Alex Blaze

Can exclusion be good?

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 23, 2009 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Australia, Key West, lesbian, LGBT, Melbourne, men's bar, party, Pinkalicious, united kingdom

Should gay bars ban women? Should lesbian bars ban men? Two cases this week raise those questions.

First, in the UK, a gay bar refused service to and asked a lesbian woman and her partner to drink in a different part of the bar or leave. They wanted to drink in the "Tom's Cruise Bar" in the basement but were told that they should, because they were women, head upstairs to a different bar.

On the other side of the world, a women's party planning service in Australia just won a ruling by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to allow them to ban men. They were challenged by a men's rights group who called the ban a "double standard." Of course, the article implies that strip clubs can still ban women in Australia, so I don't really see the double standard.

Here's more about Pinkalicious, the Australian women's party planning organization:

The organisers claimed that some men were attending in order to solicit threesomes from the lesbian and bisexual women patrons.

Pinkalicious Director Julie MacKenzie complained to the tribunal she couldn't stop men attending the parties "even if I know they intend to hit on women".

Co-organiser Samantha Stevens argued men should be banned because they were attending in order to pester women for sex.

"In my experience feminine lesbians are often the target of heterosexual male fantasy, and therefore subject to more intrusive attention from them," said Stevens.

"It is a major concern that heterosexual males will attend the Pinkalicious event in the hope they can achieve their desire for a sexual experience with multiple women."

And the Key West Hotel in the UK:

Rebecca Hill and her partner were drinking at the upstairs bar of the Key West Hotel in Torquay last Sunday, just after the town's Pride festival.

They then tried to go to the downstairs bar, known as Tom's Cruise Bar but were told they could not enter because they were women.

Hill told the South Devon Herald Express: "If this was a working's man club turning away women people would say it was wrong.

"I think it is disgusting that after all the strides the gay movement has made over the years there are places still discriminating.

"For years gay people weren't being accepted in society. Key West can't say 'out and proud' if it's only for men."

The bar's owner has said that as it advertises as a gay men's resort, it reserves the right to turn away women and believes this is within the law.

Co-owner of the Key West Hotel Peter Gordon said: "Men can be naturists in the garden and we don't want lesbians or straight men kicking off because it is in their face.

"Our priority is our guests.

"We did explain the rules to one woman and told her she was welcome to drink upstairs."

They each have their reasons: the women are worried about straight men hitting on women; the men want to go nude and, understandably, they're concerned that some men wouldn't want to do that with women present. I'm also just going to assume a little more than walking around naked is going on at the Key West Hotel....

So questions:

  • Should banning men or women from a bar or a professionally-hosted party be legal?
  • Would you go to such a party?
  • Does it change anything if transgender people are accepted as the gender they are or is it always wrong/always OK?

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Blanket bans are discriminatory--I don't think any establishment (save one run by an organization whose primary focus is to catre to a specific gender--like a mens' AIDS prevention group) should always be exclusive. That said if someone wants to be lame and throw a limited single-gender event to either decrease--or perhaps increase--the chances of sexual advances, I say whatever. I just doubt you'll see me at one of those anytime soon.

Last time I checked, people are free to create whatever atmospheres they want in a party.

Whether I would go depends on a few things. If it were an all-male party, I would want to know the origin of this limitation. Is it because they're bunch of filthy misogynists, or is it just because they like an environment where they can seek romantic/sexual interaction without any obstacles/distractions? Do they want to party unmolested by women who think they can get frisky with gay men?

Transgender people should be allowed to enter based on what gender they present as. Transmen in an all-male party, sure. Transwomen at an all-female party? Why not.

Genderqueers and those that do not want to define shouldn't be going to these heavily sexed parties, to begin with.

A. J. Lopp | July 23, 2009 4:18 PM

I don't know details about Australia or any other foreign culture, but in the US a private club can still discriminate based on gender --- that is how the gay bathhouses keep women out. If a meeting spot wants to exclude one gender or the other, the option of becoming a private club is already open to them.

As for trangenders, if the attendees are clothed, then the "I present as" rule is reasonable. But if there is nudity going on, I would say the state of you genitals determines what gender you belong to. (If you are truly inter-sex, I'd suggest you keep your clothes on unless you want to give an educational lecture every five minutes or so ...)

And personally, a few lesbians mixed in with naked gay men don't bother me, as long as the women don't outnumber the men and the women know beforehand what they are in for. I've never heard of a lesbian interfering with two men making out (although male spectators often do interfere, by trying to get in on the action even though they often are unwelcome).

Support groups can also have reasons to be only one sex or the other --- however, I have attended even some women's sexual assault recovery support groups and been made to feel welcome. It depends on the women, whose needs in that environment do come first.

I am from Victoria in Oz and know the event that you are discussing here.
I think that it's more than fair enough - I believe that having restricted venues is a liberating and often necessary thing for same sex attracted people.
We have a two bars now in Melbourne that are Men Only spaces, and another club that is 'Gay' Men only (in effect, they add up to the same thing, as very few straight men wish to go to a Gay Bar if they cant have their girlfriends along for 'protection').
On top of that, we have some Sex On Premises venues (steam-rooms and bath-houses) that are men only too.
I visit these and the mixed gay venues around time a lot :-).
Unfortunately, there is not a lot for the gay women on the Melbourne scene, and I am glad that Pinkalicous got it's exemption allowed, for the very reasons that Julie mentions.
But the real point of these restrictions is not to stop Lesbians and Gay Men mixing at all - it's really to give same-sex attracted people safe places to go out to, where they will not get harassed for cuddling up to their other half by some mad half-tanked hetro (male or female). This used to happen here in the same-sex bars all the time.
Nowadays, you only have to go to the Sydney 'Gay & Lesbian' Mardi Gras to experience what I mean; I place the Gay and Lesbian in inverted commas very deliberately, as I stopped going to that event when I started getting hassled by all the straights for daring to walk around at the dance parties, hand in hand with my partner.
It's a common experience at Mardi Gras these days, which is a sad comment on what this event has become.
It's no longer a celebration of diversity or discussion point for equality (as it was at it's beginning)- it's now just an excuse for Sydney-siders to have a party.
Whether we like to acknowledge it or not - prejudice against same sex attracted people still runs rife in all western societies, and we still get hassled, bashed and abused every day for our orientation.
Having these places that are Men or Women only is vital - if only to ensure that we have a genuine space where we can express ourselves without fear of intimidation from some bigot.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 24, 2009 6:11 AM

I think first we have to remember that this is a business catering to it's primary clientele. I have had the experience of walking in to a lesbian bar in Indianapolis (because I was not looking for an encounter, but wanted to be with my own type of people) and was served, but kept under close scrutiny of a male security guard. One cocktail was plenty.

I have been to lesbian bars in places like Evansville and had a great time because I happened to arrive on a show night. I think the old adage "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone" is still apt for Gay bars as long as it does not include race as a criteria. I always remembered that I was not a "local" and made the point of asking if (rarely) I was made to feel unwelcome if they could recommend a bar where I would be. Without fail they would recommend. Usually most were happy if I volunteered to show my Illinois drivers license so they would know I was not a cop. They are paying the rent, they have the liquor license, they get to set their standards. I do not take that personally.

Legally, I don't know about a business like a bar doing something like that. But setting the law aside for a moment, I'm always going to say that gender exclusive spaces are fine by me IF they are not policed. Tell everyone it's a wo/men's only event, announce it in flyers, make it prominent, make sure every guest knows it, then let anyone in who feels they should be there. Only kick people out if there is a behavioral problem and not just because they don't look the part. Self selection is powerful and is usually all you need. No matter how justified it appears, once you start interrogating people about their gender, it's not going to be very safe for trans and genderqueer folks to attend.

Tobi you are SO RIGHT! You can aim something at an audience, but the second we start allowing unequivocal exclusion of this type, we're opening the door to worse. I hate to use the slippery slope argument, but people LOVE excluding. The shoe fits. Who doesn't see this snowballing?