June 18, 2013
If you’re going to trash trans people online, don’t be surprised when they kick you out of their club
Last week, the the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, one of London’s most famous gay bars, kicked a woman out of a club night simply because she was a lesbian. This is explicit lesbophobia in the gay community, and proof that London’s LGBT community is deeply misogynistic.
…or so some people might have you believe.
You may have seen a video that’s been doing the rounds on Facebook, of a woman called Cathy Brennan arguing with a bouncer about why she was ejected from Bar Wotever on 11 June 2013. The video shows her repeatedly insisting that her sexuality must be the reason why she was kicked out, and since then she’s tried to persuade anyone who will listen that the Royal Vauxhall Tavern is a sexist establishment which discriminates against lesbians.
The issue here is that Tuesday was no ordinary gay night, and Brennan is no ordinary lesbian. The night in question was Bar Wotever, arguably the UK’s most famously trans-friendly queer night.
And Brennan is a radical lesbian feminist who believes that trans women are really just men in disguise. She trolls trans people on Twitter telling them who they are and who they are not, and she trawls dating sites, taking screenshots of openly trans women so that she can humiliate them on her own website, ‘Pretendbians‘.
Earlier that day, Bar Wotever were alerted to the fact that Brennan was planning to go, and they made the decision to bar her from entering.
“The Royal Vauxhall Tavern management and the Wotever team agreed that because of her history of harassment of members of the Wotever audience, Brennan would not be permitted entry,” explains Dr J, one of the Wotever Crew. “However, she arrived in a group and we missed her coming in. As soon as we were alerted to her presence, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern security asked her to come outside and talk, and she was denied re-entry to the premises.”
The situation has infuriated Brennan. “I went to see the gay cabaret and have a drink with my friends,” she says. “The idea that a dyke and her lady friend can’t go to a gay cabaret, is, to me, so offensive.
“It’s a public establishment, when we went in there were tourists sitting in the front. I have no reason to believe that they were interrogated about their views on gender before they were invited to have a drink and enjoy the cabaret.
“This stems from the fact that you now have a gay movement that has people who formerly identified as heterosexual males and are now lesbian trans women. That has an impact. We have a different background. I can tell you that I would never treat anyone the way that they have treated me.
“If people are being honest, they would say ‘yeah she wasn’t doing anything, she was just sitting there’. And it’s a damn shame what they did, and they should be embarrassed.”
Natacha Kennedy was in the bar at the time, and while she agrees that Brennan didn’t start any arguments in the bar, she spent the evening on tenterhooks, worried that a dangerous situation might arise.
“Somebody had warned me that she was coming,” says Kennedy. “I was thinking, ‘do I really want to go when Cathy Brennan’s going to be there?’
“In my opinion, the only reason she would be going there would be to stir things up and cause trouble, and I didn’t really want to spend the evening being wound up and goaded.
“But then I thought, no. I go very regularly to Bar Wotever, I really like the place. So I said no, I’m not going to be bullied out of a space that is friendly to me and accepting of me.”
Natacha Kennedy felt strong enough to attend an event where she knew she’d be in a confined space with someone who very publicly demeans and belittles trans women, but there were other people who made the decision that Wotever just couldn’t be a safe and welcoming space if Brennan attended.
“I can think of one person who decided not to go that night,” says Kennedy. “I was talking to her a few hours before and she said ‘look I’m just starting to feel stressed already. If I do this, it’s just going to be too much for me.’ And I can understand.”
Brennan is angry that she was excluded from a gay bar; most of the Wotever patrons were relieved that she was excluded from a trans-friendly club with a proud ethos of anti-discrimination. Logically, of course, a bar which is intolerant of intolerance is itself intolerant, but the Wotever crew aren’t losing sleep over that.
“The decision to ask her to leave was based solely on her history of harassment of members of our audience,” says Dr J. “We would do the same for anyone who has a history of harassment of Wotever audience members.”
Brennan claims to be seeking legal advice on how to proceed, which doesn’t faze Dr J. “The decision to ask her to leave was also part of the licensee responsibility to maintain the peace,” she says. “As a promoter, maintaining the peace is my responsibility, in conjunction with the management of the venue.”
Whether she chooses to accept it or not, Brennan is aggressively anti-trans and she makes trans people – and cis people who support trans people – feel unsafe. She’s well known as someone who intimidates and bullies people online, and it’s hardly surprising that when faced with the prospect of the same – or worse – kind of confrontation in a real life encounter, sensible people took the sensible precaution of asking her to leave a trans-friendly bar.
Brennan doesn’t seem to care that her presence at Wotever made some people feel unsafe. What really seems to infuriate her is the idea that in this instance she was denied access to a gay space, while other people – trans people – had full access to it. This time, unlike the countless other times when she has cruelly taunted trans people online, she was the one who was powerless.
“I was talking to a few people afterwards who were quite relieved that she was gone,” says Kennedy. “And it was really really good that the transwoman poet AJ McKenna came on and did a wonderful poem about our identity and who we are. I had spent a week with people like Brennan on Twitter, telling me who I was and who I wasn’t. So to hear AJ McKenna… that was a real breath of fresh air.
“I think Wotever were amazing. They all pulled together and were fantastic. They really do work hard to make sure it’s inclusive.”
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Lady Ha Ha – Episode 2 – Jen chats to Zoe (A Ladyface Production)
Jen still naively optimistic about her show at Edinburgh, shows the first signs of doubt. Reluctantly Zoe advises Jen as to how best to approach this marathon Festival.
July 10, 2012