A Texas Ban on Gay Two-Stepping Shows Why We Still Need Gay Bars

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
Dec. 27 2013 4:15 PM

A Texas Ban on Gay Two-Stepping Shows Why We Still Need Gay Bars

Justin Meyer and James Douglas
Meyer and Douglas fight for their right to two-step.

Image from CNN news footage

Are gay bars still necessary? A story out of Victoria, Texas, reminds us why their continued existence is vital, even in the age of mainstreaming.

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

According to the Victoria Advocate, a gay couple was pulled from the dance floor of the Cactus Canyon on Dec. 20 and told that club policy prohibits gay couples from dancing to country music. Justin Meyer, 21, and James Douglas, 30, had already danced several songs without incident, but a manager intervened when the music switched to Dustin Lynch’s “Cowboys and Angels.”

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Douglas claimed he was confused by this policy, telling the New York Daily News, “So he’s telling me that it would be perfectly acceptable to bump and grind all over my boyfriend to Bubble Butt, a song they play three times a night, but we can’t two-step to country music?” He also told the Daily News that at Cactus Canyon,“It’s OK if girls with tight butts and big boobs dance together, whether they’re straight or lesbian, but gay guys can’t.”

I’ve never been to Texas, much less the Golden Crescent region, but it does indeed sound like a special kind of place. Can it really be that boy-on-boy bumping and grinding is “perfectly acceptable” while two-stepping is off limits? It seems far more likely that the Cactus Canyon doesn’t want gay guys doing couple dances at all. In fact, that’s exactly what a company spokesman told CNN: “For many decades, it’s acceptable for women to dance together in all kinds of clubs; country western, Top 40, etc. But it’s not acceptable for men to dance together in this type of business that we run.” Those final words— “in this type of business that we run”—make me think that the Cactus Canyon wouldn’t really be all that keen on women dancing together if it was a lesbian couple rather than a pair of straight women doing the Texas two-step.

Although the particulars of the dispute between Cactus Canyon management and Douglas and Meyer are contested, it’s seems clear that the club was concerned about safety issues—not only for the protection of its patrons but because maintaining the peace at its establishments is key to keeping its license from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. But there are other economic issues in play. Several commenters on the Victoria Advocate story suggest that straight customers are less likely to patronize a bar if even a couple of gay men are dancing there. (It is astonishing how people who can avert their eyes from all kinds of nasty goings-on can’t ignore one couple on a crowded dance floor.)

Several other commenters said that if gay men want to dance together, they need to go to a gay bar. Except, of course, that there isn’t one in Victoria. Indeed, there are fewer and fewer gay bars all across the United States. Back in 2011, when I wrote a series about gay bars, I reported that between 2005 and 2011, the number dropped from 1,605 to 1,405, a 12.5 percent decrease.

Meyer and Douglas seem like the kind of young men who feel no shame or embarrassment about their sexual orientation. They appear to be perfectly comfortable expressing affection with each other in all kinds of situations. It’s too bad the straight world still isn’t ready to see them dance together.