Gary Bellomy 2017As far back as I remember, some young, gay shop clerks have often engaged in a behavior I call “the bitchy queen” when it comes to dealing with some of their gay male clientele. I’m not quite sure why that seems to be an appropriate behavior to indulge in with their client base, and I have a little bit of advice to share:

You are a clerk, not a beauty contestant. Your clients aren’t in your shop to access your ranking on the male food chain and see if they measure up.

They want to purchase a product, not clamor for your phone number.

Really, it’s not about you, at all.

But if you insist on continuing such behavior, be cautious. I suggest you only try serving up the attitude to your younger clients; their inexperience with nastiness may be limited, so you might have a better chance of hitting your mark.

But you really should curb the impulse to play “bitchy queen” with older gay men. They may look like an easy mark on the surface, but appearances can be highly deceiving.

This is often actually an extremely dangerous specimen you are confronting. Always treat this one with courtesy. Your own safety and survival could be in jeopardy. You are swimming in dark, murky waters where some perilous creatures live.

Consider this: this person you are being bitchy to could be a close friend of the business owner. Or, even if you are actually the shop owner and think your own celeb status allows you to be a bitchy queen, consider that your target may have enough societal influence to shut your doors.

Or maybe you’re sleeping with his husband. You could be unaware of his existence, and your cheating boyfriend could be unaware that his husband knows of your existence. But this man in your shop may know full well who you are and decided to drop by to size you up. So play nice. The continued success and existence of your affair could be riding on your behavior.

Gay men pretty much control the retail environment you depend on for your livelihood. Future job advancement in retail or a crossover into the wholesale world of design, which gay men also heavily influence, may very well be determined by the older gay men that venture into your shop, so keep that in mind before you decide to turn on the bitchiness.

I have had the unfortunate experience of witnessing this very type of scenario play out, with sad effect on what might have been a promising a career.

A few years back, a male couple wandered into their friend’s resale shop. Their friend was not present, and the clerk chose to be dismissive toward the gentleman asking for the owner, and that man’s partner was highly offended to see his husband treated with such disrespect.

Fast-forward a couple of years, and an associate of the man who had been offended asked for his opinion regarding a potential new employee in the associate’s wholesale design business. Turned out, the potential new employee was the same former shop clerk who had insulted the man’s husband. The former shop clerk was not offered a job.

The point here is, just do your job. Treat all your patrons in a friendly, professional manner. Gay men are there to shop. That’s all. Do your best to facilitate this.

But if you insist on playing the bitchy queen game, be forewarned: No good will come of it, and you could well end up on the losing end.

Gary Bellomy is a longtime Dallas activist working on issues of LGBT equality, HIV/AIDS services and family violence prevention. He is a war resister and a Trump resister.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 14, 2017.