The Peel has won the right to exclude heterosexuals – but what does this mean?

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.

6 Comments so far

  1. alex (unregistered) on May 28th, 2007 @ 5:56 pm

    If it’s only enforced when someone is clearly just there to gawk or mock the patrons then I’m all for this, they should be allowed to defend their dignity.

    I was initially worried when I read this post because it might turn out to be a policy of exclusion at the door, but then bouncers regularly exclude people on superficial reasons – racial background, gender (or the ratio of genders in the group trying to get in), attractiveness, etc. I’m not saying any of this is okay, but the latter examples are widely accepted to be in use and no one ever seems to be outraged about that.

  2. Gin (unregistered) on May 28th, 2007 @ 6:58 pm

    I think perhaps it would just be if a group of straight-acting (I mean not obviously camp, don’t shoot me, just generalising a bit) males tried to get in, they’d be stopped – but I can’t imagine a mixed group would be likely to be stopped. I’m supporting this idea, with reservations.

  3. Brett (unregistered) on May 28th, 2007 @ 7:42 pm

    It isn’t the first gay pub in Melbourne to get an exclusion from the anti-discrimination act either.


    However the Laird describes itself as men only, a clear policy decision – the Peel seems to be saying they want to actively discriminate on a case by case basis who comes in.

  4. Brie (unregistered) on May 28th, 2007 @ 7:50 pm

    I assume the club has a list of reasons why they wanted the ban – it’s not as if they would push for a ban just ‘cuz.

    But at the same time… should security already have the authority to remove anyone being disruptive. And if they’re going to stop groups of straight girls from looking at gay boys, are they going to stop groups of gay girls from looking at gay boys? Or what about groups of gay boys ogling other gay boys?

    It seems like any bar patron should be able to go up to security and say, “Hey, there’s a group of people over their who just seem to be staring at us. It’s making us uncomfortable, can you please speak with them?” Maybe they should just expand the ability of security to deal with those kinds of annoying people instead of creating an entire ban.

    That being said, I once had a Diet Coke can thrown at my head at a gay bar by a man who screamed, “We don’t want your kind in here!!!” While they may not be an official ban, I will say watch out for The Townhouse in St. Paul, MN.

  5. Rachel (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 4:28 am

    I think the ban is smart because I know tons of girls who go to gay clubs because they think its hilarious and the gay guys are super funny (to laugh with and at). I think that its totally wrong for them to do that, and having a gay club where half of the people there are straight women, it sort of defeats the purpose of having a gay club in the first place.

  6. dissembly (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

    Brie said: “But at the same time… should security already have the authority to remove anyone being disruptive.” – Thats something that was going through my mind as well.

    According to a livejournal friend of mine,, the legal effect of the exemption will be prevent someone who has been ejected for bad behaviour from claiming the right to sue for discrimination. As i understand it (from Jay’s post), under Victorian law you can theoretically walk into a gay bar, start telling everyone they’re going to hell, get thrown out for it, and then sue the venue claiming discrimination. Not at The Peel any more.

    Jay’s post is worth reading for some other anecdotes as well; “I’ve also seen a guy stumble to the Peel door bleeding after having the shit kicked out of him by straight patrons of the Peel after they had left the premises.

    I’ve also had a friend tell me today that he was at the Peel recently where a group of 20 women were having a Hen’s Night. They approached him on the dancefloor, made advances and a few of them even grabbed him. One of them not only put their hands down his pants but into his boxers.”

    Brie, that Diet Coke story is horrible. I would hope anyone acting like that is brought to the attention of security.

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