Queer New York TikTok was in an uproar recently over an incident at Cubbyhole, a famous lesbian bar in Manhattan. The conflict — between straight people and a lesbian — has sparked discourse over who belongs in queer spaces.
As what usually happens with interpersonal problems aired out online, one party made a video about their side of the story, causing another to step in and give additional context. The former is TikTokker Lexi Stout, a straight woman who went to Cubbyhole after a lesbian friend invited her. A straight male friend then came and joined them. According to Stout in a TikTok posted in late January, a stranger (lesbian) came up to him and asked what he was doing there.
“As a straight woman in a gay bar, and also a straight woman who goes to a male gay bar,” Stout said, “I’ve never felt like that before.” She described feeling uncomfortable — especially because gay men were at Cubbyhole — and at the end of the video asked if straight men are allowed at gay bars. The TikTok, titled “My First Lesbian Bar,” has over a million views and 8,000 comments at the time of publication.
In early February, the stranger stitched Stout’s video with a response. @im.that.lesbian, identified by Gothamist as Katie Pypes, posted that she was “that lesbian” from Cubbyhole, and stated her side of the ordeal. Mashable has reached out to both Stout and Pypes for comment.
Pypes was waiting for the bathroom and the straight man was in the way, she said. Since he seemed “grumpy,” she asked if he was with anyone; he pointed at his friend. Later, he asked if he wasn’t here with anyone if it would be a problem, and Pypes said yes. The group of friends — including Stout and the man — started “coming at” Pypes, who said she wanted nothing to do with straight people which is why she was at Cubbyhole in the first place.
Pypes said that she’s seen straight men come into queer spaces, like Cubbyhole and Henrietta Hudson, another lesbian bar, as well as famed gay bar the Stonewall Inn, to pick up women. The ask was a safety check, Pypes said.
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“You should keep in mind that there are very limited spaces especially for lesbians and queer women where we can feel safe.”
“If you’re going into a queer space, you should be respectful of that, and you should keep in mind that there are very limited spaces especially for lesbians and queer women where we can feel safe,” Pypes said. She then mentioned and tagged the Lesbian Bar Project, which supports and amplifies lesbian spaces. That video has nearly four million views and 10,000 comments at the time of publication.
We don’t know exactly how this particular situation went down, as we’re going off of Stout’s and Pypes’s recollections, but the court of public opinion is siding with Pypes. I’m inclined to as well. One reason is certainly the dwindling number of spaces dedicated to queer women that Pypes identified. According to the Lesbian Bar Project’s homepage, there were around 200 lesbian bars in the U.S. in 1980; now there are fewer than 30. If you’re in Brooklyn you may know that a few bars that cater to queer women have blessedly popped up recently — like The Bush and Mary’s Bar — but reaching ’80s levels is going to be an uphill climb, especially outside of New York.
There were around 200 lesbian bars in the U.S. in 1980; now there are fewer than 30.
Stout’s video raises the question of why straight people want to be in our spaces at all. Because of the good music? Because it’s a novelty? (Recall Stout’s video title of “My First Lesbian Bar,” as if it’s some exotic experience.) Because, at least for straight women, they don’t have to worry about straight guys creepily trolling the dance floor for the next person to dry hump? (At this rate of straight guys entering lesbian bars, they will have to worry.)
There are no “rules” that say straight people aren’t allowed in gay bars (which is a question Stout asked in her video), but there’s no doubt queer spaces are by and for queer people. They’re meant to be places where queer people can feel safe and meet others like them. They’re places where they can be authentically themselves surrounded by their own community. Straight people may visit, but it’s queer people who are the regulars.
What Pypes described — straight men going into queer spaces purposefully to hit on women — is exactly the type of interaction these spaces are meant to protect people from.
“He’s probably never gonna go back there again because it really wasn’t worth the drama,” Stout said of the straight male friend. Good!