Last year, the apex court of the country nullified the section 377, thereby decriminalizing every person who engages in non-heterosexual relations. But law reform does not instantaneously translate into societal reform, and India is the finest example of homophobia. This is why, when I entered Studio-The Slate, a Chennai pub, with my girlfriend one Saturday evening, we were prepared for a lot of potential scenarios. It is socially acceptable in a club setting for heterosexual couples to kiss and hug, but not for a single fleeting moment did we allow ourselves that kind of a privilege, fearing homophobia. We knew we’d be gawked at, fetishized and hated, all at the same time.
We occupied one corner of a table in the pub, and we proceeded to enjoy the evening with drinks and food. I remember, clear as day, that we spoke and laughed endlessly. People, who later that night decided to publicly condemn us, did not care to believe in the beauty and truth of our relationship. All they saw was two women wrongfully together; their vibe giving away the nasty truth that they weren’t just friends.
Last year, the apex court of the country nullified the section 377, thereby decriminalizing every person who engages in non-heterosexual relations. But law reform does not instantaneously translate into societal reform, and India is the finest example of that.
The DJ was picking up, and she and I decided that we wanted to dance. We left our tables and joined the scores of people on the dance floor. We love dancing, it’s something we talk about a lot. I was teaching her hip-hop and we were singing along to the lyrics together. At some point, I realized that we had the unwarranted attention of several men who had positioned themselves at the bar, sipping their drinks with a look on their faces that left nothing to our imaginations.
It was purely ominous and sinister, and as a woman who has spent 21 years of her life being treated like meat by the men on the streets, I am quick to realize what goes on in the heads of such men. They were there, ready to make a lesbian fantasy out of two innocuous individuals. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to clarify what I am going to, but no, we did not engage in ‘obscene’ acts on the dance floor. Occasionally we would dance hand in hand, but if you’re telling me that women don’t do that, then buddy, you don’t know women.
In spite of all our attempts to ‘pass as straight’ and stay away from the scrutiny of people, we found numerous intent gazes following us to the bathroom. In only a matter of minutes, there were aggressive knocks on our cubicle door. Picture this: four male bouncers and one female, towering over us, while a crowd of people behind them wait expectantly, partaking in the extravaganza that would prelude our eventual eviction. We were shouted at. Apparently, the bouncers received complaints from people that we had made them ‘uncomfortable’.
The bouncers had been brought in to make sure my girlfriend and I were not doing anything untoward. Our agency was lost; we were now merely two stupid, uncontrollable women who wanted to make everyone miserable. We can’t dance, eat and laugh together. Apparently, that’s too much for the fragile straight people in the club. What is worse is that the bouncers, here representing the administration, did not take it upon their discretion to make a better decision. Mob trials are happening nationwide, so why shouldn’t they also be done in a high-end pub in Nungambakkam, Chennai?
Picture this: four male bouncers and one female, towering over us, while a crowd of people behind them wait expectantly, partaking in the extravaganza that would prelude our eventual eviction. We were shouted at.
Since money can’t buy you maturity, and people are very complacent in their ignorance, we were thrown out. As many, if not more, eyes followed us out of the establishment as had followed us into the bathroom. We took a cab home in stunned silence, our confusion and sadness exacerbated by how alone we felt. Once safely home, we broke into tears, sobbing in each others’ arms for an excruciatingly long time.
Also read: Our Homophobia Kills: The Gay Panic Defence
So there you have it, party-goers at The Slate. I hope you are happy hurting two people who went out of their way to make sure they weren’t hurting your brittle, paper-thin mindsets. I wish you many more such eventful nights.
Queer individuals and allies condemn homophobia and blatant intimidation by The Slate Hotels, Chennai. To endorse the statement, please click here.
Shivangi Singh is a Psychology major from Ashoka University, Haryana. She will be studying at the Indian School of Public Policy in 2019-2020. She is interested in activism, research and policy work, and she wants to help make our society more inclusive and sustainable. Follow her on Instagram.
Featured Image Source: Sloshout