Jonathan Higbee's picture

Denver Gay Bar Found Guilty Of Not Allowing Entry To Drag Queens

The Denver Wrangler, a popular gay bar that attracts a large "bear" clientele, has a long sordid history with populating its club with a myopic view of masculinity while discriminating against men in drag at the door by barring them from entry. 

Bouncers and Wrangler owners enforced this policy of discriminating against drag queens by claiming that they don't have to let people in who appear different than the picture on their I.D.'s -- a trope horrifically borrowed from anti-trans bigots and applied to a gay bar setting. 

This was the bile spewed to Vito John Marzano, a drag activist who spent a few years of his life fighting the gay-on-gay discrimination at the Wrangler. Not only did the Wrangler make its policy clear with an image that appeared for a short time on its website (above) before being taken down once the heat was applied, but the bouncers also aren't exactly subtle while denying Marzano entry in this now-infamous video:

Marzano took the discrimination case to Colorado's civil rights officials, who this week ruled that the Wrangler is guilty of discrimination. The state's Department of Regulatory Agencies found that the Wrangler granted entry to hyper-masculine gay men while consistently denying men in drag. Investigators also discovered a bar policy banning "wigs, high heels and strong perfumes." 

“In other words, a female with a masculine gender presentation would be permitted to enter, whereas, a male presenting as a female would be denied entry,” DRA civil rights division Director Steven Chavez wrote in the report.

Unfortunately, the DRA has only demanded that the Wrangler and Marzano settle this dispute themselves, which is what Marzano's been attempting to do for a year now. So, in other words, though the Wrangler is guilty in the state's eyes of barring entry to drag queens, don't hold your breath, Colorado. 

(h/t: Queerty, PlanetTransgender)




Many of the posts I see here are so hypocritical.  Persons who complain about being discriminated against because they are gay championing  the cause of a bar which denies admittance to someone based on how they look!  Please!  That they don't look like their id is total bullshit.  It's because they don't display a hairy chest and are wearing female clothes.  Are many of you so ignorant as to be unaware of the very origin of the gay rights movement at "Stonewall", that's New York in 1969, when transvestites, drag queens and other gays rebelled at being ostracized and jailed because of their gender presentation.  The bar owners at the Wrangler should have to spend a few days in jail as drag queens to see how true gender discrimination works.

Aside from any discrimination, the staff at this bar is rude, obnoxious and has no idea what "customer service" means, specifically the manager.  He's nothing but a bully, and he knows it. His doormen and security follow his lead. Their time as "the bar to go to" is limited.  I would never set foot in this place again, even if it were the only gay bar in town.

Unless it's a matter of life, death, or a public place (and this certainly isn't), Why?  Why, would anyone want to go somewhere they are not wanted?  It is exactly like Private Men Only or Country Club issue for women and African Americans.  Yeah, sure the Supreme Court court may say you have the right to enter or belong and you may eventually gain access., However, just think of all the fun you're not going to have once you get inside.  They may tolerate your presence because the law says they have to, but you will never, never, ever really be in "the club"  You will still be cunts and niggers to the real membership.  If people with common interest wish to have a private club that exclude certain people I say, "Let Them."  Besides, this is just some stupid Denver gay bar of no real consequence in the scope of life's big picture.  It's not like a win on this thing is going to make the her/him Rosa Parks or anything, and if you think the "community" will thank you for "openings doors" and "fighting for their "rights.""  Forget About It! I assure you the "community" will have already moved onto whatever selfish and self-absorbed noun or American institution once won they won't be thankful for the "community" is focused on destroying this week.

I'm a black American. To equate drag queens to black people is offensive, racist, and ignorant beyond belief. It's a false comparison. What you and other commentators here don't get is that makeup and clothing are things you can change, whereas skin color is something you can not change. As a black person, I am not in the same category as a drag queen. 

Years ago in Cleveland, a popular bar (Keys on Prospect Ave just off E 9th St.) would not allow any drag queens to enter other than their "one token queen bee" (who will remain nameless as we are friends). When I was chatting with the cloakroom person in the entry vestibule, a friend attempted to enter and was told, " drag queens except for_________ are allowed in..." I was infuriated! So I went up to the "queen bee" who was   there at the time and expressed my outrage. She came to the front vestibule with me and granted "permission" for the other drag queen to enter. It was beyond comprehension to me that the LGBT community would discriminate against other members of the LGBT community!

First, I don't understand why some of the commentators here do not get that the T in LGBT stands for Trans NOT drag. Trans does NOT equal drag. I wish you guys would get that. Second, equating a drag queen to a transgender person is insulting to trans people; it's offensive; it's transphobic, and it's stupid. Third, everyone discriminates, including YOU! Some forms of discrimination, especially over things you can choose or change, may be rational and/or legal. For example, what if a person dressed as a confederate wanted to enter a bar that had mostly black clientele? I could see why the bar would not let the confederate in. 

You should probably just read what you wrote over and over until you realize that it makes no sense. A drag queen walking into a gay bar is a gay man (not trans) walking into a GAY bar. No white on black, no gay on straight - it's a gay man going into a gay man's bar.

I think it's a SHAME - that gay people everywhere seem to forget stonewall and the brave drag queens who made a stand against discrimination so that these bears would be allowed to discriminate against drag queens 40 years later. We used to be a community. It's a shame

Denying entry into a gay bar due to choice of clothing is wrong. It does not matter what "label" is used to describe someone. Female Illusionist has been used as of late instead of drag queen, but again: labels don't matter – it's an issue of discrimination based on choice of clothing. Frankly, I'm not offended by female illusionists... are you?

I disagree with you. What if someone came to a bar in a swimsuit and was denied entry? What if someone had their pants of their butt where you could see their butt crack? I can think of many examples of where a bar would refuse entry based on how someone was dressed. I was refused intro into a leather bear bar once because I didn't have leather on. The next time I came wearing leather and was let in. Clothing is something you choose, so it's not the same thing is not letting someone in because of their skin color.

ps – it would be an extremely long acronym to include every label of every type of person within the community (S&M types, leather types. maco types, fem types, etc...) LGBT included enough letters. Would you prefer: LGBTS&MLMF...?... your comment is inane!

No, it's inane to suggest LGBT represents more than what it stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. That's what it stands for - nothing more, nothing less. Duh!

...and gay (or otherwise) people who want to wear dresses, makeup and wigs are part of the LGBT community!...

If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender AND you wear makeup and dresses, you are part of the LGBT community. Here in D.C, let me tell you we definitely have straight guys who wear makeup, etc. They are NOT part of the LGBT community. Drag and Trans are two different things. Anyone and everyone can do drag, but NOT everyone who does drag is LGBT.

I prefer to continue living with an inclusive, non–disriminatory, accepting and non–jaded attitude. You may continue as you wish...

I'm sure there are people you discriminate against and I'm sure there are people you don't accept. They may not be drag queens, but another group. You're human.

ah – and therein lies the rub! Yes, there are many with non–accepting, bigoted attitudes and views. But the issue is whether or not it's LEGAL to discriminate. Businesses have certain LAWS that they must follow, regardless of popular (hateful) opinion. There are no laws to prevent bigots, discriminators and haters from feeling a they do; it's their right. But, to reiterate: Businesses must comply with the law, and that – in many cases – means NO DISCRIMINATION. 

I disagree with your over-the-top labels and judgments. Not letting someone into a bar who is not dressed appropriately is not necessarily bigoted and not necessarily illegal. If they don't let someone dressed as a confederate into a black bar, is the black bar 'bigoted' against confederates? There are laws that protect businesses from having to let anyone and everyone into their bar, regardless of how they are dressed. I'm not a lawyer, but I bet that not allowing someone into a bar wearing a swastika T-shirt or someone just in a swim suit would be legal and permissible. What you don't get is that sometimes it is legal, rational and permissible NOT to let someone into a bar based on how they are dressed.

You're entitled to your opinion(s). The law will (and did) do what it will – and there's no "one size fits all" answer/solution.

What a pathetic response. I noticed you did not respond to the points I made and examples I gave about permissible, acceptable discrimination. seem awfully hostile. I'm done with this discourse with you... 

I am not hostile. There are only two basic things I'm saying. One, drag does not equal trans. A straight guy can do drag. Two, it's not necessarily illegal discrimination (and not necessarily bigoted or any other negative judgment) to not someone in a business based on how they are dressed. For example, not letting someone wearing swastika. I think these are two really easy, basic points to get.

...and I'm not just basing THAT opinion on your replies to me –– I see that you're quite agressive and hostile to several others!...

Actually, I don't believe that the Wrangler is woman friendly either as Mr. Dawkins likes to claim. I went there once with some gay male friends of mine, and the staff was incredibly rude to me despite the fact that I had a tab open and was buying lots of drinks for my friends. Mr. Dawkins,your staff will take cues on how to treat customers from you. You - more than anyone else at the Wrangler - are entrusted with establishing customer service expectations at your bar. The way your staff treats anyone who isn't a "hairy-fat" (or a bear in your lingo) leads one to believe that you might endorse that small-minded point of view for your bar. Good luck settling with Mr. Marzano. I hope his demands include a hefty $$$ payout and diversity sensitivity training for you and your staff. I say, let's bring the drag queens to the Wrangler and turn it into a drag queen bar with showings of RuPaul's Drag Race!!

I hate guys like you and I hate attitudes like yours. Drag queens are the ones who often need diversity and sensitivity training because they often make racist and sexist comments against others. As long as bars aren't discriminating against people for things people don't choose like their race or gender they should have discretion over who they let in. I'm confident Wrangler will prevail.

Choke on your hate for all I care. That's all you talk about on here is hate and non-inclusion. 

I'm not so confident that the Wrangler will prevail. Time will tell, the deck is stacked against this bar with this case. Now, go post your hateful comments, while I look into blocking your name from my view. You have diarrhea of the mouth look at all the bullsh*t you've posted all over this thread. It's almost like you have a vested interest in this case or something...hmmm....

It's the drag queens who need to stop spewing their hate for others. Then when they get in to the bars they start hating and cutting people down and being the total cunts they are. Even if Wrangler loses, I encourage them to keep doing it anyway. Yes, I have a vested interest in keeping sexist, transphobic, cunty, nasty, grotesque drag queens out of bars. Fuck them and fuck you, their excuser.

The Wrangler is a haven for overweight unattractive men who are stuck in a time warp!  Who wants to go there anyway.

Drag queens are not synonymous with being transgender. Drag queens are nothing more than caricatures of women. Essentially, they're clowns in makeup and costume that demand to be the center of attention. Many gay men enjoy that sort of entertainment. But many gay men despise it. I personally find it disturbing and don't want to be associated with it. 

As long as the bar doesn't discriminate against race, religion, disability or gender, they have every right to manage the door (and what goes on inside) as they see fit. 

I agree. A lot of drag is sexist or mean spirited in some other way. Like other things associated with gay men, I make it clear that all gay men don't like and also don't do drag. 

Drag and trans are two diffrent things trans ppl need to get the proper id ok... But drag queens .... Thats ridiculous! They r entertainers! Do u tjink lady gaga has an id with the name lady gaga and then another for stephanie ...?? Wake the fuck up pigss!

I think what a lot of the readers are forgetting is the fact that this is not transgender discrimination. I've known a lot of drag queens and, trust me, there is a huge difference between transgender and transvestite. Drag queens are largely just transvestites.. just dressing up for the fun of it rather than because of a desire to be the opposite gender. I feel like (even though the intention behind it may not have been pure) it is perfectly within the bar's rights to deny entry to people who do not look like their identification picture. I definitely have heard stories of any girls whatsoever being treated poorly by staff at the Wrangler, and yeah.. that is discrimination. But there's nothing you can do about it. A court can rule whatever it wants to, but people will still be people. Go somewhere else if it bothers you that much.

So now it's a crime to be a masculine man and hang our with like minded and looking guys?!?

What the fuck is wrong here? Man the fuck up everyone!!!

This is absolute horse shit. The Wrangler has never denied entry to a person with a gender matching ID. It's basic law. Come on. In the short video taken by the patron, it was clearly stated that you must be gender matching your ID. PRETTY SIMPLE. I have been going to the W for years and understand that's how it is. The comment was made that they only allow "hyper masculine" men in the bar. Nope. There are more than plenty flamboyant gay men and butch lesbians as well as hetero females in there on any given night. The thing is... they had a GENDER MATCHING IDENTIFICATION. I have a friend that was denied entry into a straight bar for not being gender matching. You're mad, complain and move on. It's really not that big of a deal. Grow up and get something else to complain about. There are bars / clubs that don't allow muscle shirts. That's their policy. How would that be considered discrimination ? Put on a shirt... take off the dress.... same thing.
I 100% stand behind the Denver Wrangler and feel the negative attention they have recently received is unjust and out of line. If you don't like it, go somewhere else. Right to refuse service to anyone.

The Wrangler discriminated against my Trans friend who tried to enter a long time ago back in 2009 and I am glad to see they were found guilty of discrimination finally. I feel no one should be turned away no matter your gender identity or orientation.

Oh my if some of you listen to yourself, you are no better than someone discriminating against you because you are gay. Especially the comment that you should go to the bar you feel welcome and comfortable in. Is this what we have become? We should support all members of our community. What a shame......

Dude, first of all, everyone discriminates, including YOU! Second, discriminating against a drag queen is not the same as discriminating against an LGBT person, because an LGBT person  does NOT choose to be LGBT, whereas a person CHOOSES to do drag. 

You do know what the "T" in LGBT stands for, right? It's trans. As in trans gender. We don't choose to display a false gender we choose to display our actual gender. It's not drag. Educate yourself. The law doesn't always recognize that. There are steps to take to change the Gender on your ID and not all trans people are at the same stage of transitioning. Be a decent, intelligent human being and stop discriminating against people.

The article says "drag" not "trans." Drag is NOT the same as trans, dude.

HA!  This thread is probably the owner and his lackies writing idiotic retorts for what is clearly going on.  I used to go to the Wrangler - it's not a bad place - had some great times there.  The current staff - purely ugh.  Bring back Cubby!

And if they stuck to the dress code but happened to be slender with Natural long hair a naturally femminine pretty face and wore simple make up (foundation and concealer, a little bronzer and soft eyeliner in the lashline to define the eyes) had polished nails and unisex perfume. Didn't have a hairy chest because he naturally didn't have one, this would be ok?

And about the id excuse. Are we now going to deny peope the right to dress how they feel because it doesn't look like one picture of them. Shall we never color or change the cut of our hair? Or stop the use of make up altogether because it might "alter" your apperance.

This is discrimination. Black tie still lets you be drag, or hyper masculine. Or any sexual orientation you want it is not the same.

Fewer and fewer Bears are going to The Wrangler these days anyway, since the new manager is a fan of twinkies.   I personally haven't gone to the bar for several years, since WAY before it became JR's West.  And...BTW.....I remember when the rule was put in place and it had NOTHING to do with the liquor license or protecting the was all about keeping Drag Queens out(because some of the clientele had complained)  MOST, but not all, of the "Bears" that go to The Wrangler are nothing but, Big Girls w/beards anyway.....why NOT let the drag queens in?

I support the Wrangler, Its the diversity that is being protected in my opinion. There have always been different types of bars in the Gay community, such as Leather, Drag, Twink , Dyke, Women Only,. I feel the Drag queens are making a fuss over something trivial, Respect the theme and diversity of the Bars we have and go to the ones you know you are welcome in. I don't understand why you aren't even grateful that you have a selection of Bars and Clubs to go to. I'm from a small town and there is only one bar where everyone goes but if I had a choice I would support the one I feel most comfortable in and where I felt welcomed also. I say go to your own Drag Bar and leave the Wrangler alone for the Bears and leather types. Stop being so selfish to think you have to be involved in everything and every single club. If I ever am able to visit Colorado I will certainly visit the "Wrangler" as well as other clubs I feel comfortable visiting. Stay with your Standing Wrangler, I love to have a choice of what type of club I go to. s/ Mark Moser from Nor.Cal

I agree, so many drag queens are attention whores. 

I back the Wrangler.  I go there when in town specifically to see men, not men dressed as women.  Hit the other clubs in town that are more suited for that sort of stuff.  It's a bear bar for christ's sake.

I don't see the problem with themed bars.
I also don't see the problem with men's clubs, women socials, restaurants that don't allow children, etc.
If a place of business wants to cater to a specific clientele and there is a demand for it, then it will succeed.
While I agree that at times the LGBT community is it's own worst enemy, there is nothing wrong with wanting to create an esthetic.

This just proves that discrimination is prevalent everywhere, gays discriminating against gays is sick. Its like light skinned blacks telling dark skinned blacks they can come into their clubs. What a disgrace. This is 100% transphohic. I;m a straight girl and I party with all types of gay men I grew up with a gay father and 2 gay cousins so I feel very comfortable and natural in gay circles. The only time I have experienced discrimination in my 30 years of being around gay men is when I tried to go to a bear bar with friends. I was treated like a animal. And  all we were doing was have pre-club cocktails before we went elsewhere. I think if you want to be treated like equals you should practice what you preach. In most cases if your bar has a scene that caters to a specific type you will generally only get that type in the bar, and only have to deal with women like me and drag queens every now and then. It does not feel good to be refused entry based on your gender or you appearance. Its cruel .

I agree with everyone here. I've never been to this bar, but if they want to cater to a specific clientele, then that is their right. I for one would love to have a bar here where drag queens are not allowed...but sadly every bar in my town is a drag bar. I back the Wrangler, and if I am ever in the area I will visit.

This discrimination lawsuit is the stupidest thing I've ever heard of. Get over yourself. I stand by the Wrangler.

I don't think at all that its a case of discrimination here...
Its just a bar that services exclusively gay men that belong mainly to bears..
It could be a club/bar that could allow in their doors only lesbians or only homosexual men...
Enough with people that try to make a fuzz over nothing...
If you don't want to follow the policy of any place simply avoid visiting it and all ok...!

How is this any different, the when a Christian owner of a business denies services to lgbt?

The writer is very biased against the bar. Also, shouldn't it be alleged gay-on-drag discrimination? Not, gay on gay, since drag queens aren't necessarily gay.

If you dont like the rules of the bar don't go there...simple

And to say Vito is a drag advocate is a joke he is just a sad little queen looking for attention.

I side with the Wrangler!  What happened to businesses being able to "reserve the right to refuse service" to whomever they want? 

Follow the rules of the bar or go someplace else....simple.....and to say that Vito is a drag advocate is a joke.....he is just a bitter little queen looking for attention

I think an even larger question here is that of Private Property and the rights of a property owner to regulate who enters his property.  We seem to have lost our understanding of PRIVATE PROPERTY!   Before you explode, I understand that certain groups of persons have to be protected from discrimination... That's a LONG ways from drag queens.

I agree 100% with the Wrangler. It's a leather bear bar. Wear the dress code or go somewhere else. We had a bar here in Austin called Oilcan Harry's that did not allow drag queens at all if they did not match the picture on their I.D. and this lasted a good 15 years or so. They lifted the policy a few years ago but back in the day, that's the way it was and there were more people happy about it than unhappy about it. People tend to confuse "entitlement" the way that they confuse "freedom of speech" and it makes a majority of the gay community cringe. 

Two things: (1) If you don't look like your ID (you could be an underage person), management has the right to refuse entry. (2) Many straight clubs have a dress code for men (i.e. no hats, head gear, sleeveless shirts, tank-tops, no flip-flops etc); you can choose to abide by their code or opt to go to a different club. So nothing is wrong with the club wanting to enforce a dress code.

This drag queen is taking it personally. It's like me going to a straight club that does not allow flip-flops and tank tops and I show up in beach wear, with my face plastered in white sunblock (so you cant match me with my ID) and when they refuse me entry, then yell, "Discrimination against me cause I'm gay!

The drag queens have no case. Next!

This is old news and it's been address already...

If they want to call the ID rule discriminatory then they need to get the State Liquor Commission and the Denver Department of Excise and Licensing to change their rules about I,D's as well. The bar HAS to make sure that the person presenting ID is indeed the person trying to get into the bar, otherwise they leave themselves open to the possibility of a citation for serving and underage person.  When I worked at a local bar I saw "drag queens" come to the bar that were not 21 and try to get in just because they were dressed in drag. The pressure on a bar to comply with the underage drinking rules is significant. As for the no heels or wigs.....  be careful more and more metrosexual men are wearing heels and what about the crazy night when we all donned wigs and went to the gay bar?  Did we get denied? Of course not.    In other words, you're both pretty now zip up and move on!!

As a 15 year patron of The Wrangler, I can tell you that this rule was created to protect the bar's liquor license.  Denver is very strict on enforcement of only serving those over 21 years old, so The Wrangler created this policy to ensure that people were not using fake IDs, or IDs not belonging to them.  Vito Marzano is nothing but an attention whore, who is not a transexual at all, but rather just a bitter queen.

Besides the affect of this ruling on The Wrangler, I am going to be curious to see what happens to ALL bars and restaurants who have dress codes!  No more leather bars!  No more restaurants requiring a tie and jacket!

There is so much discrimination within the gay community among themselves.

It's actually pretty sad especially they are always fighting  about not being accepted 

by society. But then again all the bars have discriminated between Gays and Lesbians 

for years. So much for PRIDE :-)

I agree with the Wrangler if you dont look like your ID then you could be a 20 year old with someones ID it like going into the bank with a mask on get real gay people are the biggest complainers go to bar that dont care if it is you under all the custom this is why i dont like people to know i am gay because to many of you crying wolf and complaining about rights how about trying to live and be happy get over yourselfs you arnt all that

The bar attracts bears. Not drag queens. allowing drag queens would make bears leave. I wouldn't allow them in either... I completely stand by wrangler. LOVE that bar!!

If you want to go to this bar, adhear to the dress code. I don't think this is any more discriminatory than a black tie rule being enforced.

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