Trans+ in a “Queer” bar

Queer spaces, such as LGBTQ+ bars, should be a place where I and my other trans+ friends feel acknowledged and comfortable.

I attended a drag show Saturday night, per usual, expecting to have a few drinks and watch some performances with my friends. This happened, but something else did as well.

As I drank my beer and watched a drag queen perform to a 2000s era song, I took more notice of the performers and patrons of the bar. At 23 years old and 7 years out as some shade of queer, I just learned the history of drag culture a few months ago. Drag has become mainstream and commercialized as entertainment at local queer bars that are frequented by non-queer folk and through Ru Paul’s Drag Race. This is unsettling for me as it has also been taken over predominately by white, cisgender, gay men. Performers should know the history of drag and how the roots are in ball culture with trans+ people and queer people of color (watch Paris is Burning) And I doubt even half of the audience knew about the history of drag.

I lost count of the number of times I heard the drag queen hosting the show say “Ladies and Gentlemen”, completely erasing my non-binary and gender non-conforming friends. As the night went on this annoyance built up as this is supposed to be a place where trans+ and GNC folx are validated.

As I navigate to the bathrooms I am met with the choice of “men’s” or “women’s” and although this does not affect me as much now that I “pass” as a cisgender male, I empathize with my GNC friends who still do not have a place to pee. Then I hear how the bartenders are calling out the first names on credit cards, ignorant of the fact that they are “outing” trans+ people.

Last week I watched the newly released series, When We Rise, which chronicled the history of the LGBT rights movements in the 1960s-2015. This series sparked the need to learn about queer history myself as a queer and trans+ person.

I should note that I am from a mid-size city in the upper Midwest that is predominantly white. And I am a white, bisexual, trans man. I can hear the critiques use the excuse that I am in a white town so I should expect to see mostly white drag performers, okay. But what excuse that will not work is excusing the ignorance of the language used be the host, bartender, and the establishment with gendered restrooms. And the reason to not excuse that behavior is not only because of how it is a bar for lgbTQ+ people, but also for another reason that would be a whole other post.

Oh, and one more thing, transgender is not a noun (the drag queen host did not know this apparently). “Transgendered” is not a word. We are trans+ people. Transgender is an adjective.