#SoapboxSunday: Discrimination at Gay Venues

Featured blog post image - Discrimination at gay venues | The Dinocorn Life

UPDATE: The unicorn and I attended the Hay Festival earlier this month and went to see Amy Lamé in conversation with Jenny Valentine, talking about her new book From Prejudice to Pride. During the Q&A I asked Amy what she thought, as the Mayor of London’s first Night Tsar, about gay venues in London turning away gay punters—to which there were jeers and ‘hear hears’ from the audience—further proof that this wasn’t an isolated incident! She was shocked by what I’d said but hinted that she was already aware of the venue in question for other reasons that she didn’t want to go into in public; fair enough. She said she would send over her PA after the show to get more detailed info so she could follow this up. He did come and speak to us, took down our info and promised to be in touch… so, watch this space!

P.S. If you haven’t got a copy of From Prejudice to Pride yet I highly recommend you buy one! It charts LGBTQ+ history from ancient civilisations to the present day, exploring the pioneers, heartbreaks and courageous communities that have helped us understand what it means to be LGBTQ+ today.


Last Saturday, The Unicorn and I were at a Hen do for The Unicorn’s best friend. As far as Hen dos go, this was a little out of the ordinary as it was for a lesbian couple; both brides-to-be were in attendance and there were also a couple of guys (read: gays) there.

The Unicorn had organised the whole thing, along with two other awesome people, and it was a complete hit with everyone, especially the brides-to-be.

Now, without going into too much detail about the day (as that’s not really the reason why I’m writing this post), I want to just give you a feel of the type of affair we’re talking about.

Mellow Lesbian Hen Do

It started late (for a Hen party) at around 3:00 PM, at the brides’ flat. There was a total of about 16 of us, including both brides’ mums, and we spent a couple of hours at the flat talking, playing some games (including pass the parcel!), having nibbles and a few cocktails—nothing too raucous.

Blog post image - lesbian hen party, discrimination at gay venues | The Dinocorn LifeThe theme of the do was ‘Tropical Glitter’ so we each had flower garlands and there was a ‘Glitter Station’ which meant we all had a bit of glitter on our faces, some had rainbow flags (remember that, these are important details for later).

We then headed into Soho at around 5:30 PM for some dinner.

Dinner finished at around 7:00/7:30 PM, where the mums and one other guest parted ways. The remaining 13 of us trundled up the road to the Soho Theatre where we had tickets to see Panti Bliss (if you don’t know who that is, check her out—she is EPIC).

The show finished around 10:30 PM and we headed straight over to G-A-Y Late so that we could get in and settled before the mad rush of everyone else leaving the other bars and pubs in Soho.

Being a group of 13 negotiating the narrow, winding streets of Soho we didn’t manage to stick together for the entire journey and so we arrived, in dribs and drabs of groups of 3-4, at G-A-Y Late at roughly quarter to 11 (about 15 minutes after opening).

It’s worth noting at this point that ‘our party’ had gained a few other random members of the public in between the little groups of 3-4 that had arrived in dribs and drabs at G-A-Y Late; folks who had just happened to poddle up to the venue at roughly the same time we had and joined the queue.

Our little group of 4 was the last to arrive, plodding up to the back of our party who were all waiting, very Britishly, in a nice orderly queue outside the venue. We stood there chatting for a couple of minutes before we realised something was up and started craning out necks down to the front to see what was up.

It didn’t take us long to realise that there was an issue.

They weren’t going to let us in.

‘Big Groups’ of Gays Not Welcome

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Now, I wasn’t privy to the entire conversation that was had at the front door between the bouncers and a handful of our group, but what was relayed back to me as we walked away to find somewhere else to spend our money was that they ‘couldn’t’ let us in because there were ‘too many of us’. Translation—we were a medium-sized group of, mostly, fem looking women who the male bouncers decided where a straight hen party group.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand the need to ‘protect’ gay venues and I know that issues with straight Hen/Stag parties ‘crashing’ gay venues do exist—Manchester Gay Village has had particular issues with this. But the FACTS of the matter are:

  1. We were not drunk
  2. It was 10:45—the club had only just opened and we were some of the first punters to arrive
  3. We were rocking up in dribs and drabs of 3-4 people—the only identifying feature of us as a ‘big group’ was rainbow flower garlands and glitter which, let’s face it, identifies us pretty clearly as a bloody gay group—we practically looked like we’d just peeled off the back of a Gay Pride Parade!

Yes, we were a hen party group, but for a lesbian couple, a detail that was pointed out and ignored several times by the door staff.

We were not rowdy. We were not drunk. We were not even that big of a group—there were 13 of us! We could easily have been a Birthday party group or friends that had been at an afternoon BBQ at a mate’s house where a bunch of us decided on a whim to go into town.

Is that to say that if any of these scenarios apply you won’t get into a gay club these days?

What if we’d all decided to meet up inside G-A-Y? We’d still be a big group and the bouncers would have no way of identifying us as such if we’d all turned up separately, minutes apart, and met at the bar instead of the door.

Not an Isolated Incident

Having posted about the incident on Facebook after it happened I was amazed to discover that many of my gay friends had experienced something similar themselves at this particular venue, to the point where some had even been thrown out!

So, I decided to take to Twitter to put the feelers out and see just how many gay people had been denied entry to G-A-Y for similarly flimsy reasons. Unsurprisingly, we weren’t the only gay women who’d experienced this behaviour…

 

I used to work in the pub industry—I get the need/want to protect staff and other venue users from rowdy, potentially abusive customers. But there was nothing about our group that would suggest we were that kind of group because we weren’t!

For me, this is nothing more than a pair of jumped up bouncers on a power trip, acting like the gatekeepers to the now seemingly coveted and ‘protected’ gay venue—so protected that gay people themselves cannot easily or safely gain entry if they don’t look ‘gay’ enough—which is so f***ed up I can’t even! WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!

I would love to see G-A-Y’s official policy on ‘big groups’ or parties gaining entry to their venue but strangely enough, owner, Jeremy Joseph, has not responded to my requests for a comment on the issue.

Though he’s no stranger to bad press, it seems the nightclub owner is now taking his misjudged and narrow-minded views to his own community…

Maybe it’s time he took a look at his club policies and door staff to ensure that gay groups such as ours (read: predominantly fem female) that want to party, and spend good money I might add, in a venue where they should feel safe and comfortable to be themselves, can actually get in!

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