Pictures: Drag queens protest London gay club XXL’s ban on female clothing

Drag queens and members of the LGBT+ community gathered on Saturday night (September 22) to protest against the controversial door policy at top London gay club XXL, which bans women and those dressed in “female” clothing.

Around 40 protestors staged a boycott outside XXL in Southwark, central London.

They marched along a one-mile route, from the Tate Modern, crossing over the Millennium Bridge, along Paul’s Walk, and walking back over the Thames via Blackfriars Bridge, before protesting outside XXL.

Drag queen Mary Poppers, who organised Queers Bash Back. (Asher Fynn)

The event, called Queers Bash Back, 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.”

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!”

Protestors outside XXL. (Asher Fynn)

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

Ames later released a statement to PinkNews, saying: “No person is, or has ever been pre-judged on either their persona or character, but we do adhere to entrance rules,” adding that trans men who are “fully transitioned” are allowed into the club.

Speaking to PinkNews, Poppers said: “Club XXL’s owner Mark Ames has responded to the criticism he brought on himself after his hate speech against the LGBTQA+ community. We believe his response wasn’t enough. He did not apologise for any of his vile comments and just reinforced all of the ideas that were so problematic in the first place.”

A boycott of XXL was held on Saturday night. (Asher Fynn)

She added: “This protest was about telling Mark that the community he despises is here, we are listening and it is simply not ok. That we will make his customers aware of his opinions with a simple conversation, not fighting hate with hate… but hate with information.”

Responding to Ames’ policy for admitting trans men, Poppers said: “What about the other trans men? Who can’t afford surgery? What about the trans men who don’t want to be completely transitioned because they don’t feel the need for it? What about femme men? What about everyone else, [like] non-binary people?”

Protestors rally against XXL’s controversial door policy. (Asher Fynn)

PinkNews has reached out to Ames for further comment.

XXL’s response

Responding to his since-deleted Facebook post, Ames previously 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.

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

Addressing Poppers’ 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,” said Ames.