Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Armistead Maupin And Husband Told By Alice Springs Australia Bar That They Could Not Use Toilet Because It Was Reserved For “Real Men”

ABC reports that American author Armistead Maupin (Tales in the City series), in Australia on a book tour, visiting Alice Springs with his husband Chris Turner last week, were not permitted to use the toilet of a bar because, the openly gay Maupin was told, they were reserved for “real men.” Maupin and Turner went into Bojangles Saloon to have lunch and approached a staff member behind the bar to ask if they were serving food. According to Mr Maupin, they were told to take a seat, after which Mr Maupin's husband Chris asked if he could use a rest room. "The guy said, sorry, we don't have one in here but you can go across the street to the public facility." Maupin, who had used the toilet in Bojangles the day before, said he pointed in the direction of the toilet and said 'what's that over there?' "[The barman] gave me a very pointed look and said that's reserved for 'real men'," said Mr Maupin. "Neither one of us could quite believe he'd said it, and he actually repeated it, [he said] 'see the sign on the door, it says gents, it's for real men.'" Maupin and Turner left the establishment immediately and filed an official complaint at the Visitor Information Centre. "I think it was less than 24 hours later that we got an email from Peter Griggs in the tourism office saying he'd spoken to the proprietor of the business who was just as shocked as we were and that the man had extended his apologies," said Maupin, adding he was satisfied with the response from Tourism Central Australia and that despite the ugly incident, he would happily return. Maupin posted an account of what happened on his Facebook page and had received several messages of support from all over Australia, including some who said they had contacted Bojangles to express their outrage, Maupin saying "The reaction to it was quite extraordinary and it took the bad taste out of our mouth, that's the best part of it. As a gay man I look at this as progress, that there is a lot of reasonable folks out there that don't think that's acceptable behaviour anymore." Phil Walcott, NT Regional Director of Gay and Lesbian Tourism Australia, says that Alice Springs is an inclusive community and that the incident was likely a “one-off,” adding "By and large, Alice Springs has moved beyond tolerance to acceptance of gay & lesbian people. We are proud of our very vibrant 'rainbow' community here with people in all spheres of government, business and even politics. The comment attributed to one individual who may well have issues with his own sexuality is seen as an isolated incident." Tourism Industry operator Deb Rock agreed that the experience is not representative of the area. "I know plenty of gay and lesbian couples in town and through my work I meet a lot of gay and lesbian tourists visiting Alice Springs,” she said. “I am really sorry about what happened to him, but I am also reassured knowing that his experience is NOT typical of what gay and lesbians visitors can expect here." ABC contacted Chris Vaughn, the owner of Bojangles, but he declined to comment.

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