Toronto bathhouse Steamworks is apologizing to patrons who were turned away at the door for wearing makeup. The patrons allege they were told that they were in violation of the men-only club’s policy banning makeup, which management says does not exist.
The club, located in Toronto’s gay village, is promising that all staff will be trained to be aware that although the club is for men only, it is trans-inclusive.
The controversy arose after local DJ Scooter McCreight posted on Twitter about being turned away from Steamworks for wearing makeup.
McCreight, who is a cisgender man, was wearing pink and blue eyeshadow and silver nail polish when he arrived at Steamworks around 2:30am on March 21. He says the doorman told him he couldn’t wear the makeup inside.
“He says you can’t wear that inside, and I’m like, I’m going to be naked inside, so no problem,” McCreight says.
But he couldn’t remove the nail polish.
“I just left. I was not in the mood for any confrontation in this space,” he says. “Really what it comes down to is they weren’t into what I was presenting that night, and used whatever rule they had to deny me entry.”
Steamworks later reached out to apologize to McCreight. The company, whose head office is in San Francisco, also published a series of tweets and a Facebook post clarifying that its entrance policy is trans-inclusive.
“After further review, it’s become clear some of our staff have misinterpreted our admittance policies. We have addressed the issue with the employees involved and we’ll be providing additional training to all staff ensuring this error never happens again. As a club for men, we welcome ALL men, INCLUDING Transmen or individuals who identify/present as Male,” the club wrote on its Facebook page.
But Justyn Jolie, who is gender non-conforming but identifies as male, says he was also turned away at the door for not presenting as male. Jolie had shown up at the club with a group of friends after they had been out at a bar and was singled out for his appearance.
“I was wearing makeup, but I love wearing makeup when I go out. I wasn’t even the first in line — I was five people down and they singled me out,” Jolie says. “They asked how do you identify and I was like, ‘I dunno, my ID says I’m a guy, but it’s however I feel like on the day.’ They said, ‘Sorry we don’t let anyone in if they’re wearing makeup.’”
“It was upsetting,” he says. “I just felt personally victimized in a way. I don’t expect to feel that way on Church Street, because it’s the place to go where you’re supposed to feel accepted.”
“You’re not going to let me in cause I’m too effeminate? That’s like high school times ten.”
But Steamworks manager Matthew Ladouceur says that the club is taking steps to ensure that trans and gender non-conforming men are welcome.
“We are a club for men. That does include trans men. We ask that you try to present as male as you walk around the club for the enjoyment of others. There’s no policy regarding makeup,” Ladouceur says.
“We’ve been doing our best to explain to anyone who’s asking that there’s no policy against makeup or nail polish.”
Jolie says he appreciates that Steamworks is trying to be more inclusive.
“That’s nice of them,” he says.