Incident at NYC lesbian bar Cubbyhole sparks debate about who belongs there

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By Dan Sears

Who belongs in a lesbian bar?

A minor altercation at a longtime West Village bar has revived this question online and prompted debate about queer spaces and whom they “belong” to. Like many viral conversations, this one started on TikTok.

In January, New York City-based influencer Lexi Stout posted a video about her night out at Cubbyhole, a lesbian bar on West 12th Street, and a staple of the community for more than 30 years.

According to Stout’s video about the evening, she was invited there by a lesbian friend, it was her first time at a lesbian bar, and she was having a blast.

After her straight male friend popped in to say hi, Stout said, another woman approached him and asked, “‘What are you doing here?’”

In her video, Stout described feeling unwelcome herself and also taken aback as the bar was full of “flamboyantly gay men.” She did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

Near the end of her video, Stout asked the camera, “Are straight males not allowed to go to a lesbian bar?”

Two weeks, 7,000-plus comments, and 1.5 million views later, the woman who allegedly provoked the confrontation, Katie Pypes, decided to respond with a TikTok of her own.

In it, she recalled the event differently, noting that important context was missing.

Pypes said that, on that particular day in January, she was enjoying a regular night at the bar where she met her wife nearly a decade ago.

As she made her way to the restrooms of the cramped, 824-square-foot establishment, she found her way blocked by Stout’s straight male friend.

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“I tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Hey excuse me, no one can get through,’” Pypes said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “He rolled his eyes at me and scoffed a bit, so I asked him, ‘What are you doing in this bar?’ It didn’t go well.”

According to Pypes, after Stout’s friend group stepped in to clarify that the man was with them, the man asked Pypes, “If I wasn’t with her, would that be a problem?”

When Pypes responded, “Yes, absolutely,” the incident went the way of many a bar argument, with both parties eventually on the sidewalk trading barbs, Pypes said.

“It’s not how I wanted to spend my night,” Pypes said.

Pypes said she is “not an internet person” and didn’t have a TikTok account until last week.

In fact, she only created her TikTok account to post her take on the incident.

After a friend showed her Stout’s video, noting that the story sounded like one Pypes had told, Pypes created an account and responded to Stout’s video. Her response now has 3.7 million views and is approaching 10,000 comments.

Pypes said that while the experience at the bar was upsetting, it wasn’t the first one like it, and probably won’t be the last.

“Slowly, over time, as these incidents take place, it does erode the safe queer spaces,” Pypes said. “Queer women have responded saying, ‘Something similar happened to me and now I no longer engage in these spaces at all, because it was traumatizing for me.’”

Jack Jen Gieseking, a research fellow at Hampshire College who has published extensively on queer and trans spaces, said this is an old conversation in the queer community.

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“Go back and scroll through the comments of any lesbian bar that’s ever existed that had an Instagram,” Gieseking said. “I would not be surprised if you didn’t see some sort of incident like this.”

Still, he said that the magnitude of the online reaction to the Cubbyhole incident was surprising.

“I follow all the lesbian bar Instagrams and all the TikToks, and the attention pales in comparison to this incident,” Gieseking said. “I think the reason is because this was about not letting in cis straight men, and they are very powerful.”

Gieseking said lesbian bars carry an expectation of not being sexualized, or having to relinquish space to cisgender men.

“Even the question, ‘Did you come with this person?’ means something – there’s a trust in community in this time where rights are under attack,” Gieseking said.

As the conversation spiraled out in the nature of viral TikTok debates, with person after person weighing in with their own take on the situation, the consensus seemed to coalesce on Pypes’ side, noting that the original video didn’t tell the whole story of why Pypes had questioned Stout’s straight male friend.

Bobbie Briceño, whose reaction to Stout’s TikTok garnered more than 200,000 views, likened being a guest in a queer space to being a plus-one at a wedding, and that guests should tread lightly.

She called the idea of explaining queer issues to Stout “het-splaining.”

“[Stout] said ‘I’ve never felt like this before, I’ve never felt othered,’ so I tried to put it in a context she could understand,” Briceño said. “I think having someone come on and be so blatantly unaware and choosing not to listen is what really struck a chord with people.”

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“I follow all the lesbian bar Instagrams and all the TikToks, and the attention pales in comparison to this incident,” Gieseking said. “I think the reason is because this was about not letting in cis straight men, and they are very powerful.”

Pypes said she’d like Stout to understand “the immense amount of privilege she has, as a straight woman able to go on TikTok and ask that question, and not be able to understand how hard that experience was for me.”

“She probably assumed I was the bad guy,” Pypes said. “But I was really just a lesbian trying to pee in a lesbian bar.”

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