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There are so many things about that make me proud to be part of Melbourne’s gay community; this is not one of them.
It involves The Peel in Collingwood. It’s a gay club. It plays hilarious, amazing pop music and I have had many a good time there.
The Peel has a certain door policy you need to know about.
Years ago, The Peel nightclub made international headlines when it won a legal right to refuse heterosexuals and lesbians entry. VCAT then changed the ruling slightly but legally The Peel can still refuse people entry based on someone’s “character”. You can read more about it here.
The Peel owner has said in a number of interviews the door policy is in place to protect us – its gay clientele. I will always support the idea of creating a safe and comfortable space for us but what happened on Saturday night has nothing to do that.
Please let me remind you that the year is currently 2012.
On Saturday night, after a few over priced espresso martini cocktails, some friends and I decided to gyrate to The Peel. The boys were already inside when I arrived with my gay friend Blake and my straight friend Stacey.
On arrival we noticed there were 2 lines of people to enter the club – we were told by a random that one line “was for gays” and the other “gays with girls”.
Gay groups without girls got priority entry.
Already feeling a bit weird about the 2-line situation, we decided to swallow it and we lined up in the “with girls” line.
After a little wait we approached the security lady at the door. She was pleasant, smiled and asked to check out our I.Ds. Let’s call the female security guard … Meryl Streep. If anyone could play the role of a security guard it would be Meryl Streep.
What Meryl did next has melted my little brain.
Meryl turned to my friend Stacey and said, “are you aware that The Peel is a night club for gay men?” The three of us laughed at the question (Meryl did not). Stacey then politely answered, “Yes I am.”
Meryl, calmly, said to Stacey, “In order for you to enter the peel tonight you must agree to following conditions… Firstly, there is to be no heterosexual behaviour.”
Stunned, Stacey replied: “… Sorry?”
Meryl then repeated, “Do you agree to no heterosexual behaviour inside the club?”
Stacey reluctantly agreed, “Yeah, I suppose so.”
Meryl then continued, “Do not interfere with the boys in this club, the boys in this club are our priority. Also be aware of heterosexual predators”.
The word predator made all our eyes prick up. Stacey asked Meryl to define predator and the answer given was: “A heterosexual male who will try and make contact with you in the hope of kissing you or dancing with you. If you see one report him to a security guard and he will be kicked out”.
Stacey nodded in disbelief. Meryl stated her last condition of entry “if you are seen kissing a male you will be escorted out immediately. Do you agree to these terms?”
Stacey “Yes I do.”
Meryl then clipped the rope off the wall and waved the three of us in to the club.
Shut. The. Front. Door. I’m getting a head spin. How is this crap flying at a Melbourne nightclub?
As an openly proud gay guy, I am humiliated to be apart of a community that thinks these conditions of entry are okay.
If my good friend Stacey – who loves and embraces everything about me – wants to join me for a night out at a gay bar, have a dance and god forbid have a HETEROSEXUAL dance floor pash,what damage is done? Who is hurt by that?
Who do The Peel staff think they are labelling my heterosexual male friends as predators?! A heterosexual male wanting to go to a nightclub with the hope of meeting a girl does not make him a predator. A heterosexual male wanting to visit The Peel does not automatically mean he is there to gay bash its patrons.
The Australian Christian Lobby uses the word gay and pedophile in the same sentence and there is uproar from our community (rightly so) so how is this ridiculous link any different?
Sweet Jesus how can the owners of The Peel who, no doubt, believe in marriage equality and ending sexual discrimination in this country feel fine about having these absurd conditions of entry for heterosexual people?
It wasn’t until the next day, sober, the reality of the situation settled in. I owe an apology to my good friend Stacey.
Stace, I am sorry that you felt so ostracised by members of my community. I am sorry I made you say out loud that you agree to no heterosexual behaviour. I am sorry, that after everything you do for me and your other gay friends that you were treated like this.
I really regret not telling The Peel to go f*ck itself, grabbing your hand and walking away.
1. Have we met?
2. Just take a moment to think what people would say if the roles were reversed? How would we feel if a young gay male had to verbally agree to no “homosexual behaviour” before entering a nightclub?
There are so many amazing people in the gay community who are fighting the good fight for marriage equality, combating teenage depression, and ending the stigma of people living with HIV (just to name a few). But I can’t help but feel these arsehats that are running The Peel are pressing rewind and widening the discrimination gap others are slowly closing.
We can write witty placards at protests, write funny tweets watching QandA, and lecture our drunken uncle at Christmas about how tough LGBTQI people have it still … but it’s actions that speak louder than words.
It is completely up to us, the LBTGQI community, to lead by example and show everyone what true equality is all about. If our heterosexual friends want to come in to our clubs, drink with us, dance with us and suck face in front of us THEN FUCKING LET THEM!
I discovered a Facebook page, “End the sexist door policy at Peel” – it has 517 likes. I have no idea who or why that page was created, but it seems Stacey and I are not alone in our experience.
Protecting the safety of us is important, but this is something else. This is bullshit.
The Peel needs to terminate its sexist and embarrassing door policy today.
And I need a cocktail.
Nath Valvo is a comedian based in Melbourne. He can be heard on the Nova FM network and will one day host his own talk show. You can follow him on twitter here. You can also see him giving a speech at last year’s marriage equality rally here and you should because it’s awesome.
Editor’s Note: The Peel nightclub are entirely upfront about their door policy and have gone out of their way to make it possible for members of the public to engage with them about the policy. You can read their justification here