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Links for 2007-05-29

15 replies on “Links for 2007-05-29”

I feel a bit uncomfortable with this idea and I’m not really able to put my finger on why. I guess one reason is that when I was first becoming lesbianic, I used to go to gay nights at pubs ostensibly as a straight woman, steering clear of the dance-floor / meat-market but observing the goings-on with keen interest – a method of ‘safe’ experimentation that I imagine a reasonably large number of young not-sures indulge in before they come out. But I’m sure the pub in question (which is about a hundred metres away from where I’m sitting at this very moment) won’t be excluding single people or conducting gayness tests at the door, so maybe it’s not a huge issue.
Anyway, while I think it’s a great thing that the courts are recognising the need for safe space for gay people, it feels weird and hypocritical and incomplete when they don’t properly acknowledge or give rights to gay RELATIONSHIPS. I’d be really interested to hear more from you on what you think it all means in a political sense.

Well I really dont know about this. Pet or no pet – imagine the uproar if a pub banned gays for well, being gay?
This decision is wrong.

I’m not sure segregation is progress, but it would stop the phenomena that destroys any good gay club. Gay people go there, then the girls start going on hen do’s, then the straight men realise all the hen do’s are there and start going too.
The really cool club round the corner from me, that I always used to go to, now scares me more than Yates on a saturday night.

I think it is reasonable for a bar owner to decide who he wants in his/her pub. However, if this principle is applied equally then we could see other pubs banning people on racial grounds and so on. Do we just have to accept that the price for legally enforced non-discrimination is a certain amount of homogenization?

I suspected that this link would cause some surprise and raised eyebrows from people, particularly as I didn’t treat it critically. The truth is that this stuff is highly complicated and there are no easy answers.
The first thing to acknowledge is thatof coursetelling people where they can go based on their sexuality, gender or whatever is a bit troubling. We accept that this is troubling even as we recognise that the main reason we consider it troubling is that it provides openings for the oppression of minorities by majorities – and I mean here political minorities (ie. people who are to some extent marginalised) rather than necessarily actual minorities (ie. a small proportion of people). I make this distinction because of the historical disenfranchisement of women.
So the thing to recognise straight away is that these rules are based on a massive disproportion of power and a recognition that normally the more powerful group will limit the freedoms of the less powerful group. That is to say, there is an asymmetry between the two groups. And as a result the effects of limiting access of straight people to a gay environment are different from limiting the access of gay people to a straight environment.
Obviously, this relies on the minority group not having privileged access or power in subsections of the environment, because then the majority becomes the political minority and the whole thing recapitulates itself. The fact that it’s really hard to determine how these limitations might play out is probably one of the reasons we try to apply our principled stances uniformly, rather than trying to work out how it would be perfectly applied.
All of which is to say, there are lots of bars dominated by straight people. In fact pretty much all bars are dominated by straight people. The question is whether or not it’s okay to enforce the idea that some bars should be dominated by gay people.
Let me give you some examples of the problems of the ‘homogeneity’ that people have talked about. In a gay bar, no one is going to be disgusted or angry about having a gay person flirt with them. But I’ve been to a number of clubs where a straight man in a gay club has been hit on and reacted very badly. As a safe and comfortable space for gay people, it’s clearly a bad situation to be in to be made to feel disgusting or to get into a fight because of stuff that seems quite natural to you.
Similarly, there are people both male and female that view gay people as somehow pleasant but castrated unmanly ‘safe’ company. I was at a stag night recently and a woman declared me her new ‘fag’ and said that ‘gay people loved her’ and that she ‘needed someone else to go and see musical theatre with’. When I said this wasn’t really my scene (and managing to hold back my fury) her friend said, “He’s not a proper gayer. You need to find a proper gayer who likes that stuff. He’s one of those straight gays”.
This is the kind of person that stops gay bars being a comfortable and friendly place for gay people and starts them becoming little more than a novelty freak-show / amusement for straight tourists. It’s insulting, demeaning and upsetting.
The truth is that a homogenous environment is actually quite an unpleasant environment for gay people, almost by definition. It’s an environment in which you are by necessity a weirdo, a deviant, odd. Proving spaces for gay people to not feel like this seems eminently reasonable to me.
Perhaps the issue here is only one of language. Perhaps if we talked about the rules for a bar being about respect for the people in it – that the bar in question had a large gay contingent and that any behaviour or language that the management felt made that contingent uncomfortable would not be tolerated – perhaps that would be more reasonable? You could make it equally clear that anti-straight comments were also not sanctioned if you wanted, although you’d hear a lot less of them.

I think that the aim of having a code of conduct for the bar is a nice idea but I think it would be difficult to police. Assuming that a bar had such a policy and would enforce it, in the example you cite above where the woman called you her new fag, would you ask them to throw her out?
Perhaps having it as a private members club where members can invite guests would work?

Your comment makes a lot of sense to me Mr Coates, and thanks for it – when I heard about this I was wondering which side (as a hetro man) I would fall. It’s something that I have no experience of.
I guess that at the end of the day there are 1001 pubs for me to go into, not being ‘allowed’ into one is not really a hardship for me.
There are three things though.
(1) How you know if someone coming into the pub is gay or not? I’ll leave it to your imagination to make jokes about a ‘Liza Minelli trivia quiz’ before entry…
(2) Would it fly over here in the UK? Or would it fall foul of our anti-discrimination legislation? I’m not an expert on such things. Maybe it would lead to ‘Non-gayers by appointment only’ type notices.
(3) Would this open the way for ‘thin edge of the wedge’ type legal arguing? By alowing this do you allow discrimination against any majority (and I’m not sure that ‘power’ is an easy metric to measure)? Will we be seeing ‘No Bangladeshi’ pubs in East London?

I think Viginias point about people going to gay clubs as a straight person because they’re not so sure about their sexuality is quite common. I’ve known a few people that did that. Obviously someone like that, perhaps going with a friend should be allowed in. A bunch of blokes that start calling people fags and causing trouble should be thrown out, and they usually are. So why is a ban on straight people neccessary?
I’ve been to a lot of tranny clubs, and the management are quite clear that the girls who go there are the core of their business. Anyone who over steps the line gets dragged out by the bouncers and never seen again!
A bar like that has it’s niche in the market, the management do what they need to maintain it.
I guess the issue i have with this bar in australia is that the problem isnt straight people, it’s just some straight people (maybe even some repressed gay people) and they should deal with them as needed. Not a ridiculous, unfair, blanket ban. I just hope it turns out there isn’t a place in the market for it.

I agree with your last paragraph, Tom: people should be removed on an individual basis if they’re found harassing others.
It seems ridiculous that the court would sanction a blanket ban on the basis of sexuality (which, incidentally, can’t be conclusively demonstrated) when there’s (seemingly) no justification for abandoning the usual practice of removing individual undesirables.
This ruling, or rather the thinking behind it, effectively stereotypes all straight people asbluntlyidiots and/or bastards, which simply isn’t the case. It could be construed as offensive and slanderous towards straight people, and quite reasonably.
This rule seems to imply that one of the pub’s regulars could be prevented from bringing a straight-but-not-a-bastard friend to the pub, which doesn’t seem to be the intention at all.
And what about bi peopleare they banned? What if they bring their opposite-sex partner?
Such rules are unfair, stereotyping and divisive; have unintentional and counter-productive repercussions when applied fully; and are unenforcible in the first place. Banning individuals is the simplest and fairest way to deal with troublemakers.
As for most bars being dominated by straight people: I think the assumption that “any random person” is straight may make it look worse than it is.
Either way, I think it’s a problem if it’s acceptable to react badly to a come-on from someone of the same sex (or of any description, really). It needs to be the norm that any violence or threatening behaviour from the flirtee be treated as trouble started by the flirtee, with the flirter as the innocent victim. I assume (and hope) this is the case in all of the bars and pubs that I go to.

Thom: I believe that in fact the pub in question – The Peel – isn’t going to enforce a blanket ban on heterosexuals, but rather will use its right to do so where it feels that groups of straight men or women (or lesbians, according to one account I read) will intimidate or harass the clientele.
Tom: Yes to everything you say, and yet…
Maybe I’m just getting my knickers in a twist because they don’t want ME there either.

The thing is that much of what you guys are saying still basically comes down to the idea that there shouldn’t be such a thing as a ‘gay bar’. If there is a ‘gay bar’ then the assumption is that it should be okay for the management to limit the entry of straight people should a whole bunch of straight people decide to come along and claim the place. If you accept that limiting entry is okay in this case, then it’s difficult to find the distinction between that and any form of limiting entry on the basis of sexuality. This is where the asymmetry comes back in.
There’s no need on the whole to declare something a straight bar, because the odds of gay people just deciding to overtake a place en masse are almost ridiculous. Why would you want to go where you’re vulnerable and exposed. So straight bars remain comfortable places for straight people. If a gay place can’t limit entry then almost osmotically it will gradually become less gay until it’s uncomfortable for gay people to be there.
Again it doesn’t have to be absolute, a gay bar can still be completely comfortable with individuals coming in who are straight, with friends of gay people coming in, individuals coming in who are curious, individuals coming in because they really want a drink and are really gay friendly. But it does seem reasonable to be able to say that large straight groups probably shouldn’t go in, that hen parties shouldn’t go in, that stag nights shouln’t go in and that people who are disrespectful shouldn’t go in. Turning that into a blanket ban on straight people is probably dodgy, but saying that management reserves the right to turn people away may be the only way to protect the space for the people who need it.
As I said, there are no easy answers here.

I live in Brighton, UK, where there are a great many gay pubs. One of them did something similar to this – no straight men were allowed in at all, and no gay men in the evenings.
There’s absolutely no way this can be “ok”. If it’s ok to ban people for being straight, then it’s ok to ban people for being gay. Just about any reason you can throw up to validate this can be applied the other way too.
The flirting issue … well, that’s one that will take time to address. A gay man flirting with himn is going to make a straight man uncomfortable, in the same way that a girl flirting with a gay man could make him uncomfortable. How is that going to be helped by segregation?
What about a whites-only bar, on the grounds that some white people feel vulnerable surrounded by other races? You might claim that’s different, but it’s not – at least, not according to exactly what the gay community has been saying for the last few decades. How about blacks-only? Straight only? Men only? Women only? Tall people? Short people? If one is ok, they all are.
Throwing out troublemakers makes sense. Good management and security make sense. Making the place more overtly gay to discourage straight people might make sense. Banning straight people, and getting legal backing to do so, is just plain stupid.
Groups will always move from place to place, and this place will doubtless regret its decision once the current clientelle inevitably decide to go somewhere else. Exactly as happened to that bar in Brighton – now closed due to lack of business once the ladies who visited found somewhere new.
> As I said, there are no easy answers here.
Sorry, Tom, but I think you’re wrong. There’s one very easy answer: it’s wrong to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality.

Dave, I completely disagree (and am trying to resist taking offense) with you that a gay man flirting with a straight man is the same thing as a straight woman flirting with a gay man. First of all, rarely does a gay man beat up (or even murder) a woman for flirting with him, nor do woman have to live with the possibility of being assaulted just for flirting. Second of all, gay people are a minority and being mistaken for being straight is something that is common to us and something that we learn to deal with. Straight men, on the other hand, are often uncomfortable with the idea of being perceived as being gay, let alone being approached by a gay man. It’s a completely different situation with far greater risks (both emotional and physical) for gay people.

> a gay man flirting with a straight man is the same thing as a straight woman flirting with a gay man
I didn’t say it was. The point I was trying to make was that it is conceivable that a straight woman flirting with a gay man may make them uncomfortable, just as it is conceivable that a gay man flirting with a straight man may make him uncomfortable.
I’m sure many gay men are used to women flirting with them, just as I’m sure many straight men are used to gay men flirting with them.
> It’s a completely different situation with far greater risks (both emotional and physical) for gay people.
On the physical side, I’d agree. I’m sure in the case of flirting a gay man is far more likely to be thumped by a straight man than a girl is by a gay man. That’s something for the security staff of a venue and the police to deal with, if it happens.
Far greater risks emotionally? I’m not disagreeing, but I don’t know why that would be the case.
And like I said, how is separating people for this particular reason going to reduce those risks? It’s not. It just serves to further alientate people from each other. If people are uncomfortable with being flirted with – by anyone – the only way they are going to stop being uncomfortable with it is to get used to it. That can’t happen if they are separated.
I’m sympathetic, because I’m sure some people do react badly to being flirted with – but that’s not a reason to do what this pub have done. That’s a reason to specifically avoid doing what this pub have done.

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