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Questionable Club Culture
By Rose W. Hart
Editor's Note: This open letter addresses an incident that took place at Fallout, a fetish club in Richmond, Virginia on August 30, 2014 but, due to its nature, is of national concern and inspires the sort of conversations The Quail Bell Crew believes should take place all over the world.
Photo: Shockoe Design Group.
I’d like to say, first and foremost, that I love Fallout. Richmond's only serious goth and fetish club is one of the first places I felt safe expressing my queerness, my kinkiness, my gender identity. They elected a transwoman as Miss Fallout in 2010. They had an explicit “no touching without consent” policy. They had a mixed drink named after the community’s favorite lesbian couple. I knew that these were the kind of people I could be safe around, people who got it. And so it pains me to say what I have to say next.
What happened there on August 30th makes me question whether I ever want to go back again.
For those of you who don’t know the story, here are the basics:
1. It was Doomsday, a local favorite event that brings in a lot of new people every year. It’s an End of the World party, with lots of dancing and craziness. A great time all around.
2. The theme this year was some kind of unspecified Intolerant Apocalypse. In past years, themes have included raptures and zombies. This year, the theme appeared to be something along the lines of Fourth Reich. It’s unclear whether or not the club’s owners and employees knew about this in advance, but volunteering regulars made the decorations, including several signs.
3. Normally when the club does events that might be...uh, scary for some people, they advertise heavily what the theme of that night is going to be. If it’s medical play night, they plaster up some warnings. It’s a fetish club, of course it’s going to have themes that not everyone is comfortable with. But…
4. This is a big event that brings in a lot of new people. And the website did not make it clear beforehand what the theme of this year’s event was going to be. So…
5. People showed up, and were surprised. And not in a good way. Signs on the walls (not claimed by any one particular person, but written in advance by volunteers) included:
-Fags go home
-Cooking with Jews
-And the kicker: No N*******s allowed.
6. Some kid tore down the No N*******s sign.
7. He got thrown out, and the sign went back up, but backwards so that the words couldn’t be seen.
8. Some people followed him next door to a second club.
9. There was a yelling match in the street, with the one kid surrounded by several Fallout regulars.
10. Luckily, no one was hurt. No police were involved, as far as I could tell.
In the aftermath of this incident, I’m not necessarily sure what we as a community can do, moving forward, to improve the situation. Obviously, what happened was not okay, nor was it handled well by us, the regulars. Some of us chose to ignore it, and some of us seemed more offended by the kid taking down one cardboard sign than they were by a regular who threw meat all over the club later in the evening. This suggests to me that the problem was not the act of destruction, since acts of minor destruction are par for the course on crazy anarchic party nights. What this was about was people’s resistance to any critique of a sign that was, frankly, hurtful and scary.
We as a community need to do better. I know that we can, because I’ve seen us do better in the past. If we have tensions on the brain following the recent rash of racially-motivated hate crimes and police actions, we need to not take it out on each other--or at the very least we need to warn people when we’re about to throw a party with fascist police state implications, because some people don’t want to go to that. There’s been some suggestion to me that each of these signs was written by someone who can legitimately state that they are reclaiming the slur. And that’s certainly better than the alternative. But there are people from outside our community who don’t know that some of us are gay, that some of us are black, that some of us are jewish. They’re walking into a place they heard was cool and safe and seeing hateful writing on the walls, in a dark bar where they don’t know anyone. Again, this is the blowout night, when new people come in. If we want our community to be welcoming to new people, especially new queer people and people of color, do we really want this to be how we advertise during our biggest party of the year?
And further, Fallout (like any club) has a few unsavory characters who genuinely believe this stuff. Putting it up on the walls indicates to them that they’re right, and that we all are secretly thinking this way. And the next time they say or do something racist, or homophobic, they’re going to assume the whole club has their back. Let’s not give them any grounds for believing that. We put ourselves out there as a tolerant community, a safe place to do the freaky stuff you want to do. Let’s make sure we live up to that reputation.
For more information about this incident, check out the article that ran in Richmond's alternative weekly newspaper, Style Weekly.
#Real #Fallout #Richmond #RVA #Racism #AntiSemitism #Discrimination #FetishClub #NightClub #MembersOnlyClub
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