Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ban of transgender women at local clubs.

Reader Mark wrote to us with an unpublished letter to the Straits Time Forum written by his friend, SM. The letter seeks clarification from the people at Zouk on an apparent blanket ban on transgender women at the establishment's Velvet Underground: (dated 21 Jul 2009)
Last Friday night, my friends and went clubbing at Zouk's Velvet Underground. However, arriving at the club's entrance, I was shocked to learn that my transgender friend was not allowed into one of Singapore's most well-known clubs.

Upon clarification with the bouncer, it was explained that a policy of disallowing all transgender patrons applies, although only to Velvet.

These patrons are still welcome to merry-making in the other parts of the greater establishment, including the main Zouk club, Phuture and Winebar.

I would very much like to know why Velvet Underground has such a blatantly discriminatory blanket ban in place, that denies entry to a whole class of people.

A bar-ban may be an entertainment spot's prerogative, but it is usually applied individually to patrons who have without mitigating factors incurred serious transgressions that disrupt the enjoyment or prove to be a threat to the safety of patrons, staff or the environment.

Does Velvet Underground mean to suggest that all transgender people are disruptive or threatening simply by existing or being present? This belief has no justification. Zouk should know this from direct experience since transgender people are, under its own policy, able to access the rest of the club.

Also, by what criteria does Velvet Underground determine whether a potential patron is transgender?

In his letter to us, Mark relates that he knows of "another big club frequented by Caucasian expatriates, at CHIJMES" that has a similar discriminatory policy in place. His understanding is that these bans have been argued to be "purely for the pecuniary benefit of their shareholders, and that it was within their power to exclude any (class of) people they deem unsavory."

Exclusionary policies are fine if indeed "unsavory" people are banned individually as SM points out above. The problem with a blanket ban, however, is a matter of ignorantly playing to stereotypes that are difficult to justify or in fact enforce. It is the case for race in a predominantly White countries, race in early education, race on the dumbbox, reasons for adultery and children of wedlock, what makes a feminist, and fat people.

In this case, Mark notes:
Firstly, all transwomen are necessarily made out to be sex workers [by the ban], when obviously this isn't the case.

Practically speaking, clubs have no real way of excluding other sex workers of any gender, except by doing it the good old traditional way--when someone gets reported, they ban the individual.

Just as how clubs can't exclude all cis sex workers, there's no real way the bouncers are capable of excluding all transwomen just by looks. This means that the management really only excludes better-known transwomen, or/and any (trans)woman who does or doesn't fit certain bills.
I make especial note on "certain bills" to maybe mean what transphobic feminist, Julie Bindel calls “fuck-me-boots and birds-nest hair”?

We at the barn are very disturbed by this, and fully agree that this needs to be aired. Not only so that, as Mark hopes, "everyone who gives a damn might consider bringing their buying power to more inclusive venues", but also that we can avoid places where the likely intolerant types maybe concentrate.

Voice Out. I encourage concerned readers to write in to Zouk to demand they change their policies: email them at, or call them at (+65) 6738 2988.

Tell Us More. If anyone else knows of other non-inclusive venues, please write to us (email address on the side) so that we can compile a list.

Thanks to Mark and SM for bringing this to the table! You're welcome to party in the barn with us any day!!!


  1. Hi Farmer Plant'alot,

    Thanks for publishing this! Not to detract from things, but I wouldn't say that people who hang out at these venues are "intolerant types". Most of them probably aren't even aware of the ban. I do wonder if the shareholders are aware of these policies as well, could very well be the case that they don't know how middle-management is tarnishing the club's good name.

    - mark

  2. St James Power Station was pretty ageist/sexist too:

  3. I think business will be affected if these places/pubs/clubs change their policies.

    It's not only about seemingly closed-minded business but they are patronised by a majority of close-minded people too. That's because close-minded people think lowly and wrongly of trans people.

    You chop off one head of the hydra, 2 heads grow back. Problem not solved. People need to be more aware and educated first before such businesses can change their policy.

  4. Sam - thanks for dropping by and commenting.

    Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but there is no indication that these establishments have actually looked at the evidence for how business is or isn't affected. After all, trans people and their friends provide business too (and part of Farmer's rally at the end of this post is to demonstrate to establishments just how much business is at stake).

    Even if not, it's not as if us animals and friends of trans people have any obligation to spend our dollars at these places, right? So if these places want to make extra money specifically from selling themselves as havens for transphobia, what's wrong with deciding we don't want to give our money to them - and encouraging the likeminded to do the same?

    Finally, how can the spread of awareness and education come about while the very presence of trans people remains taboo?

  5. I want to make a few additional points on interaction with any minority group:

    [1] Non-Interaction - Magical Chicken is right in a way. If I party next to a group of trans people, I might actually realise that, you know, they're just just people partying like my friends and I are. Some drink more, some drink less. Some are good dancers, some dance like me (mad, raving expressionists!) Some don't do anything but sit around. Some hook up, others don't. I don't need to learn much more about them but that they have the right like everyone else to exist and move about, and that's something easily promoted by:

    [2] Respecting their rights - The clubs need to just DROP THE POLICY. If someone goes to the bouncer to complain about the presence of any misunderstood group, enlightened management can just go, "Er... They're not doing anything more or less than you. You want me to throw them out just because you don't like? Then how many other customers are we going to turn away? Siao..."

    [3] Zouk's case is just bizarre. Like SM mentioned in his letter, trans people can go EVERYWHERE ELSE. The reasonable ban policy applies to every person, trans, cis, gay, straight, in-between, undecided, etc: don't fuck up, and we don't throw *you* (the individual) out.



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