A night of discrimination at the strip club

Graphic by Fani Hsieh
Graphic by Fani Hsieh

I like to think I’m a fun, outgoing guy. I’m always up to try new things and try to make the most of any experience.

That’s why when I had the opportunity to go out to a strip club in Niagara Falls with two friends of mine, I thought I was ready for a new opportunity. I had actually been looking forward to the experience for a while.

My first time at a strip bar was entirely different than I expected.

We decided to go to Peppermints in Niagara Falls, a club with both female and male performers.

As a gay guy with two straight female friends, we ventured over to the male performers to see some Magic Mike inspired action.

We sat up at the stage and started to enjoy our time, when staff members approached me and said I had to move away from the front row because not all the performers were comfortable with a man sitting so close to the stage.

This was a serious plot twist in how I thought my night was going to go.

They were apologetic, but expressed that it was the owner’s rules and that some of the performers were “old school.”

I’m assuming it’s common knowledge by now that guys and girls can both be attracted to men.

So, as a male performer, you should probably expect people of all genders and many sexual orientations are going to come in for the exact same experience.

I paid cover just the same as everyone else. I paid for drinks just as everyone else. They were happy to take my money, just not to let me actually enjoy my time there in the same way that female customers could.

There were a lot of excuses thrown out that night as to why I had to move. “It’s not personal, it’s the owners.” “It’s not as socially acceptable.” The phrase that was used the most is that some of the performers were “old-school.”

I’ve developed a profound distaste for those words.

We all know what that really means. These are men who aren’t comfortable with their sexuality and don’t want to hurt their manly, heterosexual pride.

One of the male performers, arguably one that wasn’t “old-school,” had a conversation with us. He said that I could have just sat at another table or  just gone to a gay club where I can “grab and fondle them.”

My friend explained that she, as a woman, would never be turned away from female performers. I know female friends who’ve paid for dances from female performers.

The performer seemed to think that women going to a female strip club were more socially acceptable.

So, in the end, the double-standard viewpoint is that two girls kissing isn’t necessarily gay or straight, but just for fun. But two guys together? Well that’s undeniably gay as fuck. A straight male performer immediately thinks that my eyes laying on his penis is the same thing as actually sucking it.

Because that logic stands in Peppermints, it apparently justifies making me get up and sit somewhere else.

It’s ironic that the stamp they mark you with when you walk in is the two gender rings linked together. It’s a clear misrepresentation of what Peppermints stands for as they don’t treat male and female customers the same. I not only felt uncomfortable with them, but with myself at that point. It was a feeling I haven’t often felt before.

I’ve gone about my days feeling entitled to the same treatment as everyone else, no matter their sexual orientation or gender. That night, it occurred to me that we don’t live in a perfect world. What you may feel entitled to, others may not see in the same light.

When it comes down to it, we aren’t entitled to anything that you aren’t willing to fight for when it is taken away.

My friends took to Facebook to write reviews to let people know how this club treats its customers. The girls sitting across from us had left when they saw what happened. They were complete strangers, but they gave me hug, which is something I still feel so grateful for.

I’m choosing to write about this because I want everyone to know what happened to me and why it isn’t right.

When it comes down to it, for the business owners, they lost six paying customers.

If you work at a strip club and don’t understand that there are no barriers between sexuality or gender, apart from the ones you make up in your head, then you are working the wrong job.

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