The phrase ‘Let’s go to [insert name of a gay sex club]’ might signal the start of a good night out for some.
For me though, it’s quite the opposite.
There’s nothing more gutting than when I’m having a good night in a bar with a group of friends but then said group decide that next they’re going to head to a gay sex club.
I’m neither man, or completely masculine meaning that there are multiple venues in London where I’ll simply never be welcome.
Subsequently, my only option is to hang my head and retire to an early night.
When this happens, it goes something like this.
We’ll be in a bar in Soho. Everyone’s having a great time. The alcohol is flowing. The room is filled with laughter. Everyone’s face has a grin on it. It’s a good night.
Then a couple of the guys in the group will huddle and I catch wind that they’ve agreed on something.
Then, one person will approach me and explain that they’re heading to a gay sex club. ‘I tried to convince them otherwise but it’s just not worked, I’m sorry,’ a friend will explain.
I also try my hand at reminding that people if we go to one of the many places available that isn’t a gay sex club, we can still have a good time and I can join them!
So then a couple of minutes later, everyone will start moving outside of the bar. Everyone apologizes for the fact that I can’t join them. I say ‘it’s okay’ through gritted teeth. They head in one direction, and I walk to the tube station to get a train home.
I can’t help but wonder though…
If you were really that sorry, why would you still go?
Queer venues in London
It’s hard to say really whether there’s been any progress in terms of diversity in LGBTI nightlife.
The number of venues that are safe spaces for those who aren’t LGBT men have experienced a noticeable drop.
Beloved queer venue HER upstairs closed abruptly in August 2018. This loss broke the hearts of many across the LGBTI London scene.
Ku Bar near Leicester square is a popular venue who host a weekly night for queer women – Ruby Tuesday’s. This is quite popular but, it’s just a weekly night.
Its sister Ku Bar, off Old Compton Street, runs SHE Soho in its basement. This venue is, as far as I’m aware, the only bar in London that is tailored and targeted at queer women.
They also have strict door policy that men aren’t allowed in unless they’re with a woman. DJ Tina Ledger once recalled seeing ‘a guy lurking around for hours offering women fifty quid to go in with him.’
Like Ruby Tuesdays, there are other examples of weekly events. Wotever World are a collective who regularly take over a variety of gay bars with their nights aimed at queer women, femme people and non-binary people.
There are other similar examples of this. Wotever World are a collective who regularly take over a variety of gay bars with their nights aimed at queer women, femme people and non-binary people.
The Friendly Society, Queen Adelaide of Cambridge Heath and CIRCA Club are venues for the community as a whole.
Bearing all that in mind, I’d say it’s pretty understandable that queer women and non-binary people would feel isolated in terms of LGBTI nightlife.
Sadie Masie and FIST
The biggest and most popular LGBTI venues in London are still predominantly gay venues – Some of which have no issue with discriminating against those who don’t fit the bill of an ideal customer.
This hasn’t always been the way however.
There was a fetish club in the early 1990s at the London Lesbian and Gay Centre called Sadie Maisie. The club welcomed people of all genders.
When Fetish Queen Suzie Krueger first opened her club FIST in the mid-90’s, I’m told this night was also for everyone. However, that event was later replaced by Hard On – a more hard-dance, sex night aimed much more at the boys.
I can’t help but feel like we’ve moved a bit backwards in this sense. Once upon a time, both my friends and I would have been welcomed into sex clubs together! Not anymore however.
All I want is to be able to join my friends on a night out, regardless of where they end up.
Author: Charlie Mathers
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