Minibar (Clayton Hauck / )
The first time I went to a gay bar was after my senior prom. My friends and I were tired of seeing our classmates drunkenly grind on each other and decided to go to the gay clubs in Nashville since they were 18-plus.
Right when we walked in, we headed straight to the dance floor. A few minutes into dancing to the Pussy Cat Dolls' "When I Grow Up" club remix, I noticed a guy sandwiched in between a blonde girl and slick gel-headed boy. I remember thinking, "Wow, a bisexual!" (I was still very new to being gay.)
Suddenly, I saw his face: It was my "straight" best friend. After kissing his male dancing partner's neck, he looked up to catch me staring and then ran to away to the bar. f I have learned anything since that moment, it is that he isn't an anomaly. There are lots of "straight" men at gay bars ... all of them for different reasons. And you should get to know three of them:
Gay bars are notorious for hiring straight men to work the door. I think that by hiring them, owners think they won't have to worry about them sleeping with a majority of their clientele, thus not getting involved in any potential drama. Plus, there also seems to be this exotic factor to having shirtless straight men at your local gay bar checking IDs. Through my years, I have learned that these guys are some of the nicest you'll meet at the bar. I have also learned they are the quickest to flirt with gay men just for the hell of it. (Oh hai, Chandler at Minibar! *waves*)
Since I have been in Chicago, I have figured out that the cool thing for straight men to do isn't playing sports or marrying a supermodel, but instead it's living with a gay dude.
Exhibit A: My roommate. He is a great--too great, actually—and all my gay friends love him. They bring him up incessantly. Over the years, he has become fluent in all things "gay" and, as a result, has become comfortable—sometimes too comfortable—accompanying me to Boystown bars.
The reason? He's learned that sometimes, the one thing some women love doing more than dancing with a gay guy who doesn't want to sleep with them is dancing with a straight guy who does—right in front of a group of gays who want to sleep with him.
The Closet Case
This is the guy who comes in with his girlfriend who just loves all her gay friends and casually flirts with all the guys, all for "fun." Flirting is all nice and dandy, and it doesn't mean one is gay. But The Closet Case is the guy who has one hand on his girlfriend's shoulder and the other on some random guy's butt, which is not OK.
Recently, I was out with some friends and this straight couple befriended us. After a few drinks and an hour of the boyfriend giving me all the attention, he announced that we needed to have a "hug fight." He reached across the table and embraced me while his girlfriend laughed. He even invited to me to lunch the next day with a wink.
The girlfriend pulled me aside before they left, asking, "Isn't he great?" I responded, "Oh, yes! Totally!" because I heard, "Isn't he gay?" I didn't realize my mistake until it was too late and they had left.
I am sure I will get my chance again, because the one thing more abundant than vodka in Chicago's gay bars is a good ol' closet case.
Zach Stafford is a RedEye special contributor.