A drag performer says she was discriminated against after Finnegan’s Hotel denied her entry on Friday night because her outfit was too risque.
Drag queens Jessica and Nova were part of a group of six, including three dressed as women, who went to the inner-city Newcastle hotel after a drag performance at nearby Central Bar.
A security guard let in two of the three dressed in drag, but a second guard told Jessica her clothes did not meet the venue’s male dress code.
The hotel does not dispute Jessica was denied entry but said it was because her outfit did not meet its dress code for males or females, not because she was in drag.
Jessica told the Newcastle Herald on Sunday that her friends had started to walk up the venue’s stairs when a security guard stopped her entering.
“He said, ‘As per your ID, it says you’re a male, so you need to dress by the male dress code, long pants and a shirt,’ and I told him, ‘I’m not identifying as a male. I am a female at the moment so I can go by the female dress code.’
“And he said, ‘No, as your ID says, you’re a male,’ which is completely wrong as your ID doesn’t say if you’re male or female.
“He also said that if he let us in they would get in trouble off the police for the way I was dressed, which is completely wrong.
“The other security guards didn’t have an issue with it at all. I said, ‘How come they got let in and I didn’t?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know; they shouldn’t have been let in.’”
This whole situation was ridiculous. It was an insult to my friend, to the art of drag and to the entire LGBTQI+ community of Newcastle.
Nova said she and other members of the group had returned to ask the security guard why Jessica had been denied entry.
A supervisor had then barred all six for engaging in “quarrelsome behaviour”.
“He [the security guard] was professional about it, but what he was saying wasn’t professional,” Nova said.
A Finnegan’s spokesperson said the hotel was an “inclusive venue” and the incident had nothing to do with discrimination.
“On Friday night there was a patron that was refused for wearing clothing that security deemed not to meet the standard of formality required by the hotel’s dress code policy,” the spokesperson said.
“The patron was wearing a half skirt with underpants showing and a small crop top. Any patron arriving in similar attire would have been refused on the same basis regardless of their gender presentation.
“The remainder of the group were allowed entry into the hotel.”
Nova wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday that she had “never been so disgusted, annoyed and disappointed in my life”. The post has attracted more than 400 comments.
“Being gay I’ve faced a lot of discrimination throughout my lifetime, but this is really up there,” she said.
“This whole situation was ridiculous. It was an insult to my friend, to the art of drag and to the entire LGBTQI+ community of Newcastle. I hope you learn from this experience that what happened outside your establishment was not ok and was completely transphobic.”
The hotel posted a response apologising for an “incorrect explanation” by the security guard.
“Our understanding of the reason for your friend’s refusal was not because your friend was dressed in drag, but the attire was seen by door staff as not meeting the hotel’s dress code policy,” the post reads.
“The explanation given by the guard on the door was not correct and we apologise if that caused you any distress and/or embarrassment. The security guard was spoken to last night after the incident and reminded that a person’s gender identity has no bearing on the dress code, rather their present gender expression.
“We can confirm the security guard that was working the door does not usually work in that position, which unfortunately resulted in the incorrect explanation given.
“It definitely isn’t the hotel’s intention that the dress code upset customers.”
The Finnegan’s spokesperson told the Herald that there were “aspects of the communication method that could have been handled better by our staff”.
Nova and Jessica said the Central Bar performance night had been an attempt to establish a new venue for the city’s LGBTQI community after the The Gateway Hotel in Islington changed direction in February.
Both questioned the Finnegan’s assertion that Jessica’s outfit did not meet female dress standards.
“We go out with girls all the time and they wear next to nothing, and, honestly, I’m wearing 10 layers of stockings, which is thicker than anyone’s pants,” Jessica said.
“It was like a hit in the face. We spent eight hours getting ready, spent weeks preparing our outfits and routines. We made everything ourselves. We’re trying to bring back to Newcastle something that we’ve lost, and to be denied entry into a venue.”
Nova said: “If she was a cisgender, straight female and she was wearing this outfit, she’d be let in,” Nova said. “She’d be let in straight away. It would be like, ‘She’s in costume; she can go straight in.’
“It’s not like her junk’s going to be coming out any time soon. There’s a lot to get through before we get to there.”
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