to a handsome African-American man who goes to her church. While that happens to be my favorite euphemism for being Gay, in this case I really do mean he goes to her church. He told me he's not from this part of the country. He clearly has warmed up to it, though, heading for the dance floor when the instructor commenced to teaching a line-dance. When I looked over later, he had mastered the steps.

I wouldn't have. I'd still be working on getting my boots on. When it comes to inclusiveness on the country dance floor, include me out. For everyone's well-being.

As an employee of the bar walked by, looking like a black John Wayne, I tried to remind myself that the bar was still mainly white, that I shouldn't make the Caucasian mistake of claiming splashes of color equal true diversity.

Still. It was hard to look at the folks on the dance floor and not get weepy in my Corona, and then my Heineken (I was drinking inclusively too), that this is something we Gays can get right. In the case of the Round-Up Saloon, it's great, not to mention amusing, that this thoroughly white, notoriously straight, down-home music and dance culture is serving to bring together homos of every hue. Yeah, doggie.

Well after we departed, I learned two things: the Round-Up Saloon is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and in its early years, it was accused of discrimination by prohibiting customers in open-toed shoes. An apparent scheme to keep drag queens out? No, women.

That policy is history. On the Thursday I visited, there were a number of women, most Gay, some not. It may be a men's bar, but it's one of those men's bars where women feel comfortable.

As to whether any women wore open-toed shoes, I couldn't tell you-my interests are all located higher.

In its olden days, the Saloon required multiple IDs from women. Over on the left coast, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors has accused a Gay club of taking that and other discriminatory actions against Blacks. The establishment is called Badlands. Talk about a Western name. If the club is guilty, the owner should travel to the Lone Star State and visit the Round-Up Saloon, where some real cowboys have got it right.

Or else he should be fined within an inch of his chaps. I'm easy.



Leslie Robinson is a non-bar type who likes bars. E-mail her at LesRobinsn@aol.com, and read more columns at www.GeneralGayety.com.
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