‘Why I prefer Sydney over Melbourne’

‘Why I prefer Sydney over Melbourne’

ONE of my favourite chapters in Sydney’s LGBTI history is the late 1970s. After a spate of assaults targeting gay men, the motorcycle group The Vixens decided to get together to patrol Oxford Street and protect their brothers from the homophobic bashings.

The sense of inclusiveness that exists in Sydney’s LGBTI community surprised me when I first arrived here a year ago.

Everybody’s welcome at the different rainbow venues around town and LGBTI-focused events are mixed and open.

You see, I grew up in Melbourne and despite being a stubbornly proud Melburnian, I’m disappointed to say I don’t have the same experiences in my hometown.

On a recent trip back home I hit the town with my crew and predictably we ended up at The Peel.

While this nightclub has an exemption from the Anti-Discrmination Act and is allowed to refuse entry to a person based on presumed sexuality and gender identity, it is infamous for its treatment of female patrons.

Often women are forced to line-up in a separate queue to get it in.

I was once told I wasn’t allowed to be alone without my gay male friend in the venue even needing to be accompanied to the restroom.

Women are refused entry, they’re told not to overtly express their sexuality and last week I had to sign a legal disclaimer saying I understood I was going into a male gay space.

“How do you know what I identify as?” I asked the bouncer.

“It’s pretty obvious you’re not a gay man,” they replied.

“Please don’t make presumptions about those things, I may be non-binary and you’re projecting your heteronormative concepts of sexuality and gender onto me and I just want to go in and dance to Whitney,” is what I wish had come out of mouth while I was lining up at 3am.

Things have improved a lot at The Peel. I remember a long time ago when the bar staff wouldn’t even serve a woman, but I think it’s unfair I can’t hang out with my good friends in the same venues.

Now before the online trolls come for me, read the following carefully:

  • I know it’s important to have spaces for people to feel safe when they go out (but guys, uteruses aren’t so scary).
  • I’m not against male-only or female-only venues. Many places have those rules and it is totally acceptable.
  • Yes, there has been a history of drunk straight women, particularly on hens’ nights, coming to gay clubs and drag shows where they act like drunken dickheads and treat our community as a form of entertainment.

So don’t @ me, ok?

The problem I have always had with Melbourne’s LGBTI night scene is that it is closed minded. I remember not being treated nicely in my baby queer days – there was an ‘us and them’ mentality.

When I moved to Argentina I didn’t bother seeking out LGBTI venues until I was dragged to one by a friend because I assumed I wouldn’t be welcome. It was the first time I experienced the feeling of being welcome in a gay venue.

When I used to work on cruise ships, I dreaded working my first Atlantis cruise because I was unsure I could deal with a boat full of shady queens. But I was pleasantly surprised when everyone was lovely – except for when the coffee machine broke the morning after a big night.

The ongoing acceptance of discriminatory policies, like ones enforced by The Peel, shows that perhaps Melbourne still has a bit of a way to go in realising all the letters of the LGBTI community are actually allowed to interact, even in public.

This state of affairs is ironic given the Victorian Government is so progressive; it appointed the country’s first Sexuality and Gender Commissioner, committed to ongoing funding of the Safe Schools program, would have funded extra counselling services for LGBTI people in the event of a plebiscite and will open the state’s first official Pride Centre.

I’m all for venues being exclusively male or female or whatever, but pick a side The Peel.

Bite the bullet and go 100 per cent male or accept the fact that gay men interact with ladies and like to go to clubs with them.

Stop using your bizarre policies to justify treating women like shit.

You can follow Shannon Power on Twitter at @ShannonJPower

You May Also Like

6 responses to “‘Why I prefer Sydney over Melbourne’”

  1. Oh dear, fighting for relevance by pitching Sydney against the Peel. Surprised you didn’t rail against the coffee or that we have no harbour bridge. The problem with them and us complaints is that it often it comes from an unwillingness to fit in and respect the space. And if you don’t like it why keep going back to support their business model? If you want to talk about inclusion in Melbourne then show a bit of respect and actually talk about the options in Melbourne. I know it is an opinion piece but you still need to show a bit of journalistic integrity.

  2. Out of line to define a communities worth through one venue. Poor journalism. I could define Sydney through my experiences at Arq or London through Heaven or Manchester through G-A-Y but won’t because just like in Melbourne the community is so much bigger than one commercial venue with it’s good/ bad door policies, bouncers, music and customers. Oh and Sydney/ Melbourne rivalry is so 1980’s.

  3. Didnt even get passed 2nd paragraph. What a load of click bait shit designed to piss people off no doubt. Star observer fucked this one up.

  4. Agree!!! Shannon hit it on the head, the queer community in Melbourne is definitely not inclusive. If you need proof of this go onto any of the venues social media accounts and look for how many people of colour are in the club pictures, look for the gender diversity – this isn’t just for Melbourne’s queer nightlife but for the LGBTIQ community as a whole

  5. I feel like this is an attack on one particular venue then a genuine journalistic report on the state of melbournes queer community… I am from North Queensland and have lived and worked in every capital city as well as many regional towns and cities… I have found the lgbtiq+ night club scene in Melbourne to be very welcoming. I agree that the policies of the venue in question are strange and poorly administered, but to tar an entire community for the failings of one venue is the precise problem with our community and society currently.

  6. Sounds more like a fair criticism of one shit venue in Melbourne than the whole LGBTI community down here.