London gay club XXL’s controversial door policy banning femme clothing sparks protest

A protest is to take place challenging the controversial door policy at top London gay club XXL, which bans women and those dressed in “female” clothing.

The event in Blackfriars on September 22 was organised by drag queen Mary Poppers in response to a Facebook status posted by owner of the men-only club, Mark Ames.

Ames posted an angry status on Facebook after it was reported that one man was refused entry for wearing high heels.

On its website, XXL is described as a “male only members club,” which caters to the bear community and has a dress code banning “female shoes, clothes, wigs, overtly female hairstyles and make up,” alongside “flip flops or open toed or high healed footwear.”

The protest is being organised by drag queen Mary Poppers. (Joao Caldas)

In a now-deleted status, Ames wrote: “You wanna ware [sic] heels!? Try shoving one up your arse the other in your mouth, that two less offensive things in my world and get this butch up in XXL or get out and any other sub groups or individuals eep [sic] the fuc [sic] out XXL IS FOR MEN WHO WANT MEN!”

He continued: “I couldn’t give a toss about the rest of the scene or todays [sic] so called community or society.”

The protest organiser is hoping it will force Ames to pay attention to the needs of the LBGT+ community.

Speaking to PinkNews, Poppers said that the protest is a “direct response” to Ames’ comments, rather than to XXL as a club.

“This gathering is happening to show Mark that the community that he ‘couldn’t give a toss about’ is actively listening. The gay community is the one that pays for his club, although he has been having a very negative hate speech about it,” he said.


So far, 155 people have said they are attending Poppers’ protest against XXL on Facebook, with a further 511 people saying they are “interested” in the event. Poppers is inviting protestors to bring along items of clothing that are banned at XXL.

“The original intention for this protest is to fight hate with information,” the drag queen explained. “I am not here saying that XXL shouldn’t exist, I am here to show people what they are supporting and how toxic masculinity and internalised homophobia are still such big issues.”

She argued that XXL books drag queens to perform at the club, even though these artists wouldn’t be allowed entry to the venue—when dressed in drag—as guests.

“[Ames] is telling performers like me, that I’m worthy of being booked to be looked at, but not worthy of their service,” Poppers added.

“Their dress code states things like ‘no overly feminine hairstyles.’ Who has the right to define these things? And is this individual so afraid of femme expressions that he just can’t handle a pair of heels in his club? Does it make a difference if a man has flats or heels in an environment like this? This is pure privilege.”

Poppers also questioned whether the club would allow entry to trans men “if they are not ‘passable’ and really masculine looking.”

Poppers has organised a protest in response to XXL owner Mark Ames’ now-deleted Facebook post. (Hugo Santos)

XXL’s response

Responding to his since-deleted Facebook post, Ames told PinkNews that it was “written out of frustration at abhorrent vitriolic messages I received over XXL’s door policy via e-mail, phone calls and at the venue personally,” after it was reported that a man was not allowed in to the club for wearing heels.

Ames said the post was online for a “matter of minutes” before it was removed.

He added: “We had posted our door policy on Facebook and, as soon as it was posted, the hate messages started.”

Ames also disputed the reasons why the man was turned away. “One thing that has to be clarified is that at no time was the person refused entry for being too feminine or not masculine enough. He lied,” the club owner claimed.

“No person is, or has ever been pre-judged on either their persona or character, but we do adhere to entrance rules. He was asked if he had other shoes to change into, and he read the dress code and left,” Ames added.

Ames has said people are “free to protest.” (XXL/Facebook)

Speaking about Poppers’ planned boycott of his venue, Ames said that people are “free to protest,” adding: “We will have donuts and refreshments for them.”

The club owner also said that he would be prepared to put on new club nights at XXL to cater to the wider LGBT+ community.

“Come to me and I’ll happily sit down and start a new night at [XXL]. We have Fridays and Sundays free and I will work with anyone from any and all groups to endeavour to help make a better scene and a better community.”