A lesbian couple was allegedly harassed and thrown out of the bar of The Slate Hotel on Khader Nawaz Khan Road in Chennai on Saturday. The two women, Rasika Gopalakrishnan and Shivangi Singh, are both in their early twenties, and are going viral on social media after sharing their appalling experience on Facebook. They were allegedly forced to leave the bar for being a same-sex couple, and were accused of doing things that they had not.
In her Facebook post, Rasika recounted that their evening began with four to five men standing at the bar constantly staring at the couple dancing together. Naturally, this fetishisation and objectification made them uncomfortable and upset.
Moments later, they went to the washroom and were followed by four male bouncers and one female bouncer banging frantically on the door demanding that they leave. When the couple asked on what grounds they had to do so, the bouncers accused them of “doing something else,” and claimed that they were making other guests uncomfortable. Wanting to avoid confrontation in that moment, they left.
Rasika told the News Minute (TNM), “One of the male bouncers shouted at us, and said, ‘What were you doing in there?’ I replied, ‘I was helping my friend out, she was feeling sick.’ He never stopped to listen to us, and his immediate response was, ‘Were you helping your friend or were you doing something else?’”
According to TNM, Shivangi said, “When the bouncers descended upon us in the club’s bathroom, there was no requirement of all five of them. Rasika and I are 5’1”, weighing about 50-55 kilograms each. There was absolutely no need for an unnecessary display of brute force to outnumber us. They could have spoken to us kindly. They didn’t bother asking us any questions. We were simply given their verdict – leave the club, you’re being a nuisance.”
This was not the end of the ordeal. After the girls’ social media posts recounting the horrifying incident began to gain popularity, working partner with The Slate Hotels Varun Ganeshan, contacted the girls to try to pacify the situation. However, instead he claimed to have a video of them “making out on stage,” and allegedly threatened to release it online. However, the two girls said that they did nothing to make other guests uncomfortable as they were aware that it was a public space. When they asked to come back to hotel and see the footage for themselves, the manager sheepishly apologised and said there was no need to do so.
Shivangi told TNM, “First of all, there is nothing inherently wrong about making out, but here’s the thing – we didn’t. We did not allow ourselves that kind of a straight-privilege; as a same-sex couple, our display of affection towards each other is socially outlawed.”
Rasika and Shivangi’s story has gone viral on social media, as members of the queer community and its allies are determined to share their story. Although the reading down of Article 377 on September 6, 2018, brought liberation to the LGBTQ+ community as the country celebrated in an eruption of rainbow and glitter, discrimination against queer folk is still rampant.
Rasika and Shivangi’s experience is proof of the fact that although legal reform is the first step, it is not nearly enough to change the very fabrication of an innately heteronormative and patriarchal culture. In order to begin to dismantle the stigma surrounding homosexuality and create a safe, queer-friendly environment, the creation of discourse and awareness is fundamental.
Rasika told TNM, “I myself am visibly queer in that my dressing sense does not follow conventional gender norms of society. In such cases, it is even more important to put aside one’s prejudices and to treat a customer as a customer and nothing else. Queer rights are about human rights, not about anything else. We do not demand special service, we never take up more space than necessary. All we ask is to give us space to be ourselves without being judged and made to feel unsafe.”
Featured image credit: Facebook/@TheSlateHotel