When gay bars police what people wear, they exclude genderqueer bodies like mine
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Author Topic: When gay bars police what people wear, they exclude genderqueer bodies like mine  (Read 3724 times)
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« on: August 26, 2017, 06:15:11 pm »

As a genderqueer person of colour, spaces I genuinely feel free and safe to be myself in are few and far between. LGBTQIA+ nightclubs are a momentary refuge, and offer a space where I can dance and dress the way I want without judgement. In theory.

But in practice, queer spaces in the UK can be hostile to those who visibly present as queer. Just the other night I was reminded of this. After performing my nightly drag show as part of the Edinburgh Fringe, I went with my queens to one of the city’s only gay bars. I had a face of drag make up on, and my sisters and I were desperate to dance to pop like cringe teenagers. But we were refused entry. Why? Because I was in tracksuit bottoms. According to the bouncer, my outfit was an indication that “I hadn’t made an effort”. I’m guessing that my 2 hours of make-up constituted an insulting lack of “effort”.

Whilst me and my queens were denied entry – one of them because they were in shorts deemed “too sporty” – men in shirts and chinos comfortably waltzed in, assessed as appropriately dressed for an adult night out. When I spied inside, what I saw was a crowd of women and men who comfortably presented as normative, all adhering to the smart casual dress code of the venue. When I offered to change into the only thing I had in my bag – a gorgeous velvet tunic – I got a firm “no.”

A queer venue – in a city where there are so few – should point blank have no dress code. Dress codes immediately exclude queer bodies that sit along the infinite permutations of gender, sexual and racial spectrums. What about trans customers who feel uncomfortable in gender essentialist clothing? What about customers who want to wear fetish gear? What about customers who don’t own smart trousers? What about customers who cannot afford them?

The primary objective of a queer space must be to prioritise the needs of queer customers in a society that is constantly hostile to them. In an ensuing Twitter feud I had with the club, I suggested they needed to consider the requirements of queer people over straight customers – it was implied that this was discriminatory to straight people, and that they were all about #equality.

I’m sorry, but heterophobia is JUST NOT A THING. Reverse “discrimination” – if we can even call it that – is necessary to preserve the inclusivity and safety of the few spaces queer people have in an oppressively straight world. And when I enquired as to why tracksuits were so forbidden, I was told that they “attract the wrong crowd.” Is this anything but social profiling? The classist overtones are hard to stomach, and being made to feel like part of the wrong crowd in a gay venue is a painful blow.

As a queer person of colour, I suffer daily anxieties due to the systemic rejections of society; rejections from within gay spaces only add insult to injury. Many queer people of colour have similarly felt disempowered in gay spaces. Travis Alabanza – a trans gender-non-conformist black performance artist – tells me that “gay clubs present to me a place of high anxiety. I wonder how my body, in its femininity, transness, gender non-conformity and blackness can ever fit in. I find myself at best self-conscious and at worst harassed in these clubs. I have been laughed at by security guards, refused entry to certain toilets, and called ‘a bad drag queen’.”

They too have felt unwelcomed by venues with strict dress codes, explaining that “dress codes not only place an anxiety on trans bodies, but are normally charged in classicist and racists ideas of “who” is considered smart. Often clubs code this wear as “urban and not acceptable.” Queer venues by definition welcome those who don’t conform to the normative – exclusive dress codes reverse this right, forcing queer people into a costume we ditched in the first place.

Cities around the world are experiencing rapid gentrification – with this comes the gentrification of queer spaces, and the homogenisation of queer identities. As a matter of social urgency, LGBTQIA+ venues must preserve their commitment to providing safety and inclusivity to non-conforming bodies and identities – without them, we might have nowhere else to go.

1x Question mark


« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2017, 03:10:44 am »

It should be noted that the author of this very interesting article is Amrou Al-Kadhi.

I'm sure it's unintentional, but leading with no attribution, and the article's first-person "I" format, makes it look like self-authorship.

You do tuck the link in at the end, cheers for that.


« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2017, 08:53:28 am »

Best practice is to always include the article link at the top of the post.   
1x Thumb Up


« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2017, 05:56:40 am »

Best practice is to always include the article link at the top of the post.   

That's an even better point about posting, raphjd.  Here's to the contributions by mulawin1, as well as ra-vena1, two of GT's newest members who arrived on the same date, with both adding a slew of news posts, in a single hour, to several boards that needed a bit of airing out.


« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2017, 06:15:07 pm »

just noticed i said you alot, this is in general and not directed at anyone

this seems like this a problem with pompous bars imposing dress code to "keep out the riffraff" or something, and the bouncer maybe abusing that a little bit.

hate to break it but this is a cancer on the "straight" scene aswell...

sorry but i don't want to wear uncomfortable "smart"/"semiprofessional" clothes to dance in a sweaty pit.

if a place has a dress code, please do not give it your patronage... do you really want to be in this pretentious place anyway?

also hate to break it, but as a private enterprise and not a universal communally owned "queer space", the owner is free to impose whatever restrictions they want bigoted or not. you can also boycott this, and try and convince others of the same, if you really care.

as for the gentrification or normalisation of queer culture... well... honestly i don't identify with this and that the perpetuation of the notion of some universal queer culture is inherently damaging to the individuals in the group. the image of gays portrayed in popular media is a disgustingly shallow and laughable caricature. Not that "being weird" (all in different ways) is enough to bind any group together. I mean, straight people aren't all a universal homogeneous community bound by the fact that they all like the opposite sex?

i am who i am; the fact that i like dick has nothing to do with my identity, personality, interests or mannerisms. this also means just because someone is gay or runs a gay bar, doesn't mean they identify with or even like drag queens and so on, it's an error to assume so...

besides, if enough of the group in question are excluded from said venues: there will be a large enough group to split off and populate their own venue. if they don't want you there; probably you don't want to be there either. I mean, you don't find heavy metal moshers in a "basic" club, do you. It's the same thing.

some of the best nights out, with the friendliest and most fabulous people have included those going out in a bathroom robe... or even a onesie (barf); and they can go to those places because there isn't a judgement on them. And they aren't even explicit LGBT events, but have plenty of gay/trans etc folk there because of the accepting environment.

accepting in general, from your washed out 50 year old smelly hippies, chavs, goths, queens... not just of LGBT or any specific group. All that matters is those at the venue don't harass others or cause trouble.

TLDR: venues policing dress code sucks in general and is nothing inherently to do with LGBT. many bouncers are dicks and will use any excuse to refuse entry "are those trainers?". assumption that LGBWTFBBQIA+ is a single unified group with a shared culture is inherently damaging to the individuals in that group.


« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2017, 08:58:57 am »

I'm not opposed to dress codes, as long as they are reasonable.

What I hate is the "gay hive mind", as if we are supposed to be the Borg or some shit.   
1x Thumb Up


« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2017, 09:59:59 am »

Where is it written that a gay bay is supposed to be queer-friendly?   
If the owners want to extend that curiosity to non-conforming members in a society, more power to them. If they don't and their regular customers agree through patronage, too bad.  
This very small fringe of people is welcome and able to create their own safe spaces. The best raves, parties, and bars often start out like this.  
Myself, I like dress codes. Showing up in white to a Black Party spoils the fun, so is drag to a leather bar.

There is no hard line to make. It's up to the owners to decide how they run their businesses and for customers to come or not. All the what happens in x, y, or z situations  still follow that same rule.

1x Thumb Up


« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2017, 07:41:41 am »

Best practice is to always include the article link at the top of the post.   

That's an even better point about posting, raphjd.  Here's to the contributions by mulawin1, as well as ra-vena1, two of GT's newest members who arrived on the same date, with both adding a slew of news posts, in a single hour, to several boards that needed a bit of airing out.

You even bitch in this group?  By the way.. what's that long red line under your name for?  And how come mine is a long green line?   The green and red look so festive like Christmas!   HO HO HO!   


« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2017, 05:11:35 am »

That is crazy to me. I'm sorry about your experience.

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