By Darren Grainger.
It is Sunday morning; a gay couple is walking to a new café they want to try out. The strong aroma of coffee draws them onwards while the fantasy of smashed avo tantalizing their taste buds. This is the start of their day out.
Yet, when they enter holding hands, they receive hostile glares, their display of affection is greeted by harsh whispers and someone stands to challenge this affront. No one comes to their defense. So, this gay couple leaves feeling unsafe.
They go searching in hope coming across a The GAP Café in West Melbourne, the home of the Greyhound Adoption Program. This café is registered as one of the Welcome Here businesses registered with ACON.
Rachel Yeo, owner of The GAP Café, discussed the importance of safe spaces for the LGBTIQ+ community, “It would never occur to me to be any other way than a safe space. That is what our policies and procedures expect.”
Rachel believes that Fleur and Horse, the gorgeous Greyhound dogs that greeted the gay couple, have no predices. Dogs don’t judge. They will treat everyone the same which she expects of people that enter her space.
“I have had a couple of volunteers that were asked not to come back due to inappropriate bias. I do take it that seriously.”
“It bothers me that people have to look for a rainbow sticker to feel safe. No matter if you have a sticker or not, you still have to be warm and welcoming.”
The gay couple leave feeling a lot more hopeful yet needing sustenance on their journey. They grab a table at Heartattack and Vine in Lygon Street, one of the businesses that place a rainbow sticker on their window during the marriage equality postal vote.
Matthew Roberts, Nathan Doyle and Emily Bitto, co-owners of the restaurant, were able to ease their fears, saying:
“We have always wanted Heartattack to be a warm, safe and welcoming place for all people regardless of sexual orientation, race or economic standing. We think it’s important to express our standpoint on these areas of social discussion.”
They went on to say, “We believe that by creating a venue where everyone is welcome and safe this starts with staff equally.”
“We believe that it is extremely important to hire and train our amazing staff to follow the mantra creating a safe space for anyone that enters the venue.”
“We have a strong management ethos around equality and a safe space. Whereby if anyone disturbs the safety of the venue or any of its patrons they will be kindly asked to leave.”
The gay couple have enjoyed their time at Heartattack and Vine, they are feeling much more accepted, now they are looking for a place to kick up their heels without feeling intimated.
They arrive at Pride of Foostcray where they are greeted by Mat O’Keefe, Chief Bar Officer, from Pride of Foostcray, who reassures them that this space is safe for them, “The space was set up to be as inclusive as possible in reaction to other spaces that were gender specific,” Mat explained, “The inclusiveness comes from the patrons being a mix of intergenerational people from different sexual and gender orientations showing respect and harmony to each other.”
“When we set up the space as a community bar, we offered shares to 200 people from different sexual and gender orientations that helps to provides a sense of ownership. The only negatives were from the occasional difficult person that was promptly removed from the space.”
He further explained, “It is the people. Hiring staff with a good attitude, that are inclusive and interested in people from bar staff right through to security.”
The gay couple return home from the day having discovered that the right people working at these venues and the strict stance was what made these spaces feel safe compared with their first attempt. That they were treated to a warm, welcoming environment where the staff had their backs. They felt safe and accepted that was the key difference.