Fri, Jun 24, 2011 - Page 13 News List

Southern pride

Vanity, Kaohsiung’s newest gay-friendly club, embraces sexual diversity and provides young gays and lesbians with a place to party their socks off free of social stigmas

By Amber Parcher  /  Contributing Reporter

Be gay and proud is the message Igor Scheurkogel, the creator and co-owner of Kaohsiung’s newest gay-friendly club, tried to send to patrons with the design of the venue’s entryway.


Kaohsiung resident Igor Scheurkogel is gay, proud and very busy.

He owns two bars, one art gallery and, if all goes as planned, will soon have a nonprofit as well. His most recent endeavor, the gay-oriented club Vanity, opened June 4 to a line three blocks long. It’s the city’s first gay-friendly club in more than six years and the fulfillment of a dream Scheurkogel has had since he first moved to Taiwan almost eight years ago.

The 29-year-old South African, whose projects are helping shape Kaohsiung’s foreign, art and gay communities, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’ve always had the desire to be more involved,” he said over a beer on a recent Friday at his “desk” — the bar at Vanity.

Scheurkogel opened the club to bridge the cultural and social gaps between gays and straights, gays and lesbians, foreigners and Taiwanese and every sub-category of society in between. Closer to his heart, Scheurkogel wants Vanity to be a place for young gays and lesbians to safely express themselves.

“When I moved here, I didn’t know I was gay,” he said. “Since then, I’ve seen Kaohsiung’s gay society open up, but it still needs a lot of protection.”

Being gay in Taiwan isn’t easy, said Amy Lin (林昱君), who works as a counselor for the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association (台灣同志諮詢熱線).

“Taiwan still has a lot of prejudice, but it’s changing slowly,” she said, her teardrop rainbow earrings swaying on a recent night out at Vanity.

She and two of her friends were sipping strawberry vodka cocktails — a specialty of Vanity’s shirtless bartender, Winston Yang (楊喬皓) — during one of the club’s first ladies nights.

Lin said that without Vanity, she and her friends wouldn’t have been out at a bar that night.

Club Notes

What: Vanity Club & Lounge

When: Open daily from 9pm to 4am

Where: 176 Siwei 4th Road, Greater Kaohsiung (高雄市四維四路176號), tel: (09) 3202-8992

Admission: Varies from NT$100 to NT$300

On the Net:

Unlike straight bars, which often hold ladies nights to draw in both genders, Vanity restricts the number of guys allowed in each Friday to give lesbians a hassle-free place to socialize, said the club’s co-owner, 28-year-old UK native Eva Deeson.

“Deeson” isn’t her real name. An English teacher by day, she uses a pseudonym to keep her identity from the school at which she works because her employers don’t know she’s a lesbian.

She and Scheurkogel said they are trying to hack away at some of the stigmas in Taiwan surrounding gays and lesbians.

For example, Vanity has a zero-tolerance policy for drugs.

“There is a lot of drug use in the gay community,” said Scheurkogel, pointing to the last gay club in Kaohsiung, Speed, which he said opened eight years ago in the very spot Vanity now occupies. It closed down two years later amid speculation of rampant drug use by patrons.

Scheurkogel and Deeson said they also want to help gays and lesbians accept themselves. Self-esteem is the theme behind the entire club: Blue lights under a see-through floor line the entrance of Vanity like a catwalk. A stenciled peacock, the unofficial mascot of the venue, fans its tail feathers on a large column at the heart of the club. Mirrors line the bottom half of the column and most walls.

“We’re aiming at the people who don’t think much of themselves, the ones who are hiding all day so they don’t get fired or lose their family,” Deeson said.

The duo tried their best to create an environment that promotes socializing without being too forward. The club is illuminated by a flashing disco globe on the dance floor and chandeliers hanging from pink punched-out holes in the ceiling. There are no dark, secluded corners, and the lavender paint on the walls softens the rigid black furniture.

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