I’ve been a bouncer for four years, and I’ve worked at four different gay clubs. I got into it by word of mouth — I was friends with people who worked in clubs, and they were like, “You’re a big guy. We need your help.” People tend to find me intimidating, but I’m not one of those guys with his arms crossed. I laugh, I joke. I’m nice, unless you do something to make me mad.
I don’t have any formal training or certification or anything. Most of my job is just being a bigger guy, being able to throw your weight around. But every once in a while the other bouncers and I will get together and go over different holds to put people in to stop them if they’re being violent — sleeper holds, half-nelsons, things like that. I’ve only ever worked at clubs that have a no-strike policy, meaning we can put people in holds but we never hit them. I’m the only gay person on security staff, and we would hate for it to get out that gay guys got beat up by the security team. But I think most clubs, gay or straight, are no-strike. If things are too serious for us to handle on our own, we’ll call the cops — and they always side with us.
I don’t have to use holds very often. When we see a customer getting aggravated or rowdy, the first thing we do is try to talk to them, and that works a lot of the time. I work 10 nights a month, Fridays and Saturdays and sometimes during the week, and maybe twice a month we have to get physical with someone, at the most.
I haven’t worked at straight clubs, but I’ve worked straight nights at gay clubs, and straight guys are much rowdier. They’re often less intimidated and they’re more quick to throw a punch. I don’t know why that is — maybe it’s just overinflated testosterone.
Most of my experience has been working at the door, and people are constantly asking us to let them in without ID, or to let them skip the line. We’re not going to let anybody in without a valid ID, but when it comes to line-skipping, people need to know that when you want special privileges, money talks. If someone wants to skip the line with three of their friends, they need to put $20 minimum in my pocket.
And they have to do it on the downlow. At the clubs I’ve worked at, you’re creating a VIP atmosphere, and if the owners see you letting people skip the line just because they paid. So if someone says, “I’ll give you money” loudly in front of a crowd of people, I have to look at them and be like “NO.”
I’ve been offered other things besides money too. I’ve been offered dates, sexual acts, and drugs — mostly cocaine and weed. But money is the only thing I’ve ever taken. Taking money is kind of tacitly accepted among bouncers. We don’t get paid a lot. Most bouncers I work with have day jobs, and they use this for side money.
I’ll skip friends to the head of the line, but sometimes you have to determine who’s really your friend to who’s only your friend so you can get them into clubs. Becoming a bouncer has made my number of Facebook friends triple.
We don’t necessarily have a dress code at the clubs I work at, but I don’t want you coming into my club looking like shit. Jeans and a nice t-shirt are okay, button-ups are great. But if I don’t like you or you’ve been rude to me, I can pick anything out of what you’re wearing and keep you out. I told one guy his hair was gelled the wrong way, just because he was being a douchebag. You have to have a reason behind it, even though they know you’re being an asshole.
We do have to be really strict about ID — you have to have valid passport or US driver’s license to get in. Last week a transgender woman came up to me with a Mexican drivers’ license, and we can’t take that. She got really mad, said, “you’re trying to keep me out because you don’t like trannies.” But actually we try to be as welcoming as possible. We have a lot of cross-dressers, and you just use your best judgment from looking at the picture. Half the time I’m not even looking at the gender on the ID — I’m looking at picture, the birthdate, whether it’s expired. And I’m looking for the hologram.
The hologram is the biggest tell on an ID. If they’re fake, more often than not it doesn’t show up as quickly as it should. And there are certain holograms that fake-ID websites will use that right off the bat will tell us that it’s fake. We take classes every few months with a state agency that talks to everyone about how to spot fakes.
Once a guy came to to one of my clubs who was in his fifties, but I looked at his ID and I knew right away that it was fake. I could tell from the way all the information was structured. It turned out he didn’t speak any English — he was an illegal immigrant. He was with a friend who did speak English, so told his friend to tell him he needed to spend the money to get a much better fake ID. If he got pulled over and anybody checked that, he’d get deported right away.
One thing that’s changed since I started going to gay clubs myself is more older people are going out now. But we still get a lot of 18-year-olds coming for the first time. I get sentimental about that a little bit. I try to take care of all the young ones. I’ll have to play psychologist with them, console them when they’re crying because of some drunken argument or drama. But I also have to get the crying ones away from the front of the club, because no one wants to see that. They come to the club to have fun, and that’s what I want them to do. I’m not out to ruin anyone’s night. That’s what everyone should know about my job: be nice to the bouncers, because they want to be nice to you.
As told to Anna North.