A number of LGBTQ+ women claim to have been turned away from a popular Dalston nightclub for “not looking gay enough”.
There are many accounts of women being turned away from Dalston Superstore which self-describes as “the beating heart of queer East London, having served the LGBTQ+ community for over 12 years”.
Francesca*, a 23-year-old queer woman, said that out of her group of three queer women and one straight woman, the only person let in was the straight woman.
She said: “It was incredibly invalidating for my sexuality to be judged and decided based on my appearance.”
On another occasion Francesca went with a woman she had dated in the past, they were told by another club-goer they looked “too glam” to be let in.
Another woman in the queue told her: “You can stop pretending to be gay once you’re inside.”
Francesca added: “It just goes to show that you really can’t judge people’s sexuality from how they look.”
Sacha Botting, 23, who identifies as a lesbian, was first turned away from the club with another queer friend last year.
The people on the door told her to return in an hour but continued to let people in behind her and when she returned they refused her entry again.
She returned months later when the security guards questioned her on what letter of LGBTQ she was.
Sacha said: “It just made me feel angry, to be honest, and really frustrated because I was asked for proof of my identity but how am I meant to give that?”
She said she often finds herself treated like she is lying about her sexuality due to being feminine-presenting.
She added: “It leaves you feeling like there is no space for you because there would be no chance of meeting someone in a ‘straight place’ but when I get to the queer places I’m rigorously questioned – you just want the chance to go out and meet people like everyone else.”
The club has 430 Google reviews and an average rating of 3.9 stars, with most punters iconising the space and raving about the sense of community but there’s also a significant number of negative reviews.
Many of these reviews confirm Sacha and Francesca’s feelings about Dalston Superstore’s entrance policy.
‘C C’ said: “Misogynistic and homophobic due to not looking like we were part of the community – disgraceful.
“Told us we weren’t queer enough to enter as 7 Igbt members of the community based on our appearance.”
Maria VG said: “The security guard told us that we were not able to enter. Why? Apparently, we looked straight. My friend who is into girls was very upset.”
Cassie Tabudlong said: “Queued up as a group for over half an hour just to be turned away because we weren’t ‘regulars’. For a community that promotes inclusivity this place was pretty much the opposite of that.”
A lot of what these women have spoken about touches on a wider discourse about femme invisibility.
Freya Reed, 22, who identifies as bisexual, spoke about her experience of being turned away from a different nightclub, Heaven, adding she had also heard of how many of her queer female friends had been turned away.
Freya said: “Everyone says they get turned away because they don’t look gay enough.”
She said there was not much of a queue, so she didn’t understand the reason for being turned away.
Freya added she was dressed quite “girly” and has returned since dressing more “stereotypically gay” and was let in.
She said: “I think there’s no specific ‘look’ of the gay community – if you’re not letting someone in because they don’t fit a certain vibe that seems so against what the LGBTQ+ community is about anyway.”
Heaven Nightclub allegedly turned away a woman and her girlfriend because they “didn’t look queer” in 2021.
Both Dalston Superstore and Heaven Night Club have declined to comment.
*Name has been changed to preserve anonymity