Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Why Is There A Dress? (a.k.a. Dress-crimination)

I met up with Migs the Manila Gay Guy, Air in G, and other bloggers and non-bloggers last night. Migs asked me what I thought about the Inday Garutay and Aruba incident. It was my answer that inspired the title of this episode of The McVie Show, Season 5 and counting.

To be honest when I gave my answer last night, I was just blurting out things at the top of my head. But after mulling things over, I decided to write my thoughts down. Here they are.

* * * * *

For those who don’t about the Aruba incident, a quick recap: Inday G, an out-and-proud gay celebrity, attended an event in Aruba Bar in Metrowalk. He came in drag. Unfortunately the bar had a “no cross-dressing” policy. So even though he was already inside the bar, the staff went up to him and asked him to step out. Of course this angered Inday, but he was ejected from the bar nonetheless. So he sued the bar, and in subsequent interviews in the media he decried Aruba Bar’s discriminatory stance against gays. I think several gay organizations also spoke up in defense of Inday, and also lambasted the “no corss-dressing” policy of Aruba as “anti-gay” and “discriminatory.”

I think this was an incident that was badly mishandled by the Aruba Bar management. I’ve never been to the bar but I was told that there is a sign on their wall informing the public of their “no cross-dressing” policy. It should be displayed properly and clearly; otherwise, the customers aren’t to blame if they didn’t follow the policy. Plus, why did their doorman allow Inday to enter in the first place? The staff at the entrance should have enforced their rules. Clearly there was negligence on the part of the Bar to inform Inday of their policy as well as to enforce their policy at the entrance. If I were their manager I’d just allow this one incident to pass.

However, I think Inday’s reaction—calling this incident a case of “discrimination against gays”—is the equivalent of The Gay Who Cried Wolf. Aruba’s policy of “no cross-dressing” should not be seen as discriminatory against gays in general. (This attitude should still apply even if we do find out that, indeed, the Aruba management came up with that policy specifically to prevent gay cross-dressers from entering their establishment.) I believe that policy discriminates against cross-dressers, whether they be gay or straight. In other words, if Brad Pitt were to attempt to enter Aruba Bar wearing a skirt, he should not be allowed entrance either. This whole issue should be about a dress-code issue, not an anti-gay issue.

Insisting that the “no cross-dressing” policy is anti-gay presupposes that only gay people cross-dress. That is not true, especially in this day and age; I know of a straight male (a former officemate) who wears skirts to parties. Corollary to that, it also reinforces the notion among straight people (especially those with limited exposure to gay men) that all gay men cross-dress. Now, isn’t that reinforcing a gay stereotype? Aren’t the efforts of all these pro-gay group aimed at eradicating stereotypes? Inday’s actions then are a step backward, not forward, towards eliminating gay stereotypes.

Besides, there is an obvious proof that Aruba Bar doesn’t discriminate against gays in general. I’m pretty sure that so many pa-mhins and They-Who-Call-Themselves-Bi have gone in and out of Aruba Bar with impunity. In fact, I know of a top executive of a leading network who celebrated his birthday in Aruba Bar; aside from celebrities, many of his guests were out-and-proud gay folks—producers, designers, and even production assistants. Their obvious swishy demeanor and high-pitched vocal histrionics are dead giveaways: they are indubitably G-A-Y. But were they turned away at the entrance? Hell, no. That’s because none of them were wearing a dress.

The problem arises when gay people try to appropriate certain behaviors, actions or attitudes, and insist that all these are “gay qualities”; ergo, to be against these behaviors, actions and attitudes is to be against gays. If there’s one thing that defines being a homosexual, it is only this: given a choice, we will always prefer to have sex with people of the same gender. All the rest—the bitchy attitude, the lisps, the keen fashion sense, the near-universal love for Madonna and Barbra Streisand, the fascination for beauty contests—they are not what define gay people. Because I know of several straight men who happen to like listening to Streisand; I am also a gay man who, for the life of me, does not have nor will ever have the Miss Universe “gene” in me. Does loving Streisand make a guy any less straight? Does ignorance of who the winner was in the 1967 Miss Universe pageant make me any less gay?

We’ve been fighting for years to break out of stereotypes. Please, Inday, don’t pigeonhole us. Besides, in the universe of all gay men only a small portion actually cross-dresses. Please, Inday, do not speak on behalf of the majority who are not fond of wearing taffeta. In the meantime, I will defend your right to cross-dress, just as I will defend the right of Brad Pitt to wear a skirt—preferably very, very short and with no underwear underneath.

* * * * *

Going back to the dress-code issue, it is a fact that private establishments have the right to choose the kind of people they will allow to enter their premises. That means it is their right to discriminate, to be choosy. I see this as just a function of marketing and economics—if a bar wants to maintain a certain look or image, then they must have the right to impose limitations (age, dress-code, height, whatever).

So “no sando, slippers, and shorts” is as discriminatory as “no cross-dressing.” For me the bigger question is this: why do certain establishments insist on a dress code in the first place?

What’s more, if the public disagrees with such dress codes, then people can just boycott the establishment. If you’re a cross-dresser and you know you aren’t allowed into Aruba, they why insist on going in at all? Take yourself—and your money—somewhere else. Don’t insist on crashing into a party when you know you’re not even invited to it.


kawadjan said...

i've been your blog for the longest time. i find this latest entry very sensible, so i can't helpt but post a comment. keep it up girl. :)

gibbs cadiz said...

very well-argued, mcvie boy. :)

gibbs cadiz said...

very well-argued, mcvie boy. :)

joelmcvie said...

KAWADJAN: Gracias!

GIBBS: For the record, the title "Why Is There A Dress?" came from you. Gracias for the title.


Good point. But the whole incident had me thinking: what if a really butch dyke entered the premises, you know, very masculine, sporting short hair, polo and slacks, with an obvious macho swagger, do you think she will be shown the door as well?

She should be, but chances are, she’ll get away with it. (I am presuming, of course). It seems to me that the bar simply didn’t want to alienate their straight patrons who might not want to mingle, mix, or at least be seen with loud and flamboyant queens (well, can you ever imagine Garutay not in drag?). The dress code is in place precisely to keep them out. After all, Aruba bar isn’t a gay bar, for crying out loud. Management ostensibly wants to keep the bar’s core customers, i.e., straight patrons. It boils down to a question of economics.

Does Inday Garutay have any reason to be mad against Aruba bar despite the clear dress code policy? I think so. Although he shouldn’t “drag” the entire gay community into this, as you correctly pointed out, the dress-code policy clearly discriminates against certain groups, even if it targets only a specific section of the gay community, the cross-dressers and drag queens.

Just because the bar has the right to impose its own policy and enforce it doesn’t mean it is right. Think of apartheid in South Africa a few decades ago. Discrimination against blacks was institutionalized and made a policy. Legally speaking, Botha’s government didn’t breach any rules, but that does that mean the policy was right?

I like your blog, it’s stimulating and very interesting. Keep it up!

fried-neurons said...

Well-written post, McVie!

I personally have absolutely no problem with dress codes, as long as they are clearly presented and consistently enforced.

My problem with a "no cross-dressing" policy is like what the previous commenter described. Cross-dressing men will bear the brunt disproportionately. Isn't a woman wearing a shirt, pants, and oxfords technically cross-dressing? It doesn't even matter if she's straight, a lipstick lesbian, or the stereotypically mannish "tibo". One begins to see how this policy can be taken to absurd extremes.

Perhaps the establishment would be better able to enforce consistency by changing "no cross-dressing" to "no men in skirts or dresses". :)

Citizen of the World said...

Even if you are a voice in the wilderness, you\'re the only one who makes sense around these parts, Mcvie. Keep it up.