The Great Erasure

Sue Donym
Sue Donym
Oct 17 · 24 min read

When you see dead grass on your lawn, it may not actually be dead. Many species of grass go dormant when faced with adverse seasonal conditions. The grass may appear to be dead, but the roots are still alive, and when the right season returns, the grass grows back, resplendent and green. Your lawn is saved.

But sometimes, the dead grass you see might just be dead. It’ll never come back resplendent and green, and the owner of the lawn is a failure to the homeowner’s association on your street, who are definitely going to put passive aggressive letters in your mailbox about ‘nice lawns’ and ‘my property values’. The lawn-owner failed to maintain the lawn, and now has a bunch of dead grass and letters in 11-point Calibri font outlining their failure. You decide you’re sick of the lawn, and replace it all with astroturf. Fake grass yes, but it will never die. Of course, the fact that it will never live to start with seems to go past the lawn-owner. They have a maintenance free lawn that looks nice!

I’m not going to stretch the metaphor any more. The LGBT community is the deceased lawn, I’m the passive aggressive middle-aged woman who always seems to appoint herself a deputy of Neighborhood Lawns PD, and the owner of that lawn is LGBT community organizations, who’ve neglected the lawn. The lawn is dead. The lawn got replaced with astroturf. It’s now fake grass.

What’s my point here? Across the Western world, and particularly in America, LGBT organizations have, since at least 2012, been taking in vast amounts of funds, as we covered in our story Inauthentic Selves. The latest data from Funders For LGBTQ Issues(FFLI) shows that that trend continues, as we can see in their 2017 Tracking Report. The amount of money in total given internationally to LGBTQ issues increased to $183 million, excluding donations and grants for the Pulse nightclub shooting. The top donors are still organizations like Arcus Foundation, Ford Foundation, Gilead Sciences, the Gill Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations. Gay men received 6% of ring-fenced funding specifically for them, and lesbians 3%. Transgender funding increased from $22.4 million dollars to $32 million dollars, a huge increase — almost a fifth of all LGBTQ funding is specifically ring-fenced for transgender issues, which is highly disproportionate to their actual numbers in the LGBT community. Domestically, the numbers look worse for lesbians — in terms of domestic funding from these organizations, lesbian funding decreased from $3 million to $2.3 million, receiving only 2% of ring-fenced funding, while gay men had an increase from $5.9 million to $8.2 million, from 4% to 6% of ring-fenced funding. But both are dwarfed by transgender funding, which increased from $16 million to $22.5 million spent domestically.

Where did that money go? At least domestically, FFLI gives us a breakdown. 38% of that money went towards ‘civil rights’. We get told 19% of this ($25.6 million) went to ‘Civil Rights(General)’, whatever that may mean. 6% went specifically went towards ‘Gender Identity Rights’, which is around $9 million. 4% went towards ‘Nondiscrimination Protections’. Smaller amounts, under 3% of total funding, went towards ‘immigration and refugee issues’, ‘religious exemptions’, and ‘criminalization and criminal justice reform’. What those may necessitate is left unexplained.

But what I find interesting, is that 20% of that money went towards ‘Strengthening Communities, Families, and Visibility’. I read through, and find that 9% of that money went towards ‘Community Building and Empowerment’, 3% towards ‘Religion’, 1% to ‘Strengthening Families’, and 8% towards the nebulous sounding ‘Visibility’.

And in terms of grant-making to organizations by ‘LGBTQ organizations’, only 10% of that funding went towards ‘Grassroots Community Groups’, with the plurality of grants(41%) going towards advocacy organizations. While 29% went towards ‘Service Providers’, including 12% of that to community centers, something seems a little off. ‘Non-LGBTQ organizations’ made 6% of their grants towards ‘Grassroots Community Groups’, and of their 26% of funding that went to ‘service providers’, only 1% went to community centers.

US foundations donated $48.5 million out of that $185 million internationally, the with most of that going to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Of course, you might be asking what the relevance of all these percentages, and dollar amounts are for. See, while the funding increases, and advocacy organizations currently have three cases before the Supreme Court as I write this, the actual grassroots community is, well, dying, across the Western world.

This is particularly evident in two ways: the actual grassroots participation in activist organizations, which is on a massive decline, and in actual physical spaces for LGBT people — specifically, gay bars.

You Must Construct Additional Activists

The 2018 Annual Report of the Human Rights Campaign in garish blue and yellow colors, proudly boasts it registered more than 32,000 voters (seems a little low?), drew more than 200,000 visitors to it’s 2018 voting guide (almost as many views as this six second clip of Brett Favre awkwardly clapping for Caitlyn Jenner winning ‘Woman Of The Year’), 4,200 volunteers who put in 30,000 hours at more than 2,200 volunteer events nationwide (that’s 7.14 hours per volunteer, and 0.5 events attended per volunteer), and knocked on a total of 84,873 doors in the ‘final days’ of the 2018 midterms, having more than 37,320 conversations at doors and on phones (that’s a wee bit misleading to include phone calls?), trained 1,600 local advocates as volunteer leaders (that doesn’t seem to be much if they’re included in the 4,200 volunteer number above?), sent 7.2 million emails to ‘mobilize’ members and supporters in ‘key districts’, released 100 ‘compelling videos’, reaching 5.1 million voters, and sent 500,000 texts to ‘get out of the vote texts’ from ‘hundreds of volunteers’ to HRC supporters and Equality Voters in key states (assuming 500 volunteers texting, that’s 5,000 texts each, and I’m betting it was automated)and also they raised $66 million dollars for both the Human Rights Campaign and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and wait, a minute, what?

You’re a $66 million organization that is boasting of having 4,200 volunteers nationwide (helpful reminder: these volunteers averaged 7.14 hours of work,) work on your election campaigning? Wait, what? Let me explain how 4,200 approximates to ‘fuck all’ in political terms. Bernie Sanders, preparing for the 2020 Iowa primary, has signed up 25,000 volunteers in one state. Hillary Clinton’s campaign had 55,000 volunteers knock on doors nationally, in a single weekend in September. Ahead of the 2014 midterms, Pew Research released the results of a poll saying 5% of Americans were campaign volunteers, which is millions. 4,200 volunteers works out to roughly 84 volunteers for each state. Now, maybe all those volunteers were all in California or New York, but that’s still not very many.

4,200 volunteers working one or two shifts over a year is absolutely small potatoes for a political organization that can bring in $66 million. The Human Rights Campaign spent $42 million in 2018 on campaigning, including training volunteers, but the majority of their spending in that sphere wasn’t on the grassroots. It was ‘Federal, field electoral and legal advocacy’, ‘public policy, education and training’, ‘communications and media advocacy’, with only $12.7 million being spent on ‘membership education and mobilization’, which I’m guessing, included some very expensive emails. $10 million of the HRC’s money was spent fundraising more money to fund-raise more money in order to fund-raise more money… you get where I am going here?That’s a money ouroboros.

But it wasn’t always like that for the HRC. It’s 2008 Annual Report brags of recruiting ‘hundreds of volunteers to attend campaign events’ in New Hampshire alone, waving signs at campaigning primary candidates, having managed to have volunteers recruit 330 other volunteers in Florida, and recruiting thousands of volunteers in California to campaign against Proposition 8 alone. In 2009, the organization mobilized 5,000 members to advocate for a domestic partnerships bill. But between then and 2018, volunteer numbers aren’t given, but seem to have dropped precipitously.

Or take famous volunteer organizations like PFLAG, which used to stand for Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays, but is now just ‘PFLAG’ to be ‘inclusive’. It’s 2018 financial statement claims 400 chapters and 200,000 members and supporters (that’s 500 members per chapter). But it’s 2015 report said the same thing, while saying it had added new chapters. In 2014, PFLAG reported 385 chapters across the country. In 2009, it reported approximately 500 ‘affiliates’. This is the same in their 2010 financial statements, and 2011, 2012 and as far back as 2007. The statement about affiliates disappears in their 2013 financial statement, and instead PFLAG now has ‘400 chapters’.

Are affiliates the same as chapters? Did PFLAG lose members overnight, and are they masking a slow decline? To be honest, trying to get numbers on how many chapters there are is actually quite difficult. I am told there are affiliates, chapters, all sorts. But the numbers seem to have declined over the past ten years, as PFLAG has striven to become more ‘inclusive’.

But this isn’t just a problem in US organization. Stonewall, the largest LGBT organization in the UK, has the same problem. A view through of it’s annual report reveals similar problems. Stonewall’s income was £8.7 million (US$10.8 million), yet they can only train 118 ‘police, prosecutors, and policy makers’ with their ‘Access For Justice Program’, and they only hosted 243 activists at their international events and programs in four countries in ‘East and South East Europe’. Only 250 young people attended their Pride events, and they supported only ‘40 more’ to become ‘young campaigners and host Youth Pride events’. These events were held in Birmingham, UK Black Pride, Bristol, ‘Trans Pride Brighton’, Wales, and Manchester. This is supposed to ‘foster camaraderie and common purpose’ and create a ‘UK wide network of skilled activists’.

They also talk about their ‘Come Out For LGBT’ program. While they ‘implemented this on the front line at 30 Prides across the UK’, only 1,000 people ‘pledged to take action’. That isn’t very many for 30 Prides. This is also while the campaign is running commercials in theaters on donated media space and time and reaching 17 million people. They supposedly trained teachers, but the amount they trained was 2,300 in 2018. The BBC tells me there were 451,900 full-time teachers in England alone.

Only 2,000 people used their automated tool to give ‘informed responses’ on the Gender Recognition Act, out of a total of 40,000 responses. Bombarding politicians with the same message is another astroturf tactic discussed in Inauthentic Selves. For an organization that took in £8.7 million last year, that’s kind of pathetic. Almost all the money appears to be going on lobbying and fundraising costs, which means that Stonewall isn’t actually representing grassroots LGBT interests whatsoever. As a result, grassroots involvement with Stonewall has dropped. This is evident in their 2014 report, where they engaged with 3,000 people in Pride events just in Wales. In 2014, they had half the income they did in 2018, bringing in only £4.6 million, and spending almost all over it on campaigning and research. Notably, the word trans is only mentioned twice, once in relation to then new CEO Ruth Hunt (now a peer for her work for Stonewall) looking to ‘include transgender people’ in Stonewall’s activism. Since then, their income doubled.

I decided to cast my net out wider, and Google took me to some interesting places. For example, prominent LGBT group Rainbow Youth in New Zealand seems to appear in all their media representing ‘LGBT’. But a look through their 2018 annual report, accessible here, paints a picture of an organization that doesn’t have any grassroots engagement, with only 2,441 attendances of their ‘support groups’, which they average out to 10.4 per group. That means their support groups met 235 times a year, which, assuming there are, say, nine support groups, that works out to nine support groups meeting fortnightly across a country of five million. That works out to 93.6 people meeting fortnightly under the auspices of Rainbow Youth. We don’t know if those 10.4 people are the same people turning up to those nine support groups each fortnight. But assuming they are, that means Rainbow Youth only has 93.6 people attending it’s support groups a fortnight. The numbers get worse if we assume weekly or monthly meetings. It also says in their returns they had 227 ‘one on one support cases’, and had 39 ‘instances of positive media presence’, down from 55 the previous year, and distributed 15,000 copies of the ‘I’m Local resource’. Of course, an organization of 93.6 people meeting fortnightly and distributing 15,000 leaflets makes NZD$639,072(roughly $400,000)in revenue, most from fundraising and donations from the New Zealand Government and a variety of banks and corporations.

We can also look at Canada. Egale (formerly E.G.A.L.E, ‘Equality for Gays And Lesbians Everywhere’, and changed to be more inclusive), shows a dearth actual interaction with it’s supposed base. We are told in it’s 2017 annual report that it is opening the ‘Egale Center’ for homeless LGBT youth, but that center will only feature 30 rooms, potentially to be used for up to 18 months. It’s youth outreach center, it boasts, averages 350 visits and nearly 60 counselling sessions a month, which amounts to uh, 11.5 visits a day. and 1.9 counselling sessions per day. But that’s assuming all 365 days that their youth outreach center is open. Let’s be generous, and exclude the weekends. Now we have 260 days. That makes 16.1 visits per day, and 2.7 counselling sessions per day.

I think Blockbuster may be busier.

Egale Canada also outlines it’s interactions. In 2017, their total interactions with young people through their outreach was 425. In terms of counselling and support (which includes 13 incidents of ‘moving assistance), they’ve interacted 654 times. But in their glossy annual report, this is an increase of 417% in Therapeutic interventions, even though their counselling and support provided dropped substantially in 2017 compared to 2016. And it trained 1300 people across Canada in how to deliver workshops on making more ‘inclusive spaces’, partnering with 15 organizations to do that — organizations like TD Bank, Barilla Pasta, the City of Hamilton, the state government of Newfoundland, Maple Leaf Sports (who owns the Argonauts, the Raptors, and the Maple Leafs), and the Canadian parole board. Egale had revenues of CAD$3.8 million ($2.86 million) in 2017, and paid $1.9 million ($1.4 million)in salaries, or 54.2% of its funds.

It just doesn’t seem to be actually dealing with many people. None of these organizations, which are supposedly helping people, seem to be helping them in any great number. Or even if they are, the numbers of people they’re helping is dropping, year on year. The purpose becomes less about helping people, or activism, and more about fundraising in order to stay employed.

Every single organization I examined paid the vast majority of it’s money into salaries. Almost all of them had a huge focus on the media attention they’d received or solicited, one even quantifying it. While these organizations exist in the media, and through online mediums like their website, online ads, and emails, they don’t have much, if any physical presence, even if they are meant to. They can own drop-in centers that no one attends, run support groups no one shows up to, and be bleeding affiliates like nothing on earth, but they’ll still show up in the media and say they’re representing the LGBT community (or how many letters they want to add). This is a problem.

Hence, I return to the dead lawn. See, for these organizations, the lawn died. So they simply installed some astroturf, and went on their way. They certainly look like support organizations, and sometimes they behave like them, but they don’t actually engage with, nor interact with, many people.

Why is this? The decline seems to set in around 2012, which is also when large amounts of funding for transgender issues, and the modern movement took off (if you look at the Google trends for transgender, its interest levels spike beginning in mid-2012), when organizations like GLAAD and PFLAG and EGALE changed their names to no longer refer to ‘lesbians and gays’ in order to be ‘more inclusive’, and marriage equality began to be won around the Western world — New Zealand and the United Kingdom gained marriage equality in 2013, and the US in 2015. Canada is an outlier, having gained it in 2005, and Australia in 2017.

And as these organizations have worked to be more ‘inclusive’, less and less people are actually involved, or work with these organizations.

I Think I’ll Stay Home

Not only does the specter of death haunt LGBT organizations, but there is an endless cavalcade of stories describing the death of LGBT night life, and it’s increasing levels of ‘inclusion’. There’s this article on the sheer oddity that is having bars for ‘queer women’ in Washington DC.

“Lots of people mention, ‘You know, lesbian bars don’t succeed.’ And you know what? I know that,” said Lina Nicolai, co-owner of XX+. “I know that, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have one. . . . Hopefully, people will see what we’ve lost and appreciate what we’re trying to create.”

One of the last lesbian bars in the South may soon be pushed out of its home in Norfolk. In many big cities — such as San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans — there are none left.

As we find out later in the article, this is small potatoes compared to what there was — there was, at one point, over fifty bars for the LGBT community in DC’s nightlife district in the 70s. Of course, are ‘queer women’s bars’ really for lesbians?

“Both bars are welcoming to the wider LGBTQ community, including transgender and gender-nonconforming residents, who were commonly excluded from lesbian bars of yesteryear.

Stickers bearing different pronouns — she/her, he/him, they/them — are available for patrons at ALOHO’s entrance. A printed sign on the wall declares it “a place for people who have not found their place elsewhere.”

At XX+, a blackboard hangs on the wall, declaring the “house rules.” Among them: “Ask for pronouns” and “no hate or violence is tolerated.”

Even in spaces supposedly ‘gay and lesbian’, anyone can come in. Spaces have to be ‘inclusive’.

DC is an oddity in even having that. Philadelphia apparently has no lesbian bar, not even something for ‘queer women and LGBTQ+’. San Francisco, yes of all places, San Francisco, lost it’s last lesbian bar in 2015, and those trying to replace it have decided it must be ‘all inclusive’:

“San Francisco event promoter Jolene Linsangan needed a permanent space to throw Uhaul, her regular roving five-year-old party for girls who like girls and their friends. She searched for years, but her options proved to be limited. Among the challenges was finding a Friday night venue that understood her vision of a space that was oriented toward the social and safety concerns of queer women and trans people — and that was not in a highly trafficked area prone to passersby turned gawkers. Perhaps the lack of choices of appropriately located, queer-focused venues was to be expected in a town that, although known as an LGBTQ mecca, somehow has been without a lesbian bar for three years.”

The new Jolene’s features a very welcoming environment for lesbians, of course:

“ But for all its mourning over the Lex, San Francisco is not without its thriving, lesbian-run nightlife establishments, most of them located in San Francisco’s central and eastern neighborhoods where the same hyper-gentrification that contributed to the close of the Lex has made lasting footholds for small businesses tricky. Virgil’s, HiTops Sports Bar, El Rio, and Wild Side West are all small to medium sized venues where queer women are among the owners. In these spaces, the vibe is largely inclusive, the borders of community not delineated by gender. Locals can also find regular lesbian-oriented party nights such as SF’s VICE Tuesdays, El Rio’s Mango, and of course Uhaul, a special edition of which acted as Jolene’s coming out party tonight, December 14.

Walk into Jolene’s and you are greeted by a huge neon sign — modeled on a similar display that Lingsangan hangs at Uhaul events — that declares “You are safe here.” Custom wallpaper displays an intricate design that only reveals itself to be made of genitals and breasts upon closer inspection. Around the party-ready dance floor in the back of the space, the femme-centric vibes get even sharper. Lingsangan took photos of hundreds of boobs — mainly from women, with trans and cis men’s breasts included as well. (“Fuck everyone who is offended by nipples,” the staff tells INTO via email).”

Yes, everything must be inclusive. Also, bars for lesbians must now be ‘femme-centric’. Quick, someone tell the butches! Disturbingly, the attitude seems to be, that if anything does exist, even a smidgen, for lesbians, it automatically has to become ‘inclusive’ and must be shared. Lesbians in Portland who have tried starting women only events have found this decision repeatedly challenged. Portland doesn’t have a lesbian bar or even a women-only dance night, and those trying to replace it, are again trying to be ‘all-inclusive’.

Announcing that a Portland party is intended exclusively for lesbians is stepping into a minefield of identity politics.

In the past two years, events catering to lesbians, like the monthly meet-up Fantasy Softball League, have been targeted online as unsafe spaces for trans women and others who don’t identify with feminine pronouns. This past summer, semi-regular parties for lesbians, like Lesbian Night at Old Town’s CC Slaughters, changed their names and focus to avoid controversy and be more inclusive. And lesbian-owned bars that draw lesbian customers, like Escape, shun the label so as not to offend.

The fights over language may seem academic and obscure if you’re not part of them. But they are increasingly the battlegrounds over how people see themselves and how the world sees and treats them — and those views strain friendships, shutter events and start internet flame wars.


So that year she decided to create her own social gathering for lesbians, calling it Fantasy Softball League, a winking nod to stereotypes about lesbians. The “league” had nothing to do with softball, and instead was a monthly meet-up at Vendetta, a bar on North Williams Avenue.

“Hey ladies,” an ad beckoned. “Cool girls, drinking cool drinks in a cool bar, talking about cool stuff.”

But all was not cool.

In summer 2015, Stutzman, who has wavy red hair and wears an enameled “I Love Cats” pin on her jean jacket, recalls walking through Vendetta greeting people when someone she’d never met — someone who didn’t identify with traditional female conventions like the pronoun “she” — confronted her.

“The person was hostile, and wanting to pick a fight,” Stutzman recalls. “This person was offended and said they would tell their friends that we were a group of people that were non-inclusive and not respectful of their gender.”

The person — Stutzman never got a name — left the event, and Stutzman was left feeling confused. As she looked around, she saw many people who fell between male and female. She thought her event was inclusive, even if the vernacular wasn’t.

“What we wanted to say is, if you’re a straight dude, don’t come to this event,” she says. “Everyone else was fine.”

Stutzman adjusted her language, no longer calling Fantasy Softball League a lesbian event. Instead, she called it an event for queer women. But even with the change, Stutzman still worried.

“Everything I tried, someone was offended,” she says. “It got weird and political, and I wanted it to be a fun thing.”

That fall, Stutzman handed responsibility for the event to Alissa Young, who renamed the event Gal Pals, relocated it to the Florida Room on North Killingsworth Street, and ran into more trouble. Some people took offense at the event’s new feminine name.

So Young folded the event. Now she mourns the loss: “Can’t we have spaces that are just for lesbians?”

This isn’t limited to bars, of course. A recent Reddit post on ‘r/TrueOffMyChest’ betrayed lesbian frustration at the invasion of their spaces.

“ First of all, I’m not here to bash trans people, so don’t bother trashing them in the comments. I just think it’s stupid that on some of the lesbian subreddits (nothing wrong with lgbt either) you can get banned when you say you’re not attracted to trans women. Lesbians who are attracted to only the genitals of women are being called TERFs because they aren’t attracted to trans people. And that’s not right. The whole point of LGBT community is to be accepting of sexual preferences. Yet lesbians are being bashed for not being attracted to trans women. It’s just not right and this behavior is unacceptable.”

The post received over 12,600 upvotes. The ‘actuallesbians’ subreddit closed shortly afterwards, and reopened a day later, with a moderator team that contained no actual lesbians.

Of course, this isn’t limited to just lesbians. Gay men have lost Grindr, which was a formerly gay-male only app, to the ‘inclusivity’ buzzword.

“Last week, Grindr announced a series of new features intended to make the famous queer-specific dating app more inclusive. Although a “trans tribe” has been present since 2013, these new changes further open up the app to GNC (gender non-conforming) and nonbinary users by offering various gender identity options — as well as an FAQ and the choice to add your own if you don’t see it listed. Cisgender women will also have a place on the app for the first time. It’s a radical move, but one which is both necessary and makes sense in the context of an app which has been singled out for discrimination — which it is increasingly aiming to tackle — in the past.

“Making Grindr even more trans-inclusive has been an ongoing process,” explains Marketing VP Peter Sloterdyk over email. “We introduced the “trans” tribe but later learned that wasn’t enough. Recently, at our annual Pride party, Slumbr, a number of trans individuals shared feedback with us about their experiences on Grindr — that’s what sparked this change. We wanted to get it right, and the only way to do so is through insight from the global trans community, feedback, and buy-in from global trans leaders.”

That’s right, gay men now have to include vagina in their dating app, or they’re being discriminatory.

Two things are normally blamed for the closure of physical spaces: that is ‘the increasing integration between gay and straight’, and ‘gentrification’. Both, I believe, are accurate. However, the ‘integration’ of gay and straight has not come from inside the straight bars, but rather gay bars themselves. Witness, articles deriding the number of heterosexual folks in gay bars. Like in former gay mecca San Francisco:

“When Cleve Jones, a longtime gay activist who led the creation of the Aids Memorial Quilt, went to his local gay bar in the Castro district, he saw something that shocked him.

“The tech bros had taken over The Mix. They commanded the pool table and the patio. These big, loud, butch guys. It was scary,” he said. “I’m not heterophobic, but I don’t want to go to a gay bar and buy some guy a drink and have him smirk and tell me he’s straight. They can go anywhere. We can’t.”

Residents of San Francisco’s historically gay Castro district are worried that it’s changing, as speculators come in to flip the few remaining ramshackle old Victorians and the old-timer gay bars shutter. In a recent small survey, 77% of people who have lived in the neighborhood for 10 or more years identified as gay, while only 55% of those who moved in the past year did.

When an iconic building was on the market earlier this year, it was between two potential tenants: a gay strip club and a SoulCycle. The SoulCycle won. This winter, The Gangway, the oldest gay bar in town, is closing down.

Indeed, this ‘integration’ may be leading to increased discrimination:

“Amy Sueyoshi, 45, associate dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University, says she now feels less safe as a genderqueer person walking around San Francisco and faces more street harassment. “Now, me and my friends step off Muni and we get called ‘dyke’ and ‘queer’ … It feels less loving … I do think that taking a walk on Valencia Street is not so great for me any more.”

“The Dyke March has become this huge frat party … All these straight dudes and their girlfriends are descending on the park and setting up hammocks,” Sueyoshi said. “It’s a little bit sad.”

She followed up with an email: “I do like to go to places in and around the Castro for Happy Hour or a snack and I’ve noticed more straight people making out at these places where I go deliberately to NOT feel like I am oppressed by heterosexuality. Really, straight people do you HAVE to make out in the Castro as well? Good Lord.”

It’s not just a problem in San Francisco. Philadelphia has the same problem:

Go to almost any other bar in the Gayborhood, and you’ll get near-universal agreement that Woody’s has changed. Philly gays are saying that at some point in recent months or years the establishment began seeking too much to be an “it” club, drawing in large numbers of straight women who also brought straight men. Friday and Saturday nights now feature straight people making out on the dance floor, men hanging out with their girlfriends, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” instead of Madonna and bachelorette party after bachelorette party after bachelorette party. As one displeased patron put it in a public Facebook post, it’s “straight gentrification.”

“Woody’s,” Matt Fischetti said, “is a gay-themed straight bar.”

Fischetti, 31, last went a couple months ago. The last time he went to the upstairs dance floor was during the Democratic National Convention last July. He doesn’t mind sharing the bar with straight patrons, but the number of them has gone up higher than he’d like.

“It’s when they take up big spaces. It’s like Columbus: ‘I’m going to colonize this space,’ or ‘I’m judging when you’re touching a guy or making out with a guy,’” Fischetti said. “They’ve sort of made it a space of their own.”

Many of the people Billy Penn interviewed agreed the ratio of straight to gay people in Woody’s is about 50–50. They had similar feedback for other Gayborhood establishments, most of which are primarily popular with gay men. Estimates of when that started changing ranged from as far back as 10 years ago to just in the last year. Philadelphia Gay News founder and publisher Mark Segal couldn’t pinpoint a year, but said he took note when he “kept seeing polyester.” Fashion shade.

It’s not limited to the United States. This is a phenomenon that has happening internationally, just like the organizations. London is seeing a decline in it’s gay bars.

Even little old New Zealand is having this problem with it’s gay bars being invaded(from what we could find, New Zealand, as in the whole country, does not have a single lesbian bar, and only a few gay bars in the whole country). I found articles dating back to 2015 describing the problem of straight women in gay clubs in the UK. We could go up north to Canada and find articles about the problem of straight women sexually harassing gay men in clubs.

Rather, the ‘integration’ seems to have been directed one way — with the advent of gay rights, straight people have decided to ‘integrate’ themselves into gay clubs. When not directly straight, they might be ‘non-binary’ or have special pronouns. The spaces have to be ‘inclusive’, and as the non-heterosexual nature of the bars change, homosexuals simply stop going out. Why bother going to a gay bar if it’s going to be ‘straightwashed’? Where you have to put up with men leering at you? Where you get told that saying no to penis is literal violence, you fucking TERF?

And while organizations bring in hundreds of millions of dollars, including to help the ‘grassroots’, homosexuals mourning their bars are told that this is simply a product of ‘gentrification’ or ‘urban development’ — that they, as a collective group, are simply too poor to maintain their own spaces, and they should simply accept it.

Much like organizations like PFLAG and GLAAD or Canada’s EGALE, where the acronyms have changed to mean nothing in order to be more inclusive, so too have the bars. Even the bars that remain open have had to become more ‘inclusive’, and even if they aren’t, are facing an invasion of heterosexuals overtly. The result is simply the erasure of homosexuals from political and social life.

The lawn was left to die. Long live the inclusive astroturf.

Let us put it this way. The problem with ‘inclusive’ is the fact that if you start including too many people, than the boundaries you’re trying to establish don’t actually mean anything. Imagine, that I am running a tennis club, but if I decided that actually, a tennis club is too exclusionary, and I’d like to include more people playing ‘alternative tennis’ and start signing up ‘alternative tennis players’, who in reality are playing basketball. Basketball is the most popular sport in town with hundreds of basketball courts to use while there is only one tennis court. Also, it used to be illegal to play tennis, and sometimes the police would raid tennis courts and imprison people for playing tennis. Suddenly the tennis court is full of basketball games, the tennis players are upset they can’t play tennis, and the basketball players are telling the tennis players to be more ‘inclusive’ of their ‘alternative tennis’, even though they are clearly playing basketball. No one is allowed point out that ‘alternative tennis’ is really basketball, or they’re ‘alternative tennis’ exclusionary and literally violent.

Eventually, when the tennis club is overwhelmed, the tennis players stop turning up, and the basketball players take over, still calling it a tennis club. New tennis players occasionally show up, see that the tennis club is really playing basketball, and stop coming. Eventually, the tennis club, now full of basketball players, decides the term ‘tennis club’ is too exclusive a name, and rename it ‘Sports For All’ in order to ‘be more inclusive’. Unfortunately, for the tennis players, that was the only tennis court in town, but it’s now being used for ‘alternative tennis’, so they have nowhere to go. People write think pieces about the ‘tennis ceiling’, by ‘alternative tennis’ players angry at being excluded as ‘real tennis players’, or say that ‘tennis players are legally equal, so it’s okay for them to integrate their tennis courts’. Meanwhile, the tennis players no longer have anywhere to play tennis, and are told it’s because they’re poor and this is just a natural result of ‘urban development’, or everything is ‘integrated’ now, and they’re equal. Except they have no gathering space to play tennis, and when they try at one of the hundreds of basketball courts, basketball players tell them this is a basketball court and they should go play tennis somewhere else. Sometimes the basketball players dislike the attempts to play tennis so much, they physically assault the tennis players.

Eventually, the tennis players decide to have a meeting about the lack of tennis courts. They are protested for being ‘alternative tennis’ exclusionary and called Nazis, and told they’re acceptable targets for ‘punch a Nazi’ because of their exclusion of ‘alternative tennis’. So while tennis is legal, there is nowhere to play tennis, and it becomes de facto impossible to play tennis, like it was when tennis was illegal.

And the lawn of the tennis court dies, and the ‘alternative tennis’ players replace it with astroturf, and then keep telling everyone that they’re playing tennis as they slam dunk the ball into the net.

Now that I’ve tortured the metaphor to within an inch of its life, do you understand what I’m saying?

The erasure of the homosexual — through the transitioning of children, the takeover of our civil society organizations and their total defanging, the destruction of the few spaces, physical or virtual, that we have been able to carve for ourselves — is well under way. What use are our legal rights if we cannot exercise them, or meet others like ourselves?

Sue Donym
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