Most people enjoy having a cocktail now and again. They make you feel a bit sophisticated, in an easy going and merry way, while getting you pretty damn tipsy. Personally, I love an evening enjoying some cocktails with friend while chatting and people watching.
However, working in a cocktail bar has given me an insider perspective on how other people view cocktails, namely twenty to thirty something men. Some people; mainly straight men, consider certain cocktails/drinks to be inherently linked with the masculine and feminine. This I can understand. Often cocktail bartenders will describe certain drinks as being more feminine in style because they are light and floral, or masculine if they contain smoky, earthy or strong spirits but they do not, or shouldn’t, refer to them as ‘man drinks’ or ‘girly drinks’ because this is essentially meaningless.
There is a great misconception that if a drink is in a coupette glass (the classic champagne glass) or a martini glass then it must be a girly (or gay) drink. Why? Because it’s a more delicate glass or because you once saw a show where they made pink drinks in them for ‘strong independent women’? The problem when serving these drinks, especially to groups of men who are so protective of their masculinity that they must assert it as often and as loudly as possible, is that you can’t question it when they exclaim ‘Look! Gary’s got one in a gay glass!’ and then they roar with laughter. This is infuriating to me. I just want to scream ‘it’s not gay, it’s an inanimate object!’
This led me to think about what it is about a cocktail in particular that makes people think this way? What do they consider to be a manly drink? Is it the alcohol content, if so, why are some people fine with ordering a martini while others first want it over ice in a ‘man’s glass’ and then want you to ‘chuck some lemonade in will ya’. Is it the colour? A cosmopolitan is pink but isn’t there a saying that ‘‘real men wear pink’’? It should not matter what people say about a drink really, but it does, because it’s a significant factor in fostering inequality and bullying. Someone might be chastised for picking a pink drink at random and called out as gay. Whether they are gay, bi or straight, this not only belittles them but LGBT people in general.
Using ‘gay’ as a negative does not help anyone but it can hinder us. What it does, even when used by the LGBT community, is separate us from what society calls the norm. It is perpetuating something that should not be tolerated. Over the last couple of years the US has seen some very public suicides from young teens because of the use of homosexuality as a negative and a tool for bullying them for it. Not everyone understands the effect words can have on them because not everyone is as affected by them as others are, but there should be no denying that words do shape the way people view themselves. ‘Gay’ should be used for what it really means in the present. I understand that a lot of the time people don’t mean it in relation to sexuality and I’m aware that it isn’t just straight people who use it like this but the problem is that it is a problem.
While trying to change opinions and the use of a couple of words in one scenario may seem a small one to pick on, think about the butterfly effect. I told a co-worker that describing, innocently enough, a drink as ‘a bit gay’ was inferring that it was less than. I explained about movements such as ‘Think B4 You Speak’ which were trying to flip the argument to show people how it would sound if used for straight people and I can happily say he was apologetic, but more than that, he now questions people when they use it that way, and the use of ‘girly’ drinks has been eradicated from the work place completely. Little by little, this changes how people deal with and see the LGBT community in a world where we are still not quite equal.