A London-based bear club has found itself at the center of a femmephobia row after they refused to let in a customer who was wearing high heels. Last month, bouncers of XXL told a man that “you can’t wear make-up, wigs, high heels or anyone feminine. We don’t allow femininity”.
Although the customer has said that it wasn’t aggressive and he didn’t feel shamed for wearing the heels, that didn’t stop a highly- fuelled debate on social media after the story was shared by news outlets.
Now, why they would say they don’t accept femininity when they allow thousands of bears to squeal along to Kylie remixes is beyond me. But clearly, he was referring to a visual feminine stereotype, and undoubtedly, it was phrased wrong by the bouncer, (and perhaps that’s how he was trained), but essentially the point he was making here was about dress-code.
What followed was a think-piece that confronts the toxic masculinity within the gay community and the compromises that femme gay men must make in their daily life just to get by. It states that clubs like XXL, “demand that we hide some essential aspect of ourselves, that we be something else to be worthy of sanctuary”.
In fact, there is now a protest against XXL’s door policies. Although, surely ‘Boycott XXL’ will only discourage the type of clientele the club wants to avoid, from not going anyway.
XXL’s owner Mark Ames has vented his frustration on social media:
Perhaps not to most elegant way of voicing his argument. Ames perhaps presumes that if he allows in one man with a pair of heels, that the club with overrun with drag queens and glitter-doused twinks. Although we’re not quite sure it works like that, as parties like Sink The Pink – which celebrate feminism and allows men to wear whatever they like – isn’t amassed with bears.
In fact, XXL’s brand image is so embedded within their parties, that those bringing effeminate qualities to the disco wouldn’t change it.
So the question remains, that in a world where we are still fighting for acceptance do we need to be more accepting of everyone within our own community or is it actually OK for venues and brands to have an aesthetic? And if it were the former, should we abolish dress codes altogether? Or just the ones that enforce a sexuality or gender stereotype?