There’s a wrinkle in the tolerance force field in Lake Worth.
This is shocking. Lake Worth is arguably the most LGBTQ-friendly city in Palm Beach County.
Lake Worth claims the highest percentage of same-sex households in the state. It’s the headquarters for the Compass Community Center, the area’s comprehensive LGBTQ resource facility. And every year the city hosts PrideFest, the annual street parade that draws tens of thousands of people in a celebration of sexual diversity.
So this week when a kava bar in downtown Lake Worth announced that its Monday “slam” would be limited to women with ovaries — a pointed exclusion to potential transgender participants — social media exploded.
The offending announcement on the Kavasutra Kava Bar Instagram page announced the event as a “genetic female slam,” adding that “if you are a chick per your DNA” then you can compete.
And then to further clarify:
“Chicks mean born with a vagina,” it continued. “You must have ovaries.”
When some people complained about this being trans-phobic, things got grittier on the club’s Instagram account:
“The point of ladies night is to get ladies in the door so the men can (have sex with) them,” the club posted. “If there’s no vagina then they don’t qualify because they don’t benefit the business and the plan.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Since when did downtown Lake Worth turn into a Hong Kong sailor bar?
Order was quickly restored. The club’s management moved quickly to calm things down.
“Kavasutra Kava Bar is virulently and adamantly opposed to discrimination in all forms,” the bar’s statement read. “Any such inequity or prejudice will be met with swift physical removal from in or around our establishment. Our friends and patrons understand this policy and our convictions.”
Some questions linger though.
For one thing, what is a “slam”? I’m not a kava drinker, so I assumed incorrectly that it was poetry slam. But I’ve since learned that it just meant slamming down drinks of kava in this case.
In terms of public relations, that’s slightly better for the bar, I guess. Because it would be pretty hard to defend an exclusionary poetry slam.
Because I’m not sure that slam poetry is really poetry?
I know it self-identifies as poetry, but is it really poetry? It’s named after a wrestling move rather than anything linguistic. And if you’ve listened to much slam poetry, it’s really just shouting with style while wearing clothes that might best be described as “fly” — whatever that means.
The point is, slam poetry wasn’t born as poetry. It was born as shouting to yourself in a mirror. It’s a performance art, rather than a literary art. Traditional poetry is strong enough to be committed to paper, where meaning unfolds slowly and with repeated readings.
Slam poetry is ephemeral. It doesn’t translate well to paper or survive beyond a YouTube video. It might have the outward trappings of poetry, but it lacks the … um, er, … the DNA of real poetry.
So it would have been much more bizarre to make a distinction over sexual authenticity for the right to compete in an art form that is itself a permutation of the original form.
If the Kavasutra Kava Bar ever decides to branch into slamming poems along with kava in a way that also divides people by their sexuality, I’ve come up with a way to do it. The key is to have other nights of the week for competitions catering to other sexual identities.
I’ve come up with a weekly schedule:
Monday night: Women with ovaries
Please present latest CT scan to judges before the show
Tuesday night: Transgender men and women
Gender-fluid judges; nonjudgmental bathroom breaks
Wednesday night: Straight men
Dramatic readings of the baseball box scores
Thursday night: Condo lesbians
May have to expand to two nights due to heavy volume
Friday night: It’s raining men
Saturday night: Bi-curious Furries
Contestants may deliver while cuddling
Sunday night: Genetic cable-TV-news viewers
People who need to repeatedly experience the same sex once every hour.