When Bouncers Gatekeep, Are They Protecting Or Flexing Too Much Power?

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When walking down Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors, Florida, you have the pick of so many different bars and restaurants. There’s really no dress code or anything for any of these bars as all are welcome in every single place and attire is usually shorts and a t-shirt or a tank top or blouse.  Granted, there are some bars you may frequent a little more that others based on how you are inclinded.

  • GYM Bar – more sporty or sports oriented.
  • Eagle – more leather, daddy, bear oriented. 
  • Ramrod – more voyeur, leather, no nonsense, little bit of back patio activity, armpit loving oriented.

And once again all are welcome, no matter what letter in the alphabet chose you or what you are wearing. Alibi, The Pub, Drynk, Infinity, and others are all come as you are with no real specific inclination, all great places to visit.

But what of you were told you were not gay enough to go into a bar?

Recently, coming from Manchester’s ‘Gay Village’ (UK) there has been reports of bouncers allegedly refusing people entry to the venue, based on an assessment that they do not seem ‘gay enough’.

Turned away individuals have been embracing their keyboard warrior status to address being turned away from specific bars. Manchester’s G-A-Y, has been the focus of some of the complaints about discrimination against people based upon their appearance.

An investigation by The Mancunion has revealed several reviews, social media posts, and personal accounts ranging back to 2014 of the club’s door staff judging potential patrons on whether they are ‘gay enough’ to enter the club. – mancunion.com

Are they really taking a litmus test to see if people are gay enough or is is just superficial judgement of outward appearance and mannerisms? It boils down to the bouncers feeling that they are working to keep LGBTQ spaces more safe and more rainbow. Are they raising the question if gay bars should be reserved for the LGBTQI+ community alone? preserves a relaxing, safe and positive environment for people, away from the straight gaze. Or should we keep the LGBTQI+ spaces open and welcoming to all people as a place for them to simply be themselves.

Last night, I was at Hunters in Wilton Manors and this guy just freaked out on this girl, spun her around so she was back toward him and bear hugged here while yelling at her.  Violence will happen at any time in any bar no matter what letter you are, but my mind went directly to, “yep, some straight girl is misbehaving again in the gay bar”, but he was appearing a little off balance himself. No idea what happened there, but it was a little off-putting.  Security was there within seconds (thanks Mark Hunter!) and abnormalcy returned to a great gay night out. 

The Manchester Union or mancunion, goes on to say, yes, this bouncer enforced policy of letting the gays in and less straights might have the idea in mind to protect our spaces, but it may as well backfire and “cause even gay people to feel unwelcome in their own spaces, simply because they do not fit a particular normative perception of what ‘gayness’ is.”  I don’t think will ever feel not gay enough to be let into a gay bar, but to each their own.

So what has been happening in Manchester since 2014, but more so on the increase since June 2019?

One person posted that they and their girlfriend, who refer to themselves as “femme lesbians”, were reportedly denied entry into G-A-Y and were told to “just f*** off” when they attempted to contest the opinion of the bouncer at the time. They believe that this was because they looked “not … gay enough” due to being ‘straight passing’.

There are other accusations like this. One TripAdvisor user more recently, in August 2021, alleges that when her and three other friends tried to enter G-A-Y (two men and one other woman) they were all initially refused by a female bouncer, but later just the men were told they could enter because the women were not ‘regulars.’ According to the review, neither were the men. 

So is the gatekeeping of these gay bars going against these spaces being safe and open or is it helping them remain so? Isn’t it totally within the bouncer’s right to refuse people that they think may cause some sort of disturbance from entering the establishment?  Sometimes straight people (and gays, too) will not just be the clients on their best behavior.

Recall all of those velvet rope lines where people waited to get into bars and clubs in the big city and the bouncer had lists or would let the pretty ones cut to the front of the line. That was just based on looks and who you knew, totally different than sexual identity, so that’s okay gatekeeping, right?

An ex-employee of G-A-Y told The Mancunion that the bouncers were given absolute discretion as to who they allowed to enter the club, understandably refusing to admit people who were drunk, high, found to be in possession of drugs, in large groups, typically of five or more, or not dressed within the confines of the dress code (though neither the club nor the website display one of those). He suggested that “it’s never been about being gay enough or anything,” but rather the idea of a safe space from the LGBTQ community has always been kept in mind.

And there were those on social media standing up for the exclusionary policies of the bouncers. In response to a post about the accusations about G-A-Y on Facebook, one user questioned, “What is the point in having gay bars at all if they become full of straight people?” – suggesting that the door staff of G-A-Y have “every right” to turn people away.

But then some accounts of the bouncers’ activities may have gone a little too far. One person described how, upon attempting to enter G-A-Y, a bouncer stopped him and told him he did not fit the demographic of the club because he was “not gay enough”. When questioning the bouncer, he was asked to ‘prove’ that he was gay by kissing a member of the same sex who was waiting in the queue. Distressed, he and his friends removed themselves from the situation.

Remember what I said above about being not gay enough, but pretty enough to be let past the velvet rope? A former employee of a bar on canal street told The Mancunion that is was generally accepted in the Village that G-A-Y were highlight selective about who they would let into the club.

A past employee of another gay club in the area told The Mancunion that it was generally accepted in the Village that G-A-Y were highly selective about who they would and who they would not let into the club on any given night. Judgement based upon looks, whether it was to do with what ‘vibe’ they wanted to portray on one particular night or sexuality, was and still seems to be a common practice.

Elaborating, they suggested that “it’s awful because you’re basing your judgement of somebody based on what they look like. I mean people from different walks of life, with different sexualities, different genders, they look so vastly different. There are different ways of expression which are very personal to each person, their sexuality, and how they express it. So, for them to turn people away and also the fact that they don’t outline the rules makes the situation even worse.”

In 2011, a tweet by the promoter of the venue Jeremy Joseph, raised some eyebrows. His post was in reaction to the prospect of a One Direction fan night was being held at the venue. Directing his tweet towards the band’s perceived, primarily straight, female fan base, Joseph said, ‘My birthday wish is for little girls to realise that G-A-Y is a lesbian and gay club so there’s only one direction and that’s no direction for them’. Adding in a later tweet ‘hoping the name G-A-Y, isn’t too Subtle??? It’s G-A-Y not Str8’.

 

Sounds like if there is an event that will have a predominantly straight crowd and you don’t want that straight crowd to be there, shouldn’t you cancel that event? doesn’t sound like good planning.

You can read more about this at mancunion.com where they go into consideration of this gatekeeping as an infringement of the UK 2010 Equality Act.


Yes, this is another look at the “should straights be in gay bars” but it also brings up that some gays may not be let into the bars because they are not too gay.

If you don’t like a policy, don’t go there.  Your money is your money.  If they don’t bake a cake for you, say your peace and go elsewhere. If they don’t want to give you a drink, drink elsewhere.

 


When contacted for comment on the personal accounts of those who were denied entry, a G-A-Y spokesperson responded with this:

“We absolutely don’t turn anyone away for any of the reasons alleged during your investigation … I can guarantee that no one has ever, or would ever be, refused entry to G-A-Y Manchester on the grounds of race, age, gender, sexual orientation or religious belief.

We create a safe space for anyone to come and be anything they want to be. We don’t judge or discriminate against anyone, and we don’t accept customers doing this either. We are at times selective about who we allow into the venue, but this is to protect the safe space that we have created and are so well known and respected for.

Unfortunately, however, the G-A-Y brand, as well known and respected by many as it is, does seem to work against us. We have a huge light up sign above the entrance that says G-A-Y, so when we refuse someone for intoxication levels or because they exhibit a bad attitude with door staff, the go to assumption is they have been refused entry because they “aren’t gay enough” which is just ridiculous. In fact, in the last few weeks with all the new students in town, to whom we have been very welcoming, on most nights there very well may have been more straight people in here than gay people. We just don’t care. As long as you have a good attitude and are coming to have a good time and are respectful to our staff and the other customers enjoying the venue, you are more than welcome.”

1 thought on “When Bouncers Gatekeep, Are They Protecting Or Flexing Too Much Power?”

  1. Does anyone remember the Mineshaft in NYC in the late 70’s/early 80’s? They would only let you in if you weren’t wearing preppie and more straight appearing clothes. Not going there probably saved my life!

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