Paparazzi Nightclub being proactive in making a gay ‘safe space’ safer

Let’s make something abundantly clear: Attending a gay bar does not mean you are gay. It does not mean you will become gay.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

You might be gay. You might be bisexual. You might be curious. You might be transgender. But in and of itself, walking through the portal of a gay nightclub does not mean you are gay any more than passing through the doors of St. Peter’s Basilaca in Rome makes me the Virgin Mary. (It would make me the Virgin Patti, but enough about my non-existent love life.)

Thus, the disclosure that Omar Mateen had been observed in Pulse prior to turning the downtown Orlando, Fla., gay nightclub into his personal killing field neither confirms nor disqualifies the possibility that he was gay.

Let us, however, for the sake of discussion accept that he was straight. He was, after all, twice married and had a child. Those investigating his habits, movements and possible motives for the shooting spree in which he murdered 49 innocent people and wounded another 53 advise us that, on at least one occasion, his wife accompanied him on a visit to Pulse. That, clearly, raised a red flag vis-a-vis her culpability in the slayings, and it certainly lends credence to the notion that Mateen was casing the joint.

Similarly, he is known to have visited online gay chat rooms. Again, that doesn’t make him gay. Cozying up to gay men and transgender women might have been part of his master plan of mayhem and murder.

This is among the reasons numerous people in the LGBT collective advance the argument that gay clubs should be the exclusive province of their community. Outsiders need not apply.

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.

First of all, it’s illegal in Canada to bar anyone from a nightclub based on, among many other things, sexual orientation.

Second, how could you possibly monitor it? I don’t walk around with an L or a T tattooed to my forehead. I don’t carry a card that certifies me as lesbian or transgender. My gay friends don’t wear G arm patches.

Third, the stewards of Paparazzi Show/Nightclub in Victoria—Attila Bassett and Terry Bex—would not contemplate turning anyone away from their doors at the corner of Broad and Johnson. It is my experience that they, or their staff, have ushered people from the venue only for bad/illegal/threatening/dangerous behaviour.

paparazzi-night-club“We,” Bassett told me today, “are an LGBTS bar, meaning we welcome everyone.”

The ‘S’ stands for straight. They’re welcome. If you’re among those in the LGBT collective who don’t support inclusiveness, get over it. It isn’t going to change.

Here’s what will change, though: There will be heightened awareness and caution at Paparazzi. Like most, the Mateen massacre last weekend in Orlando “horrified” Bassett. It rattled him to the core and he recognizes the distress and uncertainty it has imposed on the gay community. People are nervous. Frightened. They wonder if Orlando could happen in Victoria.

“Paparazzi is enforcing strict rules,” says Bassett. “No bags in the club. They must be checked at the door, no ifs, ands or buts. Backpacks and hand bags will be checked. We are also getting a metal detector wand and security will be trained on it. Increased staff as well. All staff will be watching for unusual behavior, actions and aggressive behavior. We are a safe, welcoming, no-violence-tolerated club.

“I just don’t want them attacking us. We need to be safe. The metal detectors are mandatory, whether (patrons) like it or not. There will be one at the door and one in the club. Safety first.”

I recognize that I am at risk each time I step outside and walk the streets of Victoria, even though it’s regarded as a very gay-friendly city. I don’t necessarily feel at risk every time I leave my home, but I am at risk, nonetheless.

My friends Brian and Sean, a married gay couple, are at risk each time they feel a mite frisky and share a moment of physical affection in public. Ditto Michael and Paul. Allegedly, this was among the trigger points that set off Omar Mateen’s trigger finger—he observed two men kissing on the street and it offended and angered him.

So, we need safe spaces. Sanctuaries, if you will. Bassett and Bex have been providing that for more than eight years. Now they’re being proactive and making Paparazzi a safer safe place.

Bassett’s sole concern is that his increased safety measures will “anger” patrons. Nonsense. The new policy should be met with applause, not anger.


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