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Pole dancers up in arms after Pete Buttigieg pulls out of gay club fundraiser at last minute

Vic Parsons January 21, 2020
Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty)

The decision by presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg to pull out of a fundraiser at a gay club that has a pole in the middle has caused outrage among pole dancers.

Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, cancelled a fundraiser at LGBT+ venue The Dark Lady, in Providence, Rhode Island, at the last minute over the weekend.

The owner of the venue called out the pair in a Facebook post, saying: “Pete Buttigieg’s husband just cancelled his appearance/fundraise because the ‘gay bar has a dancer pole’ .

“We guess this is what the gay candidate does to the gay community.”

Now, pole dancers have spoken out about their anger at Buttigieg’s last-minute decision – which reportedly cost the queer venue $1,000.

“The pole stigma is associated with sex work, but sex workers whether they’re on a pole or not are humans, too, and shouldn’t be discriminated against for providing a service as old as time,” Steven Retchless, a gay male pole dancer, told the Washington Blade.

“Get over it and support the whole gay community — not just the picture perfect, ‘masc for masc,’ fit-into-a-box and label-me-conservative side,” he said.

Philip Deal, a queer pole dancer, said the decision to nix the fundraiser was “shameful,” and said LGBT+ people should look to another candidate than Pete Buttigieg.

“In a way, this validated an important point about leadership,” Deal said. “Voting for someone who has lived long enough to experience American history does make a lot of sense.”

Buck Asprinio, the general manager of The Dark Lady, said the Buttigieg campaign asked the venue to remove the pole, but the venue refused.

“It’s been here since we opened and it’s not going anywhere,” Asprinio said. “The dancer pole is part of who we are ─ if you want to dance on a pole, we’re the place to be.”

“We had sent pictures of the club, they knew exactly what the place looked like,” Asprinio added.

Tess Whittlesey, a Buttigieg campaign spokesperson, didn’t dispute the account of the cancellation but said: “Our commitment to LGBTQ+ spaces is strong and we always strive to hold events in inclusive spaces.

“Pete and Chasten know first-hand how important it is for members of the LGBTQ+ community to have a safe space to gather and our campaign would never do anything to intentionally disrespect such a space.”

Whittlesey provided a list of LGBT+ venues that Buttigieg has held events in, including a Human Rights Campaign gala in Houston and the Las Vegas LGBTQ Center.

But according to the Washington Blade, none of the venues listed were comparable to a gay nightclub.

More: Chasten Buttigieg, Pete Buttigieg, presidential race 2020, us election

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