G-A-Y has three venues in Soho, and behind the bar in all three of them are posters with the words ‘BOYCOTT RUSSIAN VODKA’ slapped across them, because the G-A-Y brand refuses to financially support governments that actively discriminate against the LGBT community. Except in reality, white, cis, gay men who can afford to spend almost £10 on a double vodka and mixer is the only part of LGBT* that they cater for. And the irony of it stinks.
Last night, a group of friends and I went out to celebrate a birthday and we tried to get in to G-A-Y Late and Heaven, and both venues denied entry without more of a reason than there were too many “ladies” in our group. The lesbians were cramping the style of the gays.
Myself and the girl I was with in the queue to G-A-Y late with were asked: “ladies, are you members”, to which we said no, and the reply was that we were therefore not allowed to get into the club. The two men in our group were not asked the same question, and would have probably been granted entry. This probability transpired into a concrete scenario at Heaven (where the bouncer at G-A-Y told us to go instead).
We arrived at the front of the queue at Heaven and were explicitly told that the guys would be allowed in, but the women would not be, because again, the women didn’t have membership cards. One security guard had told us that he’d make sure we’d get in and by the time we were at the front, he was calling me a liar, and his colleague proceeded to verbally rip me to shreds. He didn’t have enough man balls to talk to me directly and instead tried to insult me via one of my male friends who I was stood immediately next to. He had to communicate his insults to a man because my tiny woman brain wouldn’t have been able to process what he was saying. I asked why he was finding difficulty talking to me directly and suggested that is was perhaps because I was woman. He then pushed the barrier into me and told me to leave, which I did, because by this point I was too angry and upset to enjoy a night out on the tiles.
I wasn’t just annoyed because we didn’t get in, I was annoyed by the bigger picture… by the fact that this night actually represented a much larger problem that exists within Soho.
Women are not welcome in the biggest gay bar franchise in London and it’s not okay. Soho in general is dominated by men, and it’s honestly intimidating to look around in a gay bar and only see a handful of other women. But at the same time, it’s no surprise that the women aren’t there when bars are actively excluding them by having one entrance policy for women, and another for men. Why would we want to put ourselves through the degrading process of queues and gender motivated rejections? (I certainly won’t be again).
The gay scene in Soho (and particularly within G-A-Y venues) does not represent the diversity of the community, and I think that’s heartbreaking. If I can’t go into a gay bar then where can I go? If I can get rejected by a gay bar for not looking ‘gay enough’ or for being too woman, then where do I belong in nightlife culture? And am I not a good enough ‘gay’? Where can I feel safe on a night out, if gay bars discriminate against me? And how can I escape prejudice if G-A-Y perpetuate it?
Out of anger and desperation I attempted to tell two police officers about the policy of the venues I tried to get into. And I expected their reaction of complacency but it still made me cry. They couldn’t have looked less interested if they tried, and one of the officers actually cocked her head to one side and laughed in my face about my complaint. And that was from two people whose job it is to protect me.
I went home feeling angry and helpless. It was the helplessness that got to me the most because I felt as though I had no agency to deal with the situation. I’m an extremely passionate person but last night standing up for myself got me nowhere. My words fell on deaf ears and I felt as though I was being cornered into some dark, nasty crevice as though that’s where I belong.
And most importantly, if G-A-Y can’t cope with women, how do they treat people who live outside normatives and binaries? Having a couple of drag queens judge porn idol is not the same as allyship, and it is not the same as embracing a diverse community. Everybody and every body should be protected by the community, and G-A-Y have got to do so much more than posters about vodka.