Keeping it in the room: health, happiness and living in London
This morning, I read this tweet:
Because I’m with a straight group, G-A-Y owned by @JeremyJoseph won’t let us in. That’s just as bad as homophobia in my view. Awful.
— Ethan Bourne (@EthanBourneUK) May 29, 2012
So is it any more appropriate for a gay club to deny entry to a group of straight men, than it would be for a straight club to deny entry to a group of gay men? @EthanBourneUK clearly thinks not.
G-A-Y, and, indeed, all so-called “gay” venues, were set up as a safe space by their proprietors; a place where the customers could feel free to be themselves, to cruise and chat to other people of the same sexual orientation, knowing that they wouldn’t be picked on for their sexuality. The only reason they exist is that existing venues did not cater for these needs.
Is it appropriate that the club barred Ethan and his friends? I’d say yes, it is – the reason for this is that the people inside want to know that they can be whoever they want to be. Some years ago, I remember going to Heaven, before it had changed hands, and noting on many occasions that one end of the main dancefloor was predominantly straight men. Straight women had started going, in order to be able to enjoy themselves without fear of being harassed or people coming on to them; and straight men followed. This created an unusual – and not particularly pleasant – atmosphere. The men didn’t appreciate being eyed up, and made their sexuality quite clear with their body language and dress sense. I even remember a friend coming up to me and saying to me:
I know this is going to sound weird coming from a straight guy, but don’t you think it’s really straight in here tonight?
Many gay venues are now finding themselves a destination for hen parties – last time I was in Manchester’s Canal Street, I saw several groups bar hopping, while groups of straight men followed in their wake. This diluted the fun and playful atmosphere of the “gay village” and made me want to leave. I didn’t appreciate their groups of loud, drunk, straight woman with angel wings and head bands.
This isn’t the first time Joseph has courted controversy. In January 2012, he said that straight girls wouldn’t be welcome at an appearance by X-Factor boy band One Direction. He defended his decision by pointing out that the club’s “a lesbian and gay club.”
Is this as bad as homophobia? Again, I’d argue that no, it’s not. If you take the definition of homophobia as irrational fear of homosexual people, then of course the two aren’t the same. It’s simply trying to keep a space safe, comfortable, and pleasant for everyone inside.
Other clubs ban groups of same gender people (including groups of men), on the basis that stag parties cause trouble; or they offer discounts to women on ‘ladies’ night’.
When British society reaches the point where clubs no longer have to describe themselves as gay or gay friendly – because everywhere is – then they will no longer have the right to bar straight groups. Until that point, I think they should continue with their policy if they wish.
What do you think? Please let me know your views below.