A popular drag bar's "ban list" has caused a rift in the community

Cruisin' 7th's "ban list" leaked online, which included primarily trans women and people of color. Community members said the list was transphobic, but the bar owners say they've done nothing wrong.

A popular drag bar's "ban list" has caused a rift in the community
A leaked “ban list” from a popular drag bar has the community fuming, and bringing up old conversations on discriminations within the city’s LGBTQ+ space against trans women. (Illustration by Canva)

Phoenix, Ariz. — Community members have called out a local drag bar’s “ban list” as suspiciously racist and transphobic, after the names of the performers barred from the establishment was leaked online last week.

Last month, a picture taken of a “no book list” for the popular drag bar Cruisin’ 7th was posted via Facebook and Instagram. The picture shows 10 people on the list, and online users pointed out that majority of them were people of color and trans women.

Performers on the list are: SerraTonan Savage, Brooklyn DeMornay, Gaba Ghoul, Lala Vanhorn, Lawanda V Wakanda, Sassy D. DeMornay, Haze J. Hollywood, Tom Anita, Kristofer Inez Onyx, and Ivy Foxglove.

Every bar or club has a similar kind of list for performers or customers who are unruly, cause trouble, or fight with management, but online users said that the list released was suspect for a number of the performers named, many of whom told LOOKOUT that they are only on the list because they have a sordid history with the owner’s husband, Mike McGarry, who runs the bar with his wife, Lynn.

Performers — both on the list and not — said that McGarry has made racist comments, ignored complaints on assaults made against performers, and made misogynistic comments about trans women, though McGarry denies all the claims.

Sassy D. DeMornay, a nonbinary performer, said when they started a show with trans drag performers, McGarry allegedly told them, “I don't think this is good idea because girls don't do drag.”

“He had had many, many instances of doing things like that,” DeMornay said.

McGarry denied ever saying that to DeMornay, and said that he cancelled her show because it was “averaging less than 25 people through the door,” he told LOOKOUT in a phone interview. “Our show room seats 80 people, about, so I think you can do the math. That's not a successful show. And I'm losing money.”

But performers named on the ban list who spoke with LOOKOUT echoed similar stories, saying that their only reason for being banned was their personal experience with McGarry.

McGarry, who also co-runs the bar The Anvil, said that the people who were listed were not targeted for being trans or people of color, but instead they were added to that list based on conversations with management, other staff, and show runners.

“The 10 people that were on that list — no matter what, they were upset, I guess, because they're on the list,” McGarry said. “Maybe they didn't know why they were on the list. But it went obviously viral.”

McGarry also said that people were lying online, and that many who said they’ve had conversations with him, he’s never met in real life before. He said he has personal Facebook messages that would show that he’s said nothing wrong, but wouldn’t provide them to LOOKOUT when asked for a copy.

“In 21 years or whatever, we've probably been to 24 shows at most, probably not even,” McGarry said. “We don't go to drag shows. I have seen hosts. I don't see entertainers. I don't know most of them. I hardly met any of them. And so I rely on my staff to tell me who's been troublemakers or who's good and who's bad.”

The post showing the ban was met with fierce criticism from members of the queer community, and show runners met to discuss pulling their performances out of the establishment. But before they could pull their shows, the bar’s Facebook page said that all drag would be postponed, putting the slate of current drag performers out of work.

McGarry said a show runner contacted him, saying they were receiving threats for putting on shows at Cruisin’ 7th, and he made the decision to cancel all shows out of safety.

McGarry shared a screenshot of some messages between him and an unknown person, saying that he should pull the shows.

“I don’t think it’s safe for your casts,” read the message. “I don’t trust these folks. They have violent reputations within the community.”

One of the show runners, who didn’t want to be named because they still have a working relationship with the bar, said that they did receive threatening phone calls from people who demanded they stop performing at the bar, but the decision from management to cancel the shows felt like retaliation.

“Before we were given the opportunity to walk away from our shows, the owner canceled all of the shows,” the show runner said.

Because drag performing is often a tips-heavy job, not performing in the city’s most renowned drag spaces often means a hefty cut to income.

“It's a gig economy,” said a prominent local drag artist who didn’t want to be named as they still get offered work at Cruisin’ 7th. “For some people, this is their primary livelihood.”

The performer added that Cruising 7th’s “reputation is not new” in regards to how trans performers and performers of color feel unwelcome at the bar.

Another trans performer not on the ban list said that when they perform there, they take the money and leave: “I’ll never buy a drink from that bar and give them money,” they said.

Though once considered a safe space for trans women for decades, this isn’t the first time Cruisin’ 7th has been accused of discrimination within the community, which has now become infamous for not being a welcome space for trans and gender nonconforming people.

SerraTonan Savage, a Black woman and drag performer, said that even when she was the reigning “Miss C7,” a regional award and title given to performers at the bar, the venue would not hire her for performances.

“I feel like I’m not welcome,” Savage said. “If I'm not wanted in this space, why would I go there?”

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