A photo of Lord Clyde in Deptford. Photo credit Ewan Munro via Wikimedia Commons

Jackson King took almost two hours to travel across the city to the Lord Clyde – a gay cruising bar in the heart of Deptford – “mercifully” he says, “it was absolutely worth it”. Jackson writes;

The venue sits opposite a community centre and basketball court in a quiet residential area. As I buzzed in, I wondered if the neighbours understood what lay behind its deceptively innocent Victorian-era pub frontage. Did they know that gays
meet here to fuck?

I was greeted with a warm cheer upon entry – a friend had been waiting for me to arrive and was befriended by the owner in the meantime. There had been some gently teasing debate, I think, over whether I was real, or actually going to show up.

We’d been meaning to check out the Lord Clyde together for some time. Sourcing trans-friendly gay cruising venues has become a bit of a hobby of mine, and I’d reached out to the owner some months before to test the ‘are trans guys welcome’ waters. His response was reassuringly positive.

So there we were. While catching up with my friend I took in the surroundings: there was a gaggle of gays in the small bar area, and in a refreshingly diverse range of ages, races, and body types.

Friendly chatter and laughter punctuated the space. So much so that you would be forgiven for thinking this was a twee social club and not the home of events such as Punishment Block, Come2Daddy and Shag Tag.

Once you descend the staircase into the cruising zone proper, things get a little steamier. There’s fetish and bondage furniture, a couple of porn-viewing areas, a dark room space, and my personal favourite – a little den of iniquity that I’ve decided to call the ‘red room’.

It was in this room that my two-hour-traipse from North to South London became quite suddenly worthwhile. I’ve been to a few gay cruising spaces in my time – from a steamy Soho sauna or Hampstead Heath fumble, to the low-lit leather bars of Berlin. But something immediately stood out to me about the Lord Clyde.

You see there’s often a broody, silent – almost antagonistic – atmosphere to cruising spaces, as men eye each other up and compete for attention and intimacy. Yet there in the red room, there was friendly camaraderie, smiles and small talk while one patron throatfucked another (who was himself being railed at the rear).

The friendliness from the bar above us, had seamlessly translated into a group sex scene below. So too had the racial, age and body diversity I’d clocked on arrival. Or in other words, people weren’t just sucking and fucking their body twins.

It’s rare and perhaps impossible for any space to be free of the reach of desirability politics – let alone gay cruising spaces which operate on a largely visual level – but this was the most body fascism free fuck zone I’d encountered. Here pleasure was the guiding principle. It was an orgy in the purest sense: abandoned embodiment unencumbered by the complexities or ostracisms of gay tribe (twink, bear, chub, muscle mary or daddy) that so often raise their head in the scene.

On reflection, it’s unsurprising that in such a body and pleasure-affirming context, the transness of myself and my friend was a complete non-issue. It was received neither as a special treat for cis men looking for their ‘bonus hole boy’ moment, nor was it approached with discomfort or nervousness. If anything, the response was… indifference. A nice break from experiencing one’s body as a site of political conflict!

Of course, I must issue the disclaimer that results may vary should any readers seek a repeat experience – the atmosphere of any cruising space is dependent on who happens to be there and the attitudes or baggage they bring with them. But it was, if nothing else, a beautifully horny and healing moment in time. And one that this weary and beleaguered transsexual living on terf island very much welcomed.

Being a transfag is supposed to be fun. None of us transition (socially or medically) or take hormones to be perpetually on the political football struggle bus. It’s a choice about pleasure and authentic personhood. And I think the men we encountered in the ‘red room’ understood something about the delight of joyful, physical embodiment – they were there to choose pleasure too.

At the point of writing, the Lord Clyde has 4.5 stars on Google Reviews, and I can see why. A convivial group fuck with a bunch of warm and diverse strangers isn’t always easy to cum by. Certainly not as a man with a pussy – but also neither as a racialised man, or a man who neither misses meals or regularly attends the gym.

In this way the Lord Clyde is also a salve to cis men whose bodies are dismissed or devalued in some way due to desirability politics. A salient reminder that queer cis men and queer trans men have more in common than some prominent anti-trans commentators would have you believe.

This article was funded by LGBT+ Futures: Equity Fund is a two-year £786,000 partnership between Consortium and The National Lottery Community Fund, designed to help community-led and grassroot organisations supporting some of the most under-represented and marginalised LGBT+ communities. Read more here.