The Toronto Women’s Bathhouse Committee is courting controversy with the Sugar Shack, the Fri, Mar 3 bathhouse event specifically for women and trans people of colour.
Committee member Deidre Walton says that while the overall response has been positive, the committee was prepared for the negative reactions it’s had from women who are offended by the exclusionary event.
“That was something we understood as a committee,” says Walton. “We said, ‘It’s gonna be one of those things and ahead we go.'”
Walton says that she’s turned over any negative feedback she’s received to the committee at large to deal with. “As a woman of colour I don’t feel like I need to defend the space. I don’t have anything to say in response to those concerns, personally.”
The idea of a women and trans people of colour bathhouse event was one of the first ideas Walton brought to the committee when she joined last year. She says she’s been thinking about ways to get more women of colour out to the bathhouse events ever since her first Pussy Palace in 2003.
“It was tough. I went with a friend of mine and there were very few women or trans people of colour in the space…. It’s been my experience going out into women’s spaces that they are very mixed racially across the spectrum so I was surprised to see that there wasn’t that representation at the bathhouse.”
Taboos around cleanliness and hygiene in some communities of colour contribute to keep folks away, says Walton.
“I can speak for my own community and the way I was raised…. If you go visiting you don’t necessarily use the washroom in someone else’s home,” says Walton. “So take that then and transfer it into the bathhouse that’s a much more public space than the washroom in someone’s home, where there’s lot of people and lots of traffic going through and there’s basic concerns around cleanli-ness and hygiene.”
So what will be different about this bathhouse that will entice women and trans people of colour who have stayed away till now?
“I think the answer is so simple and at the same time multi-layered,” says Walton. “You’ll be seeing yourself in the person at the door, in the people posted at security, in the people doing the lap dances and the other activities and other people doing the games…. To me that says it all and I’m hoping that appeal will be there for others as well.”
Although the event is for women and trans people of colour, white women and trans people will be welcomed when accompanied by a person of colour.