Do you remember the last time someone around you said something so degrading — so dehumanizing, that the only reasonable reaction was to spit in their face? Okay, I realize the utter hypocrisy of that reaction…but, anyone born into a family that promotes hate and bigotry and continuing to actively pursue these practices typically doesn’t listen to reason, respond to debate, or seek to understand someone else’s struggle. As a gay, half-black, Jewish man who walks the streets carrying a purse and wearing “women’s” clothes and jewelry, it is impossible for me to avoid stares, shouts, and denial of rights from my human counterparts. In fact, these oppressors take pleasure in the rising volume of the oppressed victim’s voice as he or she attempts to defend their human rights. He grins, evilly, as he calls you a “fatass”. A “nigger”. A “faggot”. He has no reason to align with or understand your feelings because he doesn’t have to. His 150-pound frame is never judged. His ability to walk into a department store and purchase every outfit he tries on is certainly not condemned or judged. Kissing his girlfriend in public, while perhaps making hopeless-romantics jealous, does not inspire disgust or riots by bible thumpers.
A few nights ago, my friends and I celebrated a colleague and friend’s twenty-third birthday, as well as her new job at prominent publication in Chicago. We started our night at Blue Frog’s Local 22 (www.local22chicago.com), indulging in spicy wings and a few of their numerous local brews. I tried Ale Syndicate’s Municipal India Pale Ale — a floral, hoppy, yet light-tasting IPA which, after one, had me feeling quite hoppy myself. After paying our tabs separately (thank Buddha/Allah/Jesus, a fucking restaurant that doesn’t bitch and moan about splitting the tab), we decided to stop by “El Hefe Chicago”, a nearby nightclub, to dance and enjoy some margaritas. Unfortunately, my six friends and I never made it past the front door.
As we approached, still airy and lighthearted from the drinks prior, we noticed a line forming outside the door— the bouncer wasn’t letting anyone inside. Some guy, wearing sunglasses at 9pm (I will refer to him from hereon out as “douchebag”), was in an argument with the bouncer. The bouncer, clearly fuming, looks at douchebag and says, “I don’t care where you come from or how much fucking money you have. I could get the manager and see if an exception can be made, but frankly, I don’t think I’m going to do that because of how you came at me.” Douchebag, looking at his posse and laughing, unfazed by the denial of entry, demanded the manager anyway, holding up the line as we all wait patiently to continue our fabulous evening. After a few moments, a big burly man appears from inside. He looks at douchebag’s friend, whose sweatpants were in violation of their dress code. “Is this your entire party? Just you guys?” His “party” consists of two men and two women who, clearly embarrassed by the progression of events, were standing arm-in-arm far enough behind the douchebag to avoid association if a passerby were to look-in on the situation. They had clearly only been friends with douchebag for a few hours. I imagined what they were thinking…“What the hell, why not? He’s rich!” After a few back and forth comments, the burly decision-maker approves their attire and lets them inside.
Our turn. I approach the bouncer and hand him my driver’s license. I considered making a joke about douchebag, to lift his spirits, but the words were stripped by my conscious by the bouncer’s abrupt statement: “You can’t bring that bag in here.” He was referring to my humble 14×3 inch Michael Kors purse. Astonished, I point to the two women he just let inside, both carrying purses much larger and more obtrusive than my own. “But, the two women you just let inside have purses,” I plead, blood pressure rising. The bouncer didn’t look me in the eyes as he spoke. “Yeah, they’re women,” he says. I paused, ears steaming. “Here we go,’ I thought. I’ve experienced a similar act of ignorance in Bloomington, IN at a bar called “Sports”. (Surprising, right?) Luckily, in that instance, there was an advocate working alongside that person, who eventually let me in. In this instance, at El Hefe, I knew I wouldn’t be so lucky. I kept my glare upon this inhospitable man and said, “Yes, they’re women, and I’m a man. What’s the difference? It’s just a bag.” At this statement, he locked eyes with me and said coldly, authoritatively, “What’s the difference between a man and a woman?? A fucking dick and a vagina, that’s the difference.” Before I had a chance to respond, my friends grabbed me and pulled me away before I could debate any further. It was probably for the best.
His justification didn’t offer any sensible insight as to why someone with a “dick” cannot bring a purse into their club. His statement suggests that only widely-accepted social norms (from the fucking South, in the nineteen-forties) and people who agree with these ideals are allowed inside this club. His blatant disregard for my feelings hurt in the moment — especially after I witnessed the events that just occurred with douchebag. That smug asshole, throwing his wealth around as justification for breaking the club’s rules, was still able to pass right through. My friends and I, all honest, generous, and humble people, were denied entry because of my sex, and a purse.
Luckily, my friends presence and support turned my discouragement into happiness; my deep-sighs into laughter. The next day, I received a text message from the birthday girl stating she called the establishment to let them know their bigotry lost them six customers. This support, this advocacy, is absolutely heartwarming. The rarity of such a proactive response against hatred on behalf of another human was nipped in the ass today, and for this, Ms. Ashley Jackson (instagram: ashleeholla), I thank you.
In Spanish, “el jefe” translates to “the boss”. Changing the spelling of “Jefe” to “Hefe” so that ignorant clients pronounce the name correctly, it’s clear that “el jefe” of this establishment, Jon Wright, does not respect cultures or ideas outside his own. As the “hottest Mexican restaurant in Chicago Illinois” (www.elhefechicago.com), it is unfortunate that Mexican roots and heritage are lost so yuppie, Asshole-Americans can tell their friends about their slutty evening at the hottest nightclub in town without pronouncing “jefe” incorrectly and therefore being corrected, negatively impacting their view of the club. Disgusting. It is unfortunate for nearby authentic restaurants and museums owned and explored by accepting, educated individuals to have share a block (or a nation) with this hub of hate. El Hefe Chicago actually lives up to the German definition of “hefe”: “yeast: a microscopic fungus” (Source: New Oxford American Dictionary), which is ironic, as the only way for men and women to get into this place is to show their pussy.