York student drag queen refused entry at popular cocktail bar

Leighton Read, in drag as Hellena Heartbeart, was forced to de-wig outside Bora Bora to prove his identity

Image: Bora Bora

Image: Bora Bora

A student at the University of York has spoken to Nouse about his “humiliating experience” at Bora Bora on Monday night, where he was denied entry on account of his drag persona showing ‘insufficient resemblance’ to his personal ID.

Leighton Read, 19, was on a night out with friends when he was forced to wait behind on arrival at the Swinegate cocktail bar. Having watched his friends enter before him, Read presented the bouncer with his passport, at which point he was told he could not be identified and asked to remain outside.

Read recounts that he confirmed his personal details and backed up his passport with his bank card and transformation photos, all to no avail. On learning the reason for his refused entry, Read’s friends also assured the bouncer that his drag persona, Hellena Heartbeat, was in fact the same person identified on his passport.

But it wasn’t until approximately 20 minutes after his first attempt at entry that Read was let into the bar – and only on removing his wig to prove the resemblance, which was then deemed satisfactory.

It was just blatant discrimination

Read told Nouse he was shocked and upset by the incident, given he had never been subjected to such lengths to prove his identity in all the times he had been out in drag in York, Leeds and Sheffield, including trips to The Stone Roses, The Lowther, The Drawing Board, The Parish, Popworld, Society, and clubs Salvation and Mansion.

Jordan Bonner, a friend of Read’s who was present at the time, agreed the incident was disturbing, alleging: “The bouncer was being incredibly rude, the bar staff were incredibly unhelpful, and those who saw were generally outraged.

“It was just blatant discrimination.”

Bora Bora have not responded to a request for comment.

Summing up his reaction to the incident, Read told Nouse: “I’ve never had to de-wig to get into a cocktail bar, it was a humiliating experience.

“I spend hours creating my looks, I shouldn’t have to take them apart to get a martini.”

2 comments

  1. Absolutely nothing wrong with the bouncer’s actions. He is legally obliged to make sure you are of age and the same person on your ID. Stop trying to twist this into some kind of homophobic story. For all he knows you’re a 16 year old kid trying to get into a bar with someone else’s ID and a costume on as an excuse. The bouncer was just doing his job..

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  2. I disagree with the comment above. The article makes clear that this individual was able to provide more than enough information confirming their identity; and was still subjected to what sounds like a pretty traumatic and public humiliation. Our society has been slow to accept change with regards to equality and open-mindedness over LGBT persons. I hope this article helps raise awareness: Love does not know gender, we are all human and so should treat each other with common courtesy and respect. The struggle is real!

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