Transgender patrons dissuaded from attending Dunedin club session

A dispute has emerged over the decision by management to attempt to dissuade transgender patrons entry to Dunedin gay and bisexual venue Space4u’s club session ‘Bodyworks’.

A transgender man who wanted to remain anonymous due to his current employment, enquired as to whether the session was transgender friendly, and was told by management via an email response: 

“The Bodyworks club sessions would not suit you—they are marketed at, to be blunt, male penis enthusiasts who all come looking for contact with another man’s penis and equal attention for their own.”

Whilst that statement is preceded by other information such as: 

“Space4u is available to anyone by appointment” 

(Space4u being the club itself), the vein of the emails remained offensive to the enquirer. 

Of this response, the enquirer was left with the impression that “the space appears to uphold the notion that gay men are men with a penis and that transgender men cannot be included because they don't have a penis.”

“For me it reads as a question of culture—if in the past Bodywork's has ruled that you must have a 'real' penis to participate, the space can now evolve to change this policy, in turn changing the culture which currently excludes transgender people. And it is a culture of exclusion, I'm not sure why Bodywork's says otherwise.” 

Mark McLeod, the owner and manager of the venue since 2012, commented: “I do not have a policy of excluding transgender people from the Bodyworks club, but my advice is they would be wasting their time coming to a sex club environment where the focus of interest is male genitals.”

“Space4u, the venue, certainly does have a policy of welcoming diversity and as I’ve indicated to [the enquirer] a transgender session could be set up if requested”, before concluding by saying “we can try to please all people, but not all at the same time.”  

The enquirer responded:

“Bodyworks rambles on about a 'limit to inclusivity', something about gay liberation, and not being able to please all people at the same time. There is no limit to inclusivity, that is the entire premise of the word inclusivity. And no one is asking Bodyworks to please all people at the same time, what is being asked is that all gay men are included in the gay male community, instead of only some men being included. Bodyworks is explicitly excluding and discriminating against an important and visible sector of the gay male community.”

This article first appeared in Issue 21, 2016.
Posted 10:16am Sunday 4th September 2016 by Joe Higham.