Mixed clubs

Pull quote: “We were told by two straight boys to stop kissing because they weren’t comfortable. It was really bizarre.”

They’re not quite gay clubs, they’re not quite straight clubs – they’re mixed clubs, and they’re sending out confusing vibes to punters everywhere. For the clubs’ management, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword – while they nobly set out to be inclusive of both the straight and gay communities, they segregate themselves from both to a degree, too. Why would club owners bother?

“We didn’t want to just be a typical gay night,” says Franco of Love Machine, which has quickly grown to the biggest mixed party in town. “Hence why we don’t allow, for example, t-shirts off in the club. We wanted a bit more of the style element. I think if you make it a bit more eclectic, it stays colourful, it stays interesting, and it stays stimulating for everybody involved. And having a bit of a mixed element there is always fun. The gay boys and girls love the straight boys and girls and vice versa, and it all works. Not only that, it brings a nicer vibe to the night.”

“Diversity with the crowd – opposites attract,” agrees the Market’s manager, John Wain. But creating a mixed environment isn’t the easy path to financial success that doubling your client base may seem. “I guess sometimes gay guys are attracted to this environment because it’s a place where they’ll free more free to express themselves,” John continues, “and sometimes mixing up the environment too much can make them feel inhibited to that. They don’t feel like they can let themselves go so much.”

It’s a case that party promoter Dean Murphy has personally experienced himself. “We were at a predominantly mixed party,” says Dean. “I took my partner of twelve months into the same corner that we met twelve months prior for a bit of a kiss. And we were told by two straight boys to stop kissing because they weren’t comfortable with us kissing in the corner. It was really bizarre.”

Thankfully, the bad experiences for gays at mixed parties are few and far between. However, bad experiences for gays at gay parties may be the next hurdle. “The gay community here has lost its sense of fashion and style,” claims Love Machine’s Franco. “All gay boys in one venue, tops off, sweaty, amyl on stage. There are a lot of gay people out there who are intimated by taking their tops off, but if they’ve got style they can dress and they can fit into the crowd. We need to bring some style back into the scene.”

Scratch a little deeper and you’ll soon find there’s far more riding on mixed clubs than simply a night of partying. If you think about it, your average straight person will only encounter us gay folk in few places: work, maybe. Street encounters through a friend of a friend. Or, most likely, clubs.

“Since it’s been a bit more segregated in Melbourne, there’s been a lack of acceptance,” says Love Machine’s Franco. “The ones that do accept gay community more are the people that mix with them – so it’s really important. I think that if we create mixed clubs, there’s going to be more acceptance on everybody’s behalf.”

Acceptance isn’t a one-way street either. “The baseline here is respect,” concludes the Market’s John. “So it doesn’t really matter if you’re black or white, got a million dollars or one dollar, short or tall, gay or bi or straight or into trannies, as long as you respect the next person is the key.”