London’s Ku Bar promises to cut all ties with ‘anti-trans’ Boyz magazine following searing backlash

The exterior of Ku Bar

Ku Bar, central London’s decades-old LGBT+ watering hole, apologised Thursday afternoon (15 April) to Britain’s trans community after collaborating with Boyz.

The lifestyle magazine, which acts as something of a yellow pages for queer nightlife in London, was buffeted by intense backlash last year when it urged readers to “listen” to the anti-trans lobbying group LGB Alliance.

But months-old wounds were reopened this week when Boyz ran a promotional story on Ku Bar, with the ensuing criticism prompting the wider Ku venue group to sever all ties from the embattled publication.

In a social media statement on Ku Bar’s Twitter account, nightclub mogul Gary Henshaw, who owns three bars and two nightclubs including Ku Bar in London’s queer district, Soho, apologised for taking his “eye off the ball”.

“I will cut all ties with Boyz magazine with immediate effect,” Henshaw wrote.

“Ku is a business with a long record of supporting and promoting trans issues, raising funds for trans charities and employing members of the trans community.”

“We have always supported and provided safe spaces for trans people and will continue to do so.”

Henshaw added that the coronavirus pandemic and the government’s yo-yo-ing restrictions have forced him to focus on Ku’s “survival” – a sentiment expressed by countless queer venue operators.

“My eyes and ears are open,” he wrote.

“I see you and hear you and would like to take this opportunity to apologise unreservedly for showing any support for a publication that has any association in the undermining of the trans community.”

What happened to Ku Bar?

On 7 April, Boyz published an article with the headline: “‘Join us for an Al Fresco spring drink at Ku’ – Ku venues are reopening on Monday 12th April.”

The story was angled on the five Ku venues – Ku Bar, Little Ku, Ku Lounge, Ku Klub and She Bar – unshuttering as Britain enters the next stage of its road to loosening lockdown restrictions. It ended with a call to action to book a table online.

David Paisley, a Scottish actor and spirited LGBT+ activist, upbraided Ku for working with Boyz, “who have been supporting anti-LGBT+ hate group LGB Alliance who exclude trans people and oppose banning conversion therapy”, he tweeted.

Indeed, founders of the LGB Alliance have defended working with the anti-LGBT+ and anti-abortion Heritage Foundation as well as refuse to denounce its neo-Nazi and homophobic supporters, despite it seeking to position itself as an “LGB rights group”.

Boyz, a monthly magazine mainly distributed across London’s queer nightlife and spotlights club events and happenings, faced blistering backlash last year for supporting the LGB Alliance.

As detractors questioned why a queer publication would support such a combustible group, advertisers peeled off in droves while Pride organisers and club event operators sought to distance themselves from Boyz.

Despite Boyz bosses pledging to heal the division caused by amplifying the anti-trans group, which included hiring a trans affairs editor, the publication has since rowed back.

Rebecca Tallon de Havilland resigned from the magazine after David Bridle, the managing editor of Boyz, whined being “punished” for “debating” trans issues in an article for Spiked. A devastating blow to Boyz‘s image, considering her appointment was one touted as a seismic step in reuniting Boyz with the LGBT+ community.

De Havilland, a trailblazing trans woman and sexual health campaigner, said Boyz had “betrayed” her at the time. Bridle, she claimed, didn’t even contact her about publishing the piece.

But Bridle, a former Pink Paper editor, did reach out to Henshaw, he claimed in a tweet Thursday afternoon.

He lamented Henshaw distancing Ku from Boyz – it was “heartbreaking“, he said – before laying the blame squarely on Paisley and his “bullying mob“.

Bridle’s tweet was posted verbatim onto Lesbian and Gay News, a so-called “news and opinion” website Bridle launched that often takes an anti-trans angle to coverage as well as publishing opinion pieces from the likes of James Dreyfus and Arty Morty.

The outlet features banner ads as well as articles promoting the LGB Alliance.