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A ‘trans night’ in a sex club

We need to not only reclaim spaces, but make all spaces inclusive of all members of our community. Otherwise, things only get better for some, and not for all of us.

“It’s ‘tranny night’ tonight (a Tuesday). If you’re into that, it’s a good night to be there.”

This cisgender gay Australian man said to me, referring – while using what is largely considered a slur when addressing the transgender community – to the one day in the week when select sex clubs/saunas/bathhouses in Sydney specially cater to trans people.

At the Bunk

Yeah, there’d be issues here for various people – e.g. why just a night (though trans people are welcome at any time), and the possible fetishization of trans people (akin to the BDSM, Bear, et cetera themes for the other days). But that this day exists at all should be seen as a welcome occurrence.

Yeah, yeah… it’s “just” a “sex venue”, whose very existence is seemingly “selfish” in its intent, thus may be deemed inconsequential in the LGBTQIA movement. But remove the stigma we – like heterosexual sex-negative people – attach to anything sexual, and we’re actually going to end up tackling the value of LGBTQIA spaces.

I remember a few years back, when an effeminate gay friend who hails from Cotabato City in Mindanao, south of the Philippines, visited Manila. One night, he asked about this bathhouse in Quezon City. He was given the direction to the place, and specific instructions – e.g. bring ID, and… to present himself as cisgender, since transgender people (particularly transgender women) are known to have been banned by the place.

He left, but returned home after a short while. He alleged that he was refused entry because he had long hair (which many continue to associate with the feminine, thus seen as “wrong” for straight-performing gay or bi men). He was, in a gist, refused entry into an LGBTQIA space by members of the LGBTQIA community itself. Our spaces, including sex venues, have gatekeepers, and not everyone is welcome, apparently.

And this is why, while in Sydney for the WorldPride 2023, hearing about a “trans night” in a space that used to be dominated (and arguably still dominated) by the heteronormalized members of the LGBTQIA community is new to me, and a welcome one at that.

Because we need to not only reclaim spaces, but make all spaces inclusive of all members of our community. Otherwise, things only get better for some, and not for all of us.

So here’s to creating LGBTQIA spaces, including sex venues; but here’s to making these truly inclusive… even if it starts with making it one “trans night” at a time…

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The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan completed BA Communication Studies from University of Newcastle in NSW, Australia; and Master of Development Communication from the University of the Philippines-Open University. He grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City), but he "really came out in Sydney" so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing, and a developed world". Conversant in Filipino Sign Language, Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, and research (with pioneering studies under his belt). He authored "Being LGBT in Asia: Philippines Country Report", and "Red Lives" that creatively retells stories from the local HIV community. Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism, and Art that Matters - Literature from Amnesty Int'l Philippines in 2020. Cross his path is the dare (guarantee: It won't be boring).

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