An Open Letter To The Queer Folks Coming Into My Pub

Clara Barnhurst

To the amazing looking woman that came in last week,

The first thing I noticed about you was the green eyeshadow. It was striking in all the right ways and quickly had me moving on to the teal lip colour that matched it just enough. You told me what you wanted - I forget what it was - and we did the thing. Pour the drink, price, hand it over, money, change, thanks. I do this hundreds of times a night. Automatic. But for you, I stopped.

This wasn’t a perving thing, I was admiring how it all worked. Same colour palette - I noticed your hair, also green. As a wannabe makeup artist, I respect artistry when I see it. You went off to your friends and the next person came along for more beer. Off I went to do the automatic exchange again. I was lucky you were tall, it meant I could continue admiring the makeup. And then I noticed the green jacket. Wonder what your favourite colour is? Doesn’t matter, you rocked it.

I wanted to head round the bar and say hi, but there wasn't a chance. At that point I realised I was kind of staring. Admiring, but still staring. You looked back and I froze: maybe you think I’m judging you badly. I’m not! You’re awesome!

I regret that I went for a distinctly not queer look. It wasn’t a conscious decision to do that, it just happened. I never went for it, really. Now that I pretty much embrace a quirky but distinctly unqueer look, I feel like I can’t just go up to queer looking folks and say hi. I worry they will think I’m some kind of weirdo. I didn’t want you to think you were unwelcome; I hope you come back some time.

Obviously, I have no way of knowing how you interpreted my interest but I hope it didn’t put you off. I realise now that I have to be careful not to give the wrong impression. That I don’t give enough of my own queer signals to automatically make that kind of interest good, knowing, or belonging.


A friend of mine once pointed out that so many transgender people misinterpret being looked over with being clocked. I suppose one appraising stare is much the same as the next, so at that point we’re relying on our own self confidence to decide what message someone’s sending. Where it’s not a safe place out in the world, it’s easier to assume danger.

It’s normal to worry, and maybe it says something about me that I mostly assumed that my attention wasn’t welcome. Maybe you wanted to say hi too but I was too busy? God, this sounds really flirty but it so isn’t. A different transgender friend told me that when she sees someone who’s potentially queer/gender non conforming/trans*, she becomes a bit of a puppy that wants to run up and belong. So do I. Funny that same friend mentioned how she felt separated from the community for her unqueer look as well. Seems there may be a lot of LGBTQ+ folk in this boat.

Perhaps that tells us not to assume. Just ‘cause you walked in, a towering goddess, with green hair, makeup and matching outfit doesn’t necessarily mean you’re queer. Maybe that was a poor assumption to make. If so, I’m sorry about that. But whatever. Your look ruled and I wanted to go over and say hi anyway. Cishet people can be awesome looking too.

It does raise the question: if it’s such a strong, resonant look for me, why don’t I adopt it? No idea. I just look at myself and know it’s not me. I don’t know how, but as awesome as you and other folks look coming into the pub or out about town, I just don’t feel right having it for myself. Some of this is my wig: it’s hard to get bright coloured wigs of decent quality. And when you see them, they’re expensive. It doesn’t push me entirely out, but hair is a big thing that changes a person’s look in a big way.


There is also a part of me that is just too afraid to stand out. I admire you for that: you own it and make it look brilliant. I wish I had that in me, to just be and damn the rest. I do try in my way but I don’t pull it off as spectacularly as so many of my friends. That’s another thing that makes me want to know you; another reason I hope you come back when it’s not quite so busy and maybe we can have a chat.

So maybe I got it wrong, maybe the title of this letter is way off base and you’re not in the queer category I took you to be in. But actually, on reflection, it doesn’t matter. I just liked your style. It gave me some ideas for my own and it’d be cool to chat about fashion and makeup some time. If you come back.

However it works out, I hope you don’t always see danger when someone shows interest. I hope you feel safe enough to see goodwill until you can’t. I’m not especially good at that, myself, but maybe that confidence brings the ability to accept rather than reject. If so, I’d love to learn.

Whoever you are, your awesome, nonconforming self is welcome in the pub. I was staring ‘cause you’re beautiful. Don’t stop doing what you’re doing because it makes you shine across the room. And no, this isn’t a love letter. I’m in love, but not with you - I’m in love with your look.

Come again soon.


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