The WayOut Club — England’s Hottest Spot For TGs

| Feb 13, 2012
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Vicky Lee

In the early 1990s, as the idea of gender bending, crossdressing and transgenderism were beginning to penetrate the consciousness of the general public, TGs in London where looking for a good place to have some fun. There was no Internet to Google search for transgender parties — the was no Google. Through word of mouth and advertisements placed in weekly shopping magazines people learned about The WayOut Club. The Club was the brainchild of Steffan Whitfield and Vicky Lee.

We spoke with Vicky Lee recently about the beginnings of The WayOut Club and what’s going on with it now.

TGF: Hi Vicky! Welcome to TGForum.

Vicky: Thank you for inviting me.

TGF: How long has The WayOut Club been happening?

V: The WayOut Club started in 1993 — before the Internet. At a time most can not envisage. At a time when the trans community had no name and the LGB community thought T was something you drink with jam and bread. To communicate the fledgling trans communicated by placing adverts in the clothing section of Exchange and Mart, a weekly magazine more well known for buying and selling automobiles.

TGF: Where did you hold the party when it first started?

V: We were offered a very small wine bar, in a part of London that was extremely quite on Saturday nights. The manager wanted to promote the bar and bring in a niche crowd. This was after this manager had seen what I, and my then business partner had done on the gay scene for 14 weeks in one of London’s largest venues The Hippodrome Leicester Square. This bar was called Jamisons in Goodge Street. It had no late night license and catered for no more than 50 people.

TGF: Were the parties weekly when they started?

V: The WayOut Club was held in this tiny venue every Saturday for the first year and moved from venue to venue after that until we learned to check licensing before believing the venue owners. From week one we have never had less than 100 people and we have never missed a Saturday. Now about to enter our 19th year we have on average 230 people every week. We have now been in our current venue for 13 years.

TGF: In America it’s hard to find a venue that will give up it’s regular Saturday night crowd to host a TG party. How did you find a place that would let you do WayOut on a Saturday?

V: We have always looked for a venue in an area of the city that was quiet on Saturdays. Our current venue is in the financial district of London. This area has free parking from mid Saturday to end of Sunday and party venues are mostly shut on Saturdays.

TGF:  What do you attribute the expansion of the club to? Greater acceptance of TGs?

V: I believe it is largely down to my determination. I have used every media available to spread the word. We took every opportunity to get on television. I published my books, magazines and was an early adopter of the Internet. Now word of mouth and good contact methods have paid dividends and of course since Internet networking has provided niche communities the opportunity to freely communicate the club is known worldwide.

TGF: What type of transgender people attend?

V: The club has immense diversity. All ages, cultures, races, sexualities and genders. There is no dress code so we can see every extreme of dress from hip street through chic cocktail to outrageous drag. We have Asian ladyboys, Brazilian she-males, first out and always out transvestites, pre and post transsexuals.

TGF: Some of those designations are not considered PC here in the States.

V: Sorry if any of this terminology upsets — but I do not stand on ceremony for politically correct language, I just communicate and tell it as it is.

TGF: Fair enough. Let’s get back to the clientele.

V: We have males dressed male who would “dress” if they could. Forty percent of our guests are male dressed male. We have had guests as young as 19 and as old as 94. We have people in wheel chairs, groups of deaf people. We have entertainment every week. Our acts are often “home grown” developed through guest spots. We have the full range of LGBT friends and we have respectful, family, friends work colleagues and many wives and partners. I believe our diversity is unique in the world.

TGF: We’ve read recently of people attacking the WayOut Club in social media as a meat market and place where working girls ply their trade. What do you think is behind these allegations?

V: It is a very UK thing to support anything new for a few weeks but if that thing gets successful to knock it down and destroy it. I am very upset by this misrepresentation of The WayOut Club posted in social media. I know people who have never been to WayOut indeed have never out of their house who jealously sit at their computer and spread misleading lies to scare others into being as closeted as they are. A typical post might be “The WayOut’s a sleazy pick-up joint full of women haters and prostitutes.”

This has NEVER been the case at WayOut. I know that with an average of 230 people at the club on any Saturday less than 3% of our girls on one night are active prostitutes who we are at risk of actually seeing soliciting — though they all know me and promise me they are “off duty” and will not solicit and that they only swap contact details at WayOut.

As many as 5% more I know advertise on escort sites and some of these will bring a man to WayOut for a safe “girlfriend experience.” Most of these girls live female full time and use the escort sites to find compatible people dreaming that one of these dates will result in a long term relationship.

At least four of our girls have met men and have long standing marriage/civil partnerships.

My Filipino girls are often thought to be (and reported in cruel forum posts) prostitutes but I know their family and work colleagues. At least 60% of these Filipino girls work in the UK as nurses (some as males and some as pre & post op women), some are senior nurses running cancer wards and intensive care wards. Jealous, libelous lies on the social media deal an awful dis-service to these wonderful people and yes, racism, ignorance and jealousy is at the heart of these lies.

Forty percent of visitors on any Saturday are dressed male of these many are trans themselves but dressed in “drab”. Many are long term respected friends and are as much part of the trans community as any of our girls. Many will proclaim themselves straight but intrigued and just want to talk. Many come because the atmosphere is NOT like the straight club meat markets, and is relaxed with no daft dress codes.

Some gays guys come with their mates in “drag”.

We think that less than 4% of the total number of men at the club come intent on looking for sex and are willing to pay for it. I have signs on the toilet doors “dressed male use the men’s toilet — dressed female use the female toilet.” I have attendants with security radios in both toilets. My staff are briefed and debriefed every Saturday.

I do not allow any sexual activity in the club. Yes we get the odd bad penny girl, trans or men who can’t hold their drink and then go too far, and these I have escorted out and if necessary I ban them.

TGF: You Have really put a lot of work and time into the club. What’s your motivation?

V: I have worked for 18 years to maintain a safe place for trans people to find their way out of the closet. The reason I do this is that I personally want a safe place to go that I can share with my family and friends. Being trans I have lost my own family and have not been allowed to see any of them for 15 years. However, I have had my nieces, nephews, sister in law brother inlaw and their friends, work friends, of course my partner (who helps run the club) to visit WayOut. All thoroughly enjoyed the club and have made friends through the club who they enjoy private contact with now. My disabled 21 year old nephew is a regular and brings his disabled girlfriend. They find WayOut to be the most friendly non judgmental place they can go and they are out 3 days a week trying to “fit in”.

TGF: Being that dedicated and involved in the club it must be hard to have to deal with the social media slurs.

V: I have seen these horrible social media comments and have fought a fight against unfounded liable and slander for years. These ‘Chinese whispers’ only ends up scaring people back into their closet and they put our WayOut Club at risk. These comments are without exception made by people who have not experienced the club for themselves and are out to make sure that no one else does. They of course don’t care cause they don’t believe they will ever get to visit our wonderful club. It makes me mad.
TGF: What’s next for WayOut? Will the party expand to other nights?

V: My business partner who started the club with me encouraged us to promote other venues and over the years we have tried every day of the week. None were as successful as our Saturdays. We lost my partner, Steffan Whitfield,  to cancer in 2005 and since then my philosophy has been “do what we do best and do everything we can to ensure we keep on doing it”

TGF: Thanks for taking the time to tell all our readers about the WayOut Club. If I ever get to London again I’ll be there again.

V: Thank you for chatting with me.

Visit The WayOut Club on the Internet if you can’t get there in person.

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Category: Transgender Fun & Entertainment


About the Author ()

Angela Gardner is a founding member of The Renaissance Transgender Assoc., Inc., former editor of its newsletter and magazine, Transgender Community News. She was the Diva of Dish for TGF in the late 1990s and Editor of LadyLike magazine until its untimely demise. She has appeared in film and television shows portraying TG characters, as well as representing Renaissance on numerous talk shows.

Comments (3)

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  1. says:

    I wish I’d made the effort to come out of the closet and start hanging out at the Way Out Club when I lived in London fifteen years ago!!

  2. I’ve being going to the Way Out Club since it’s early days (although more intermittently recently) and can earnestly say it is the most inclusive and good natured establishment I have ever had the good fortune to visit. ‘Live and Let Live and Enjoy Yourself While You’re At It’ seems to be the club motto.
    Viva Way Out!

  3. camille camille says:

    That is so nice that you have a place to go to have fun, isn’t that is what it is all about. Good luck in your venture at this club and hope that it grows.

    love to you