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Confused about ‘safe space’ at Nectar…

Argue however you want, but equating “this is our safe space” with “only people like us should be in this place” is discriminatory. Exclusivity does not make any venue a safe space; it is what’s being done in that venue that makes it safe… or unsafe.

Photo by Pim Myten from Unsplash.com

It has been making the socmed rounds; that video of a cisgender man (who we’d assume is part of the LGBTQIA community since he insisted a gay place is his “safe space”) basically pushing a cisgender woman off the stage of Nectar, one of the handful of “exclusive” (and exclusivist) venues for LGBTQIA partygoers in Metro Manila.

In this case, the aforementioned woman stepped onstage, said some stuff, and was then “reprimanded” (if it can be called that) by the aforementioned man, who then proceeded to say stuff to the woman, while basically pushing her offstage (into the arms of the bouncer).

What happened may have no direct impact on LGBTQIA Filipinos whose salaries for a month won’t even be 1/4 of what a Nectar partygoer will spend in just a few hours, particularly if he/she/they “reserved” a table, drink imported beverages, and so on. After all (and harsh as this may sound), this is one of the places where you’d see “Pride” revelers… sans the struggle to make that same “Pride” be available to all.

This is, by no means, a critique on chosen lifestyles; but at least some comments need to be made about the Nectar incident.

1. Throwing “safe space” around doesn’t make any space safe.

Oxford Dictionary defines a “safe space” as “a place or environment in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm”.

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If you see shoving, and then still say you’re in a “safe space”, am not sure we’re seeing eye to eye here…

2. We can’t cry foul when we get discriminated while accessing facilities; and then actually do the same for those who we deem to be not like us.

Argue however you want, but equating “this is our safe space” with “only people like us should be in this place” is discriminatory. Exclusivity does not make any venue a safe space; it is what’s being done in that venue that makes it safe… or unsafe.

3. The elephant in the room is this: Should we start banning heterosexual people from entering LGBTQIA spaces?

I get where some of the complaints stem from – e.g. check hen parties in gay bars in WeHo in LA, and you’d see why gay people “who just want to party” almost always clash with (assumed) heterosexual women who are often seen as “gatecrashers” of LGBTQIA venues.

But this “banning” (or any effort close to this) is – to be blunt – a form of counter-discrimination; of “gatekeeping” to only allow people who we deem “desirable” and “acceptable” to be allowed to party with us. After all, it’s not like the partygoers actually want to ban those heterosexual gogo boys (who titillate you), the heterosexual bouncers (who keep the “undesirables” away from you), the heterosexual waiters (who do stuff at your beck and call), et cetera.

4. Stop the violence.

LGBTQIA people know violence – e.g. we have experienced or at least heard of stories about young gay guys shoved in drums filled with water to turn them “straight”; or of transgender women shot with plastic pellets while walking the streets; or of older gay men kicked in the head just because younger hetero men felt like doing it; or of lesbian women allegedly raped by relatives because it will supposedly turn them straight, and then allegedly abused again by law enforcers when they complained; or of lesbian women and transgender men who were shaved in public for being in LGBTQIA relationships; and so on…

For all people – particularly LGBTQIA people, including those who party at Nectar – who now “defend” the one who shoved by “blaming” the one who was shoved, please stop. The very act of shoving takes away from the claim to “safe space”.

5. Hold the venue – not just select people involved – accountable.

There ought to be systems in place to deal with instances like this. Otherwise, this will just keep happening again – e.g. remember when the complaints about sexually inappropriate behavior were raised against a certain personality in Today X Future, another “safe space” for LGBTQIA people, and basically nothing was really done about the alleged crimes committed (aside from the resignation of the person involved)? And when these things happen, am not sure what it says about “LGBTQIA venues”…

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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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