Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Scanning for opinion...

Have a read of Steve Dow's take on the Peel straight-ban. Nod to Derek 'How very DARE you' Faye muchly appreciated.

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure which way to fall on this one. On the one hand, I sympathise with pub owner Tom McFeely's expressed responsibility to provide a safe, comfortable environment for his clientele, which is and has been for years (or at least was the last time I was at Peel, a few years ago now) overwhelmingly gay men. This certainly isn't a commercially-viable decision for him to make - by definition it will reduce his overall beer-buyers - so you can assume his primary concern is indeed patron safety, not economics.

I also take on board Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal deputy president Cate McKenzie's point: "To regard the gay male patrons of the venue as providing an entertainment or spectacle to be stared at as one would at an animal at a zoo devalues and dehumanises them." Having been to fag venues for years, I know what she's on about. Some drunk straights - usually female - still seem to consider it the height of hilarity to crash queer venues and practically with a bowl of popcorn laugh at the movie before them, as though our social life exists purely for their entertainment and viewing gratification. Or as McFeely himself puts it: "We've had instances in the past where, for example, a buck's night has come up to the Peel or a hen's night - our whole atmosphere changes immensely."

Then of course, there's the much more serious issue of drunk straight boy yobbos crashing queer venues to get in a bit of verbal or physical fag-bashing. I assume this was a serious and repeat threat at the Peel, not a one-off, that spurred the pub into making the appeal to begin with.

But I'm not sure that blanket bans on people based on their sexual and/or gender identity is the best solution - seems a bit like knocking a nail into place with a demolition ball. For one thing, it's not exactly something that's easy to enforce - it's hard enough to tell the fags from the pretty straight boys in Melbourne and I can actually foresee bouncers and genuine, 100% All-American butt pirates getting into heated debate about whether or not they are in fact said pirates. We've worked so hard over the years to earn the right to claim 'we're here, we're queer'; being greeted with a retort of 'no, you're not' upon arriving at the Peel's doors seems to somewhat negate this empowerment.

Not to mention, this sets an uncomfortable precedent. Can you imagine the outcry if a straight venue applied for and was granted a 'no gays' exemption? Not good.

Of course, we can't be too naive about such things. Bouncers already unofficially implement such screening standards at venues. They turn away the straights from queer places and vice versa, even though they may not explicitly identify that particular factor.

And let's also keep in mind the ratio of straight-friendly/queer-friendly bars in Australia. Seriously folks, if you're straight and you're not allowed into the Peel, there's probably half a dozen alternatives in Collingwood alone you could head too instead. We gays don't really have that luxury outside of Oxford, King or Commercial Streets/Road. Sure, it would be nice if bars didn't need to be so segregated - and certainly some of the best bars and clubs in Adelaide and Sydney at least are great melting pots of queer and straight - but if you've ever been in a place with your homo partner and made to feel a pariah because you dare even to touch knees, you know how much you appreciate having some places where this will never happen under any circumstances.

I think overall, however, I'm going to have to fall on the side of the Peel going too far. Dow puts it nicely:
Instead of being mean with our dance space, let's share it. Soon there will be a report by the Human Rights Commission tabled in Federal Parliament that intelligently outlines the urgent need to end discrimination against same-sex couples in superannuation, wills and the like. That's when we'll need our friends more than ever, dancing to the same song.

We're not doing ourselves any favours further enforcing the perception that we voluntarily segregate ourselves from 'straight world', and this kinda contradicts the 'diversity is grand' theme we're usually trying to team with. By all means, bouncers should be allowed to prevent entering, or eject from, queer venues those they deem will cause trouble. But don't tar all straights with the same brush - after all, that's the one thing we queers hate most.

See? This is why blogs are cool. I didn't have a firm opinion until I started typing and now I do. Huzah!

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At 30/5/07 3:01 pm, Blogger JahTeh said...

Isn't it only an excemption to the anti-discrimination act so if they throw out a 'straight' pest he can't sue for discrimination?
It would be a shame if gays can't take their straight friends to a pub because of this but I can see a reason to ban a group of straight guys who are only out for trouble.

At 30/5/07 3:40 pm, Blogger Sam said...

I agree JT - but I think preventing straight boys looking for trouble should be done on a case-by-case basis - ie left to the discretion of door staff - not as a blanket ban that, as you say, punishes queer-friendly straight folk who actually enjoy the ambiance / drag shows / price of beer / whatever at the Peel.

At 30/5/07 3:46 pm, Anonymous Bazza said...

We have been trying for decades to obtain social justice, and we dont need reverse prejudice.

At 30/5/07 3:52 pm, Blogger Arthur_Vandelay said...

There's a slightly similar situation developing here in Perth regarding a men-only establishment--only this establishment doesn't so much cater exclusively for gay men as for those at the big end of town.

At 30/5/07 9:27 pm, Blogger ozBoi said...

It isn't a blanket ban, it's just so they can protect the pub environment from those who set out to abuse it ... like a group of 8 or 9 women on a hen's night who feel they can grope other patrons without consequence, or a guy who thinks they can walk in a make fun of the "poofs".

Really it's about protecting their asses from a possible discrimination lawsuit if they eject these people. They never said straight people aren't welcome if they behave themselves.

At 31/5/07 9:08 am, Blogger cvm said...

ps. They're banning lesbians too...

I do support the overall idea of the ban but really, do we need to segregate the community from itself?

At 31/5/07 11:57 am, Blogger Sam said...

Well I think that particular 'subsegregation' (for want of better word) has been unofficially going on for years, in much the same way it works at Stonewall and Shaft as a fairly woman-, or at least dyke-unfriendly venue.

Must admit though, I personally have no issue with women-only venues.

At 31/5/07 2:48 pm, Anonymous SimonSez said...

I think straights forget how lucky they have it - they can go ANYWHERE in public holding hands, kiss each other, etc. When I feel that I can do the same with my partner then I will feel sorry for them feeling excluded from gay pubs. By all means, let in our straight friends with us but keep out the hens nights!

At 31/5/07 3:14 pm, Anonymous Adrian said...

I agree with all you say here, Sam. A drastic solution to a long-term problem.

Btw, the ban on lesbians sounds pretty abhorrent to me. But then I don't know the details. What was the intent there? Were there many egs of lesbian violence against gay men?

At 31/5/07 4:11 pm, Blogger Sam said...

Adrian: From what I understand, yes there were a couple of instances of diesels getting a bit free with a pool cue on some of the twinkier male clientele who may have been making fun of them.

Again, not that this is an excuse to ban the lot of them!

At 31/5/07 9:40 pm, Anonymous B. said...

I have a problem with generalising about any group of people and banning them because of said generalisation.

I especially have a problem with this because it's a gay man putting a blanket ban against gay women - we don't need anymore f***ing discrimination, especially from other gay people!

The way he spoke about it as well 'there are plenty of lesbians in Melbourne with plenty of money, let them open their own bars' He was so patronising, and that's clearly not the point anyway.

At 6/6/07 5:07 pm, Blogger nash said...

The ban just seems like a backward step to me. If they really want gay men only I don't know why they can't have a designated night from time to time or once a week and let the door staff do their job the rest of the time. I wouldn't accept a straight bar banning me or other gay men because of our sexuality

At 7/6/07 10:56 am, Anonymous zhasper said...

@nash: my understanding was that the ability to have have "a designated night from time to time" was one of the reasons why that had to seek this exemption.

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