A new gay bar which claims to be “inclusive of everyone” except for “knobheads”, sparks backlash over its failure to meet its own standards in rape joke Facebook controversy. Matt Taylor, the manager of the bar, has met criticism for his poor customer service and unprofessionalism in response to a complaint made by a customer on the 19th August.
The customer, who was visiting Queer Junction at the time, sent a message to the bar’s Facebook account to address an inappropriate joke told by one of the bar’s regular drag queens called ‘Blaq Ivory’. According to the customer, who wishes to remain anonymous, the drag queen was heard telling punters to “rape the bastard”, referring to a member of staff handing out glowsticks. Queer Junction responded to their complaint with, “If you are easily offended by drag queens, perhaps our more quieter nights would be better suited for you.”
Yesterday, Matt Taylor, the manager of Queer Junction and admin of their Facebook page, posted a screenshot of the customer’s complaint on his personal account. Along with the picture, Taylor wrote, “I really cannot be arsed with people who complain but then continue to party and then go online to slag.” The post accumulated comments; friends of Taylor and supporters of Queer Junction came to his defense calling those offended, “snowflakes.” However, many commenters criticised the way Taylor used his own social media to publish the name and account of the customer who had originally notified the bar about the incident. Taylor appeared to mock criticisms that he lacked customer service skills. After a series of angry Facebook posts, Taylor posted a final status picturing a user who had had their comment deleted due to a breach of Facebook’s Community Standards. In this post, he referred to critics as a “purple haired mob” and told them to “fuck off you cancer.” In conversation, Taylor tried to defend this by saying that he used the word “cancer” to describe “something that spreads”, suggesting that the issue had been “blown out of proportion.” As a consequence, people have criticised his reaction and subsequent Facebook ramblings as “immature.”
Taylor said in person that he does not find rape funny but in one of his many comments he goes on to say that rape jokes are. Drag queens such as Bianca Del Rio and Willam have formed careers out of being controversial. However, this does not mean they can evade criticism in a society which is becoming less tolerant of speech which is harmful or offensive. Recently, Binaca Del Rio herself has faced backlash after comments made at Montréal Pride aimed at Season 10 contestant Blair St. Clair, who has been very public about her experiences of sexual assault. Taylor and I spoke in the corner of the bar he runs, which he likens to his “house”. He said that when somebody “attacks” his business, he can take it personally. However, it is hard to see how a space which is supposedly safe for LGBTQ+ people and describes itself as inclusive can simultaneously platform and tolerate jokes about rape.
By taking the issue into his own hands and refusing to deal with it in private, Taylor has failed to contain it. This bizarre managerial tactic of using a personal account to solve and discuss matters of business has appeared to divide people and potentially detract a pool of potential customers who just want to feel safe on a night out in Sheffield. The customer approached Taylor asking to meet in person as an attempt to bring a resolution to this issue; a move which should have really come from the bar’s manager. This forms part of a wider debate about how we create spaces which are safe for vulnerable or marginalised people and thus what speech can and cannot be tolerated in these spaces. For Queer Junction, this incident has aggravated doubt as to the inclusivity of the new bar and the new Gay Quarter which is still under construction.