Gay marriages. Gay pride parades. Benefits for those who have lost their partners. They’ve become a fact of life in Toronto and show how far the community has come in gaining acceptance and equality. But there are two separate stories from opposite ends of the world that may show how far things have gone the other way – and how far they still have to come.
The first one takes us to Melbourne, Australia where a hotel that caters to the gay community has successfully won the right to bar so-called straight patrons – and even lesbians. The Peel Hotel went to court to argue that its entirely male clientele wouldn’t be comfortable with people of other sexual orientations trying to frequent the establishment. So, despite an Aussie law that prohibits discrimination of any kind on the basis of race, religion or sexuality, a tribunal has agreed the establishment has the right to keep out any non-gay patrons.
Tribunal president Cate McKenzie heard evidence that straight male customers and women’s groups were entering the bar and viewing the regular customers in a derogatory way. “To regard the gay male patrons of the venue as providing an entertainment or spectacle to be stared at, as one would at an animal at a zoo, devalues and dehumanizes them,” she told local newspapers. So for the first time in the country’s recent history, a kind of reverse discrimination has been sanctioned.
Couldn’t happen in Canada? It did, if you believe one woman’s story. Audrey Vachon has filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission after she sat down at a gay bar with her father in Montreal and the waiter refused to serve her. She claims the staff informed her dad that the bar didn’t cater to women and that only he could order a drink. “On the spot I didn’t believe it, I thought it was a bad joke,” the 20-year-old explains. “I didn’t say a word until I’d left. I was too shocked. I was embarrassed, I was humiliated, I felt guilty that I’d even gone there, like I’d done something wrong.”
Le Stud owner Michel Gadoury claims his establishment has banned women on certain days since it opened more than a decade ago and that it’s a ‘choice’ his clients have asked him to make.
Photo credit: Getty Images/AFP/William West