Hello, my name is Tina, and I’m a lesbian.
Since joining the ‘Impulse’ family, I’ve had to come out quite a bit, and along with that, also explain why I, a carpet muncher, would be interested in joining a gay men’s sexual health organisation.
Firstly, I can totally understand the curiosity – though we’re all bunched together in this huge, messy abbreviation LGBTQI+, gay men and lesbians actually rarely meet in the wild, and why would we?
From our sexual preferences to our taste in music, it’s VERY different. Having been a bartender and DJ in both exclusive lesbian and gay venues, I’ve seen these differences first hand. I could never say this out loud in a gay venue, but guys, Kylie, Britney, Katy… GET OVER THEM!
Of course, that is a massive generalisation, I feel like I must insert a little ‘not all queers’ clause, but we do have very different interests and it does effect what we want from a night out. This has also effected the layout of queer venues, with them often being segregated into gay/lesbian areas – for example, the basement of ‘G-A-Y’ is for lesbians, and I haven’t been to ‘Heaven’ in a while, but the upstairs R&B room used to be the dedicated place for dykes as well.
There are also venues that are exclusive to women and their male guests, such as ‘SHE Bar Soho’, where I used to work. People would sometimes kick up a fuss about our door policy (the politics of which I’m not going to go into, otherwise this could get very long), saying that it was discriminating and that queer women shouldn’t segregate themselves from the scene.
Many others, like myself, don’t feel this way. Occasionally I will drag a gay friend to ‘SHE’, begrudgingly, because he doesn’t want to be there of course – he wants to be surrounded by dick, not lesbians! It’s really only straight men that cry about not being allowed in the venue without being escorted by a woman. Usually, lesbians feel very similarly about gay venues, though they are often more mixed (unless they are also exclusive). But I have become an exception to that rule…
After working in lesbian venue ‘SHE’ for over a year, I switched to its brother venue across the road, ‘KU Bar’, just for a change of scenery. I was worried, though, about leaving my loving, supportive sisters for these bitchy, cliquey gay men. I didn’t even realise I carried half of the prejudices I had, until they were all confronted and debunked by the beautiful gay men at KU.
I absolutely fell in love with them. I went from having very few gay male friends to a whole fucking herd! I became a fucking fag hag. I fucking hate fag hags.
I found myself becoming very protective over my brothers, and it extended further than the gay bar I worked in. Being the only woman in the venue, and arguably ‘femme’ looking, I was exposed to some things that the others weren’t. Occasionally, a straight man got very lost and found himself in the venue, they would always try and get me to serve them, and talk shit about gay men, seemingly to express their heterosexuality.
Depending on my mood, I’d sometimes allow them to dig themselves a massive hole before revealing I was also gay, to which they’d almost always say: ‘Oh I don’t mind lesbians! It’s just gay men I have a problem with, I just don’t get it etc. etc. etc’. Though lesbians have it far from easy, I realised, through my experience, how far we still had to go in the equality movement, and that it takes all sorts of allies to confront it.
Through working at ‘KU Bar’, I met Damien Killeen – a man of god-like beauty and also President of ‘Impulse London’. We had spoken about wanting to work together more in helping the gay scene. We saw, worked and lived in the party scene, and witnessed how… corruptive (probably a bad word choice but I’m gonna keep it) it could be, if gay men didn’t have supportive friends or someone to give them real advice about the scene, drugs and sexual health. So, when Damien came to me about working with Impulse, I had to jump at the chance.
Friends and regulars often come to the bar seeking support, feeling quite overwhelmed by the London scene – as fun as it is, it can also be quite intense! Most bar-tenders know that you often double up as a type of therapist, but sometimes (a lot of the time) I didn’t have all the answers. Impulse gave me the opportunity to learn more about the gay scene that is often not discussed widely, but is still common in the community, such as chem-sex, party drug use and the honest pros and cons of chems. Through this, I could then offer more personal support, and point them in the right direction of professionals, such as the wonderful David Stuart over at ‘56 Dean Street’!
Regardless of the differences between gay men and women, we are still fighting a very similar fight, and we have historically fought these together. From back at the Stonewall Riots, and now through organisations such as ‘Impulse’ (and many, many others). Support literally comes in all shapes and sizes, and I’m so excited to see how Impulse and our diverse team can play a role in that!