Gay Events Melbourne, a new singles events company for gays and lesbians in the Victorian capital, has defended itself from accusations of ageism and discrimination after the Star Observer received several complaints about the business.
The group—which was established two months ago to provide relationship and friendship opportunities for same-sex attracted people—is currently promoting several age-exclusive events in the coming weeks, in addition to an all-ages event.
Among them is a gay men’s dinner party with an age stipulation of 25 to 45, a lesbian beer and cider tour of the Yarra Valley for 25 to 49-year-old women, and a gay men’s trivia night with an upper age limit of 39.
Jayson Dixon, a 47-year-old resident of Seddon in Melbourne’s inner west, said he felt discriminated against when posts from the company appeared in his Facebook feed.
“I came out six years ago and the reason I came out so late is a lifetime of homophobia and some very traumatic experiences when I was young,” he told the Star.
“You experience a lot of homophobia when you’re young but after you come out, it feels like you get bullied all over again in the gay community for not being young enough,” he said.
“A small part of me questioned my worth when I saw that I’m already too old for their events.”
Dixon claimed age discrimination was also widespread at gay venues and on dating apps such as Grindr.
“it’s everywhere. I say to my gay brothers: most people live until about 80. If we’re told we only have worth until our thirties or forties, what effect does that have on our wellbeing?”
Another Star Observer reader—42-year-old Cheyne Oliver from Cheltenham in Melbourne’s south-east—said he felt disgust when he read of Gay Events Melbourne’s age restrictions on Facebook.
“Over 50 and you’re not welcome. Some events, even 39-years-old is the cut-off point. They even ask for ID when attending—I’m disgusted,” he said.
“In an age when out LGBTIQ people are struggling with visibility and loneliness, these sort of promoters only reinforce the myths that older people are worthless.
“Even though I guess they aren’t breaking the law, it’s still vile.”
However, the company said their intention had been misunderstood, and that they were trying to do something positive for the community.
“We’ve been running Single Events Melbourne for heterosexual people since 2014,” said the company’s owner, who requested that he be identified in this report by his first name, Tommy.
“The reason we started Gay Events Melbourne is because in the years we’ve been doing Single Events Melbourne, people kept asking again and again if we would consider expanding into LGBT events,” he told the Star.
Tommy said the company’s “heterosexual sister company”, Singles Events Melbourne, had always specified age brackets for their events “and we’ve never had any trouble”.
“The reason we have age cut-offs is so singles can meet people roughly their own age.”
He said age cut-offs weren’t strictly policed and that if people asked to participate in an event for a different age group “we’d consider their request and most likely allow it”.
“We do have some events that cater to all ages,” he added, highlighting their ‘Platinum Gay Wine Tour’ in December, which is open to all ages.
Asked whether the company had applied for an exemption under Victoria’s anti-discrimination laws, he confirmed they had not – but said they were open to it, if required.
Several Melbourne LGBT venues have successfully applied for the right to legally discriminate, to maintain their client base and identity.
These have included Club 80 and The Peel Hotel in Collingwood, The Laird Hotel in Abbotsford and Sircuit Bar in Fitzroy, which have all won the right to legally ban women and/or heterosexuals.
The Star Observer does not suggest that Gay Events Melbourne or Single Events Melbourne have broken any laws.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has been contacted for comment.
The company owner said Gay Events Melbourne was still “finding its feet and getting a feel for things” and was open to changes and feedback from the community.
“We’re just trying to help people meet that special someone or to make new friends.
“We are not out to hurt anyone, or discriminate against anyone, and we’re trying to do a good thing for the community.”
If this story has raised any issues for you around ageism, discrimination, homophobia or other matters, QLife and Switchboard Victoria—a peer driven support service for LGBTQI+ people—can be contacted on 1800 184 527 or online at qlife.com.au.