Friday, April 22, 2011

Perth Queer Community Organises to Achieve Safer Venues

Lisbeth Latham

There have been growing concerns within Perth's LGBTI community over the state of the city's two main queer venues. These concerns, which initially emerged as informal grumblings have, during the part of this year, increasingly taken on more concrete forms. First with the creation of a Facebook group “Perth needs a new gay pub ", which had 300 members in its first two days of existence and now has more than 700 members. The establishment of group sparked an article in Out in Perth that
aired some of the issues and gave the owners of both the Court Hotel and Connections a right of reply to the concerns, the Cross Campus Queer Network then initiated a community forum under the title of “Reclaiming Queer Venues” held on March 26.

CCQN in its call and media statements in the lead up to the forum identified four issues regarding venues which had motivated it to call the meeting. These were:

  • hostile and sometimes violent security;
  • discrimination against trans people;
  • indiscriminate and arbitrary bannings and the enabling of sexual assault through the continued admittance of sexual predators

The aim of the meeting would be to generate action that could make Perth’s Queer Venues safer and more inclusive of both the Queer community and the broader Perth community.

The forum, which was chaired by Shamini Joseph, UWA co-Queer Officer, and prominent community member and former co-president of Pride WA, Daniel Smith, attracted more than 80 people. Significantly the meeting attracted three members of the Legislative Council, Greens’ MLCs Giz Watson and Lyn McLaren and ALP MLC Lisa Baker; as well as Connections Nightclub owner Tim Brown, and Grahame Watson, Out in Perth editor.

While the forum provided an important opportunity to allow members of the community to express their concerns and frustrations regarding the character of the Court and Connections, the meeting’s primary focus was on achieving practical action to resolve concerns. The possible actions identified were:

  • to identify existing venues that could be colonised as Queer friendly venues and to investigate the possibility of establishing a new venue with a range of services and facilities for the queer community
  • taking direct action to highlight the problems at both the Court and Connections and acting to create safer spaces in the venues through this action formal documentation and lodging of complaints regarding problems
  • seeking to work with Pride WA to establish a queer accreditation process for venue endorsement
In the wake of the meeting there have been a number of important developments which have strengthened the campaign. This has included the establishment of Reclaiming Queer Venues (RQV) as an independent campaign coalition and a number of WA queer and queer supporting organisations adopting statements around the Court Hotel.

Since being established as coalition RQV has created its own campaign website and Facebook presence as well as a Facebook page QueerCritique Perth. QueerCritique Perth initiative exists to allow members of the queer to rate Perth's bars, clubs and other venues based how queer-friendly they are.

Pride WA, the WA Gender Project and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) have all made statement raising concerns regarding the Court Hotel. The Pride WA statement, passed at its AGM on March 28, criticised the Court Hotel for not contributing financially to Pride while it holds a Pride After Party that directly competes with Pride WA’s major annual fund raising event. The WA Gender Project has concerns regarding the number of complaints from Perth’s Transgender and Transexual community regarding “a sudden rise in alleged discrimination by Court Hotel Staff”. These
complaints relate to allegations that staff have prevented trans patrons from using the toilet they identify with, and have suggested that they use the disabled toilet if they are unwilling to use the toilet associated with their legal sex. Both the male and female toilets at the Court feature signs stating that patrons of the opposite sex found the toilet will be evicted. In an open letter to the Court PFLAG states that it is “concerned at alleged increases in violence and discrimination towards members of Perth’s lesbian and gay community” and that “as the only gay and lesbian pub in Perth, it is important
that our children and their friends are affirmed and feel safe [there]”.

Under these growing criticisms the ownership of the Court Hotel has been forced to respond, however their responce has thus far failed to satisfy it critics. In response to concerns over safety, Bree Day, the Court’s owner told the March 29 West Australian “Our venue is safer than it has ever been. We welcome all people regardless of their sexual preferences and our patrons enjoy themselves regardless of which way they identify. Thousands of people enjoy the Court every weekend and that’s enough for us to believe they feel accepted”. RQV spokesperson Shamini Joseph rejects this
argument, “More people accessing a space or a pub doesn't make it safer. You need a management
who take drink spiking and claims of violence seriously – which the Court’s management doesn’t appear to be doing. If the Court was serious they would be looking at better training for their security staff, so people feel like are protected”.

On its Facebook page, the Court Hotel has made reference to community concerns about the need to reclaim venues, by implying that the campaign is motivated by hostility to “straight” people and arguing “we think you should reclaim your venue! The more the gay and lesbian and extended community come to the venue the more gay and lesbian the venue will be! It’s that simple!”

Joseph rejects the claim that the campaign is heterophobic, “Wanting to reclaim queer venues isn't anti-hetero. Straight people are welcome in any queer space, as it is queer culture which makes a venue queer. We're not asking for less straight people to come to the Court, we're asking for less homophobia, transphobia and general objectification of gay culture in our own pubs. We're asking for management to understand and promote this culture rather than actively exploiting and
knowingly profiting from its demise.”

The development of Reclaiming Queer Venues is an important development in queer political activity in Perth. Action that has the ability to not only achieve safe and genuinely inclusive venues in Perth, but also to empower the community to act in its own interests.
To get involved in the campaign email info@reclaimingqueervenues.com or visit reclaimingqueervenues.com, if you would like to help rate Perth’s venues go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/QueerCritique-Perth/189801837724177?sk=wall.

2 comments:

Xaturn April 22, 2011 at 6:01 PM  

I am not certain that "heterophobic" is the word of choice to use for the campaign - perhaps heterosexist is better?

A very informative article, however.

Juni Aiko August 28, 2015 at 5:40 PM  

I’ve too heard and read about the many transphobic incidents that have happened at The Courts. It seems to be catered more towards the LGBs and not the TQI folks? Not gonna patronize that place since I wouldn’t feel safe in that kind of environment as a transwoman. :(

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