In my life as a queer person, there are few things that make the hair on the back of my neck stand on edge as much as gender differential pricing. To be clear, this is when a club or venue charges different admission fees for people based on their gender. It can also manifest when a club charges differently for trans women and cis women.
I’ve seen it lots of places in London: A popular naturist spa has discounts for “mixed couples” (read as: “straight”) and “single women”; a daytime bi swingers club has free entry for cis women but charges £10 for trans women. Worst are the old school trans events, which cost men (specifically cis; trans men and nonbinary folks, as per usual, are completely forgotten) anywhere from 3 to 5 times as much for entry.
Folks, there are many reasons why this is all pretty bad. But let’s start with the most pressing: it’s illegal.
According to Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch (eww.) in 2021:
Prices in the UK are set by competition, not the Government, but it is unlawful to offer goods or services to women and men at a range of different prices. The Equality Act 2010 provides that a retailer must not discriminate against the customer either by failing to provide goods or services, or by providing them on different terms, on the basis of someone’s sex.
I suspect the type of clubs that I’m referencing here are the sort of places that people don’t want their names attached to as a result of a public court case, so are able to fly under the radar in this regard. Indeed, invoking The Law to discuss the shitty behaviours of people within the LGBTQ+ and/or fetish scenes is often a lost cause — I’m reminded of someone I know who sent a GDPR Subject Access Request to a local kink night because that club had a really obnoxious marketing policy that conflicted with privacy legislation, and my friend was curious whether that club was misusing their data. Although the club did comply and ultimately changed how they did communication (if in response to my friend’s efforts, we’ll never be sure), let us operate on the basis that we’re all working together to make our scenes bigger, and better, and brighter, and let us not brandish statutes like a sword. Our experience as a community has been one where that sword is often used against us all, and it is to our detriment when we use it against each other out of spite.
So, let’s look at it another way: what motivates clubs to have gender differential pricing?
For several of the trans clubs I work with, cis men (I refuse to call them “chasers” because we have a horrible propensity within the trans community to erase straight trans people by using that epithet to describe any cis person who dares find any of us attractive) pay the bills through their outsized admission prices. Most of the “old school” clubs in London have gender differential pricing in some way. I’ve heard this defended by several organisers as a way of subsidising admission for the trans women who these clubs are targeted towards, and I have a lot of time for that argument. A lot of trans people live in the margins and don’t have a lot of money to afford cover for events; our scene is all the poorer when they are excluded. At the same time, rents in London are absolutely obscene, and short of a vast socialist reorganisation of the British real estate market, they always will be. This cost is passed on to the people who organise events, some of which have existed for decades.
However, my hypothesis is that this impacts how men perceive their event, and their position within it. The events with gender differential pricing have some of the worst behaviour in any scene I’ve attended in London.
There, I’ve said it.
I can’t be certain whether this is because non-consensual behaviour has been so normalised within these scenes, or if it’s because men feel they’re able to take liberties with regards to things like inappropriate touch when their tickets are so clearly subsidising the event for everyone else, but it’s noticeable. I think in many ways, the younger queer kink scene that has emerged in this city, starting with Crossbreed and continuing with Joyride, is in many ways a response to this culture of non-consent. It’s worth looking at Crossbreed and Joyride as indicative examples:
They don’t have gender differential pricing.
And they’re extremely strict about consent.
Same with Klub Verboten. Same with every bog-standard queer-inclusive fetish event in London.
This is the direction the scene is moving, I have absolutely no doubt. I suspect people running events feel this change in the seasons, too. The reality is that the queer community has grown so dramatically the last decade, and it needs physical spaces to thrive. The demand is there, events no longer have to rely on cishet men to sustain them, so long as they can trust the community to show up and support them.
For our part, we need to support our local events, and more often than just once in a blue moon. This is a virtuous cycle, though! By supporting events, we can make them the sorts of places we enjoy being around, where we find community, where we support each other and meet new friends. We can make the experience of being queer in Britain just that much less scary.
Yes, we’ll have to pay a bit more, but perhaps savvy organisers can guestlist people who actually contribute to their communities, and we can start to push back against the isolation which keeps us apart and powerless against the forces which seek to oppress us through this atomisation.