The Peel is one of Melbourne’s staple gay clubs. It’s located at the end of Peel Street where it meets Wellington Street in Collingwood. It’s free, it seems to have a lot of floorspace, though it winds around. It has a couple of dance floors and places to sit and drink.
According to the National Nine News website, they’ve just won the right from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an exemption to the Equal Opportunity Act so that they can “ban hetersexuals” (in the words of the media reports).
But what does that mean?
My initial response was that any ban like that is problematic. Noone should have to declare their sexuality, or define themselves by any sexuality at all, which is the basis of my own objections to discrimination based on sexuality. (Does anybody in the universe actually introduce themselves by saying “Good to meet you, sir, my name is David. I am a bisexual / heterosexual / homosexual / asexual / bi-curious / undecided / never-planning-on-deciding”? Seriously?) Ultimately you should have the option of not knowing, not caring, or not bothering to call yourself anything, if you want.
But then i read some of the reasons for the ban; and it became clear that this isn’t about checking anybody’s sexual credentials at the door – This is about the way people treat those who do make their sexual credentials obvious:
I quote the Nine News website, quoting the Herald-Sun, quoting VCAT deputy president Cate McKenzie: “Sometimes heterosexual groups and lesbian groups insult and deride and are even physically violent towards the gay male patrons.”
McKenzie said some straight women came to the club because they found the gay patrons entertaining.
“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.”
I don’t know how they plan to use the newly granted powers, but in theory, you wouldn’t nessecarily be barred entry if you were just turning up to enjoy the music/atmosphere/have a drink. I imagine you would be asked to leave if it became clear that you were just there to treat the other patrons as zoo animals (in McKenzie’s words) or to pick a fight or generally act like a dickhead.
However, maybe they actually will ask you your sexuality at the door? Thats when i’d personally start to have a problem with it. Would they accept you if you were with gay friends? Would they accept “undefined” as an answer? Bisexual? What if you haven’t decided and don’t want to be forced to say? What if you weren’t camp enough, or they didnt think they recognised you from the gay community? What if the bouncer decides to use it to control how gay people are supposed to dress and act, by excluding gays who don’t live up to their standards, on the basis of beleiving them to be straight? And as both ‘straight girls objectifying gay men’, and ‘lesbian groups harassing gay men’ were identified as problems, does this mean women will be excluded outright?
I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, and i don’t know how they intend to employ the new policy, but their exact choice will really determine my own personal opinion of the rightness of the decision.