When the teacher said ‘field trip to a gay bar’ I was thinking we were going to be witnessing drag queens in high heels and thick make-up singing Whitney Houston and show tunes. I thought I was going to be watching song and dance performances by gay men. You know, because it was a ‘gay bar’
Imagine my shock when I found out that the reason it was called a gay bar was because the bar catered to gay men; with the entertainment being male strippers in tight-fitting clothes, macho dancing to ballads.
I didn’t change my mind though, as to going to the macho dancing field trip. If I was going to be an ethnographer for a day, I’d rather do it in a place where I’ve never been in before. I most definitely didn’t want to go observing in Enchanted Kingdom or something. I figured this was a good chance as any to really observe the goings-on in the city underbelly that is Timog Avenue. I was excited! I was looking forward to interacting with different kinds of people, seeing different sights, and getting to know a culture I wasn’t so familiar with. It sure did make for some tweet-worthy moments.
I was aware that there were places like these, but I knew very little about them. What I did know about the gay bar scene was that it was seedy, with gay men fighting for the chance to stuff a few bills down the strippers’ thongs. There’s probably AIDS, somewhere in the VIP rooms. You never know.
When the time came to prepare for the field trip, I chose to wear a simple blouse; which got me thinking about any possible dress codes; which made me realize I didn’t know what to wear to a gay bar. Oh what was I even doing? It was a Saturday night, and I was about to go to a strip club with my teacher and my classmates. I felt incredibly awkward with myself. It took me two hours to settle on something to wear.
Mom (ironically) was going to a Bible study so she couldn’t drop me off. I asked my classmates if I could ride with them; partly for convenience, but mainly because I wanted to spare myself what would have been the most awkward cab ride ever. Imagine having to take a cab and telling the driver that you were going to a seedy strip club called Adonis (of all things) with friends. I could almost picture it.
“Saan po tayo?”
“Sa Adonis lang ho, manong. Field trip po kasi e. Para sa SA. You know, Sociology and Anthropology. Diretso lang po. Hehehe.”
There were still just a few students standing around outside when we got there, mostly girls. I felt like hiding myself behind the parked cars and trying to remain discreet. I was excited, but no one else didn’t seem to be; and I did not want to be caught waiting outside a strip club either. You’re almost compelled to maintain this sort of ‘why am I here’ kind of vibe, you know? Self-respecting, educated young women aren’t expected to be excited about seeing macho men on display. You stay aloof, and don’t let on that you’re excited because this is something new for you.
When we got inside, the first thing I noticed about the place was the smell. It was something new, and I couldn’t find the words for it. I kept muttering to my friend, over and over again that it ‘smelled like a gay bar’ to which he promptly replied “Gago, amoy sex”
I wouldn’t know.
We were escorted to our seats and given drinks. There weren’t a lot of people there; just us, a few middle-aged women, a couple, and a few men. This was a major disappointment for me. More than the dancers, I wanted to observe the clientele; what they’d do, say, wear, and look like. I settled with observing the dancers (the cowboy-boot-clad dancers) instead.
I was waiting for something interesting to happen. After the first set of dancers and the initial shock wore off, it’s really all very repetitive and can get quite boring. The dancers didn’t seem to enjoy what they were doing. They had distant looks in their eyes and always left the stage so abruptly and nonchalantly as the way their slow music cut and faded into party music after their set. And for their sake, I almost wanted to reprimand myself and my classmates for laughing. Because, you know, if I danced like that on stage for money that I desperately needed, the last thing I’d want is a laughing, mocking audience.
It wasn’t exactly the sleazy, foreign, sin-city world that I imagined it would be. I’d say it was rather tame. And although I wouldn’t want to go back there, the prejudice I had built up in my head towards macho dancers at least shrunk to a sort of indifference or neutrality. Gone was the uneducated and rather naïve fear that I had towards gay bars and strip clubs. After having gone to one, I understand now why men and women choose to entertain themselves this way. More than having observed how the workers and customers interacted in such a place, I’m glad to have gained a new insight from this experience; and that’s what’s most important.
We had to leave after an hour or so of “observing” and on our way out, I said hello to a dancer’s Chihuahua. The dancer (who looked a lot like Adam Levine, I might add) replied with the raunchiest hello I have ever received in my whole entire life. Kumindat pa siya. Ay!