Wednesday, March 24, 2004

"You'll all get this one, girls..." 

Yes, it's quiz night at the West Midland's only lesbian pub (as I remember, one of about five in the UK, though I may be out of date with that). The Fox is a fine establishment, mainly for regulars, and gets packed to fire hazard level for lock-ins every Friday and Saturday. There's a pool and television room in the back, where the tough football fans seem to congregate. The beer's rubbish, or so I'm told, and the music is just as trashy as every other gay bar, but I happily put up with all of this for the friendly atmosphere and a proper break from having to feel awkward with another girl on my arm. What it lacks, happily is the knives-out bitchy 'chic' of London and Brighton's Candy Bars, which are just awful and populated entirely by girls trying to outdo each other for cool. When I'm here, I really do feel at home.

The regulars are mainly butch dykes, with some baby butch girls and the occasional femme on someone's arm (an exaggeration, but not far from the truth). Quiz night is extremely butch, but I have almost given up noticing that we're the only people in there with long hair. The customer ratio is 90/10 female, so the gender mix is pretty much the exact reverse of every other gay venue, and of many of the 'old men' pubs which I generally favour when outside the village. It always amuses me how much gay leather bars and quiet Irish pubs can be alike in that.

Because The Fox is right on the edge of Birmingham's gay village, and thus also on the edge of a pretty rough area, we often get obviously straight strangers walk in and gawk for a minute or two, looking as if they'd wanted to make trouble but are now somewhat panicked, before walking out again. On these occasions everyone inside looks at each other, rolls their eyes, and smiles. It's this sort of thing which makes me happy to be here, even among people with whom I have nothing in common other than the fact of my sexuality. Despite all my campaigning, I'm often just happier to stay in the ghetto.

Tonight's quiz night was particular fun, as Lorna and I - both naturally shy around strangers - were forcibly joined by the spillover from another team, and got to chat to them for quite a while, as well as to the usual bar staff. Our team, The Little Pink Mafia, still came a cheerful 6th out of 8, next to the spillover team's 7th - so obviously it was the other two who stopped us from showing ourselves for the intellectual titans we really are. Many crude shout-outs make for a bonding experience, and the night raised nearly £500 for the women's area at Pride this year, always easily the most diverse and friendly area in what's becoming an increasingly soulless and commercial event. Smiles all round, even without chocolate vaginas for a prize...

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