Guerrilla Queer Bars in their midst
The scenario reads like every gay man’s fantasy. You’re sitting at a bar, sipping suds and minding your own business. All of a sudden, hundreds of LGBTs walk in and essentially take over the place -- owing to the size of their group and the inherent fabulousness of its members. All of a sudden, your chances of making a new Friday night friend have increased dramatically.
Now, imagine you’re a straight person - in a straight bar - and that same crowd of queers has shown up unannounced and in numbers overwhelmingly disproportionate to the heterosexual clientele. How would you feel: indignant, indifferent, or some place in between?
Now, imagine you’re the bar owner. What sound would you be hearing; the cash register going ka-ching, ka-ching?
The Guerrilla Queer Bar movement has inspired all of these reactions - and more - among their participants, the merchants who benefit from their patronage, and the patrons who unexpectedly find themselves in the middle of a group action that’s part party, part social statement, and part social lubricant designed to grease the wheels of gay/straight understanding.
A little history
But first, a quick sense of history and education as to the origins of this grassroots movement. At the granddaddy archive site you’ll find a mother load of information on the Guerrilla Queer Bar’s formative years and original mission statement. There, founders acknowledge that their modest local movement has inspired (or, more accurately perhaps) "created a monster. Since half-assedly launching this site in May, 2000, several groups in other cities have decided to duplicate the concept in their neighborhood." To date, U.S. hepcats-turned-copycats have realized their own Guerrilla Queer Bar movement in cites including Austin, Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, NYC, Philadelphia, Portland (Maine AND Oregon), San Diego, San Jose, Seattle and. . .more.
The original describes itself as "a combination of flash mob and the French Revolution. Only gayer. Once a month, (usually on the second Friday), we take over the coolest straight bar we can find in the greater Los Angeles area. We don’t tell em we’re coming - we’ll just show up - by the hundreds - and make ourselves at home."
The L.A. organizers seek to "create an alternative scene for folks who crave something different from what West Hollywood or the club circuit have to offer. . .Our ideal crowd is more diverse than your average bar - punks and twinks, bears and guppies, students and seniors - and, best of all, folks without a convenient label. Follow this link to sign up for their email list./.
At the San Diego branch of the national Guerilla Queer Bar network asks "When was the last time you did something revolutionary? The last time you had a beer? How about the last time those were the same thing?" Readers are encouraged to "Become one of our freedom fighters. . .at a local bar."
Although its claim of turning "socializing into social activism" lies somewhere between truth and hyperbole, these Guerrillas certainly have succeeded in taking gays and lesbians out of their usual gay ghetto haunts and into the heart of mainstream heterosexuality - the so-called "straight bar." And so, one night during the first week of each month, the San Diego organizers arrange for LGBTQ people to "descend on an unsuspecting straight bar and turn it gay for a night." Their purpose in doing so is threefold. First, to demonstrate to San Diego that "we will not retreat to our safe spaces after the passage of Proposition 8. Second, the let people know who "we" are in a fun and inclusive manner; and third, to "broaden our community’s horizons and enjoy ourselves at a fabulous gay-bar-for-a-night" event.