Introducing the newest addition to gay nightlife: straight people. “I like a party that’s about 40 percent gay,” says Bradley Portnoy, one of the founders of Brightest Young Things’ new LGBT nightlife contingent, BYGays—a site aimed at adding a queer twist to BYT’s party promotion and scene coverage. “To get gay people to your party, you have to show them that there’s a potential for them to get laid that night,” explains Portnoy, 23. “When it’s 30 or 40 percent gay, you can identify where the gay people are and approach them and hit on them. If you don’t have that, the gays aren’t going to show up. But once you get to about 50 percent gay, the straight people start to feel alienated.”
The heterosexual discomfort, Portnoy says, has an innocent partying explanation. “It’s not homophobia,” he says. “I think everyone wants to make sure they can get laid without too much of a hassle.” But since when have gay nightlife promoters been concerned with getting straight people laid?
“Our goal for this initiative is to get people to try experiences they normally wouldn’t try,” says John Marble, who started BYGays alongside Portnoy and Deb Greenspan, 25, last year. Marble, 33, was BYT’s sole gay guy when the site launched in 2006; three years later, he looked around and saw that not much had changed. Marble originally envisioned BYGays as a way to recruit more LGBT talent to write, photograph, DJ, plan parties, and style photo shoots for the site. Later, the dream became bigger than simply getting gay scene-makers some mainstream recognition—it’s also about growing the gay nightlife scene into a destination for partiers of any sexual orientation. “What we’re really trying to do is create some innovation in D.C. nightlife, both gay and straight,” Marble says. “That innovation comes when people cross-pollinate and get good ideas from each other.”
The stand for gay-nightlife representation is about as much political engagement readers can expect to get from BYGays. “A lot of gay publications in D.C. take on a political tint, because gay people are engaged in a fight for equal rights, and that’s so important. We wanted to make sure that BYGays had almost nothing to do with that,” says Portnoy. “The politics of being gay can get depressing. We just want to have fun. I think gay people need an outlet, and straight people can enjoy the more fun side of gay culture.”
So far, BYGay’s editorial content (“The Week in Gaga”; “Gay Icon: Harriet Tubman”) has been well-received among BYT’s straight readers, who consume BYGay’s posts directly alongside general interest content on the BYT homepage. “We’ve been given the opportunity to write about the stuff we think is cool, things that might only appeal to a narrow segment of folks,” says Greenspan. “We’re glad that BYT has been kooky and brave enough to find a place for that.” The integration tactic has also been a hit at bars and clubs around the District. “Over the last two years, the big trend has been to hold gay parties at traditionally straight venues,” says Marble. Club owners are generally happy to oblige. “If venues have had any experience with gay men and lesbians as well, they are more than excited to host a gay event,” says Portnoy. “If you move into a straight venue for the first time, you have to request three times as many bartenders as usual, because gay men drink a lot. We will run up the tab.”
The next frontier of gay nightlife may be getting gay bars excited about hosting an increasingly orientation-mixed clientele. “The conversation that’s happening now is: How do we introduce these experiences that are going on outside the gay bars back into those traditional gay venues?” says Marble. More to the point, how do you get a bunch of straight guys to party—and attempt to get laid without incident—in a gay bar? “I don’t think anyone has tried that before,” says Marble. “The straight community isn’t particularly comfortable going into the gay bars, and for the gay community, gay bars are their safe space. It’s where you can let your guard down and be who you are,” he says. “I think it’s a concept that’s interesting to people, but no one’s figured out how to do it yet.”