ShakeSoc apologise for ‘downright harmful’ search policy at Masquerade Ball

People attending the ball were allegedly sorted into gendered queues based on their appearance by security staff

Edinburgh Uni’s Shakespeare Society has apologised for a gendered search policy at their Masquerade Ball that saw gender non-conforming students forced into a “male” or “female” entry queue.

Attendees were sorted into queues based on whether they appeared more masculine or feminine – with some attendees allegedly forced from one queue to another by security staff.

Shakespeare Society claim this stemmed from a “miscommunication” with bouncers over an anti-spiking policy – which one attendee told The Edinburgh Tab meant only those in the “male” queue ended up being searched.

One ballgoer, who identifies as non-binary, explained how they felt “uncomfortably jarred and annoyed by the gendered queueing” and searches. They told The Edinburgh Tab: “It seemed completely ridiculous and outdated, but to others, it could have been downright harmful”.

Over 500 students attended the ball which was marketed as a “wonderful night of drinking, dancing and finery”. However, an Edifess accused the security on the door of sorting “non-binary and gnc individuals into a section”.

Eyewitnesses described how initially there was only one queue, but after a while security came and started telling those who looked male to wait in the other queue without offering an explanation.

When they enquired further with security about why this was necessary they were told it was “security checks, men get patted down.”

Another eyewitness told The Edinburgh Tab that there was no clear communication as to what was happening and described her experience as being “herded like cattle.”

Two further Edi students who attended said: “The “female” queue didn’t have any checks whatsoever, not even our bags were checked, and my friend brought a large tote bag with her.” Meanwhile, “the “male” queue was patted down and searched, with their queue taking ages to enter due to security”, they claimed before saying: “Everyone knows how to hide drugs, it’s not a penis-specific secret.”

The Edinburgh Tab also spoke to EUSA’s Trans and Non-Binary Liberation Officer, Jaime Prada about the incident. They told us they thought: “There are definitely better ways of handling this situation. I think we all agree: spiking must stop. However, the way the bouncers dealt with the situation was insensitive from the very beginning. Arbitrarily dividing attendees by appearance feeds into unnecessary dynamics informed by stigma and prejudice.”

However, Shakespeare Society has now apologised for “making people feel uncomfortable and unsafe”, adding: “we are deeply sorry for the offence and distress this has caused”.

They explained to The Edinburgh Tab that the gendered queues “stemmed from a deep miscommunication with the staff” and that they wanted to ensure that thorough searches took place in order to prevent spiking. This was misinterpreted by the security staff as having two gendered queues.

ShakeSoc admitted they previously had “issues” with the security staff at their 2019 ball that caused The Caves to change their security providers. Despite this, the core issues were not resolved. However, they clarified that the “caves are not at fault” and that “everybody’s safety and wellbeing was and is our primary concern”.

To show their support with the LGBTQA+ community, they are giving their donations from their next event to Mermaids, a charity and advocacy organisation that supports gender variant and transgender youth.

In a statement they told The Edinburgh Tab: “The EUSC once again apologises for the offence and distress caused by the handling of security at the Masquerade. We would like to clarify, however, that The Caves are not at fault for this situation which ultimately stemmed from a miscommunication on our part.

“We have spoken directly to The Caves about this situation and have agreed that everybody’s safety and wellbeing was and is our primary concern. The Caves have been helpful and understanding throughout and we thank them for numerous years of successful events.”

The Caves declined to comment at this time. 

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