Enter the starfish

So there I was in a gay bar in New Orleans. How I ended up there isn’t part of the funny story, nor is how I got out of there. There’s no really great anecdote about meeting an animal rights’ activist in said bar who is so drunk he’s wearing a mink coat or finding out our waitress was a pre-operative cross dressing nursing student slash stripper. And to be located in the Big Easy, it was a very tame location and actually fairly classy, at least as much as any bar in New Orleans can be.

The trip started with my going to New Orleans with two of my dear uber-gay friends. You’re already thinking that you’ve seen this cliché before: the smart alecky artsy writer woman with her two queenish boys who flit around her as we compare shoe shopping stories in loud voices littered with obscenities, drinking fruity alcoholic drinks and complaining about the calories. Not a chance. These two men in particular could fold you like a boring book and use you to prop a window open, after setting their beers down, that is. Basically, we’re from the South…just picture two rednecks who happen to dress really well.

It is shockingly difficult to find a gay bar in New Orleans. Here in small town Alabama people might assume that New Orleans is just lousy with establishments that cater to homosexuals but it’s not true. The three of us walked the cobblestones for ages, searching the rooftops for a tell-tale rainbow flag fluttering happily from the exquisite architecture. By the time we got in, got a table, and ordered something to drink, I was in desperate need of the restroom. I excused myself (I said this place was classy, use the manners Mama gave you) and found the ladies’ room down a very dark, very ominously sticky hallway. Only there was no ladies’ room. Or a men’s room, for that matter.

It was a single-stall unisex bathroom.

Now, if I was a prejudiced person I wouldn’t have been in the gay bar with my two gay friends in the first gay place. I am a mostly liberal person who fully stands by my “live and let live” outlook on life. But that bathroom tested the limits of my core beliefs. You know the concept of…ahem…”hovering?” Forget it. When you find yourself in possibly the most ill-used bathroom in New Orleans that isn’t actually at the bus station, you must starfish. Arms out, feet wide, don’t touch anything. Pray for good aim. Take a Silkwood shower at the first opportunity.

And I don’t feel at all bad for a being a little stodgy about that potty. Here is what much of homophobic America cannot understand. I wasn’t grossed out by the restroom because it was in a gay bar; no, I want to know which rocket surgeon decided men and women who are not related should ever share a bathroom in a major metropolitan city. Without a hazmat suit? I wasn’t afraid because gay men are the main clientele of that unfortunate toilet, it’s because any kind of men use it.

Maybe it’s because I now live in a town that did not come up smelling like roses during the Civil Rights Era, but I’ve noticed that racism is far from dead. It’s just been shoved in the closet. Now that it is socially unacceptable to air your dumb-assed beliefs on people of other races, someone decided that it’s perfectly fine to say terrible things out loud about gay people. Some of those people hide behind the Bible, others hide behind whispered rumors about pedophiles, and still others (seriously, sit down for this one) claim that gay people are rabidly recruiting heterosexuals, actually preying on straight people in order to turn them gay.

Folks, the gays are not having covert membership drives. In fact, straight people kind of piss them off. We’re smug and we dress badly and when TicketMaster gets tickets to Cher’s ninety-third final farewell concert we don’t understand why that’s a big deal and we refuse to take out second mortgages on our homes in order to buy two seats on the floor in the fifth row. We blame gay people for all the ills of society, everything from AIDS to why Whole Foods is doing so well as a business model. We like to snicker behind our hands and roll our eyes at the mildly effeminate baristo at Starbucks but certainly don’t mind that we just paid him to manhandle a cup of mocha chai latte so we can suck it down our judgmental hetero gullets.

The gays (as old people in the South think they are politely referring to them as) really just want us to go away a little bit, at least until we get a better attitude. Can’t say that I blame them. Care about your fellow man, people, whether he’s gay or straight or bi or tri or what have you. But stay out of my bathroom if you know what’s good for you.

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