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Thu, May 06, 2010
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Right to ban transgenders from clubs?
Right to ban transgenders from clubs?
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By Sia Ling Xin

CLUB operators have a right to turn away anyone who wishes to enter their clubs as their premises are considered private, said lawyers who spoke to my paper.

Once let in, the guest should not be asked to leave on the basis of his or her gender as he or she has already paid the cover charge, said Mr Kelvin Lee, a director of Samuel Seow Law Corporation.

If the management insists that the guest must leave, he has the right to ask for a refund for his cover charge, said Mr Lee.

This comes in the wake of an incident last Thursday night, when a transgender patron at China One, a club at Clarke Quay, was told to leave.

Transgender Marla Bendini (real name Bendini Junior Ong), 24, who is studying art, design and media at Nanyang Technological University, shared his side of the story yesterday.

He had gone to China One to support three female classmates from pole-dancing school Acro Polates, who were performing for ladies' night.

Mr Bendini was the only transgender among a group of friends and was let in without any hassle.

During a 40-minute break, a bouncer told him to step outside the club, where a manager would speak to him. He waited for several minutes, but no one turned up. He decided to return to the club, but a bouncer tried to prevent him from entering.

Mr Bendini asked why he was not allowed in, but the bouncer said he did not know.

The student went in anyway and his friends told him they were informed by the club manager that he was not welcome.

He decided to leave and, as he was going out, he heard Lawrence, the club manager, yelling at the staff for letting him in.

Mr Bendini revealed that when he visited China One last September, Lawrence had asked him to leave, saying: "You should know why."

The student added: "It was only after I replied several times I had no idea why that he told me it was because I am a transgender.

my paper contacted China One yesterday, but Lawrence could not be reached.

However, in a New Paper report yesterday, Lawrence said: "You have to realise the problems (of letting transgenders in). For example, are they supposed to use the male or female toilets?"

Mr Bendini said: "If clubs don't welcome us, they should put a sign on the door. It should not be on a case-by-case basis."

Lawyer Bryan Tan, a director at Keystone Law Corporation, also advised clubs to put up a sign, saying: "While this is not a must, it will be better to let someone know if he or she is welcome or not. This helps prevent embarrassing situations."

Nightspots Butter Factory and Zouk told my paper that they treat their transgender guests the same as they would other patrons.

Mr Adrian Wee, marketing manager at Butter Factory, said that in situations such as ladies' night, guests are given privileges according to the gender on their identity cards.

Transgender guests are also advised to use a toilet for the disabled, but this is not enforced as long as there are no complaints from other guests.

Mr Bendini's experience led to at least 500 transgender people coming together to rally against discrimination.

Yesterday, they launched a campaign called Sisters in Solidarity, and are organising activities such as a petition and an art exhibition to educate the public about transgenders.

lingxin@sph.com.sg

For more my paper stories click here.

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