Gaydar is not enough at some city nightclubs that try to separate the stags from gay couples. Now they want ‘proof’ in the form of a mythical government stamp that certifies someone’s sexual preference.
On Friday night, author-journalist, Bharat Sharma, and his partner Samuel were barred entry from a popular Delhi club because they did not have a ‘certificate’ from the government to prove that they are a gay couple. The club, in a five-star hotel in Central Delhi, refused them entry because of their ‘no stags’ policy — a rule that bars single men from most Delhi clubs to ensure the safety of women.
“The bar manager at the entry told us that only couples are allowed. When we said we are a gay couple, she said, ‘You need to get a certificate, under section 377, to prove that you are gay and you need to carry it with you everywhere’,” adds Samuel, a makeover artist. “I’m horrified, not just at their lack of knowledge that no such certificate exists, but at how we were discriminated against,” says Sharma, incidentally a ‘privilege gold card member’ of the same hotel.
When contacted, the hotel said the couple was stopped because of their ‘negative profile’ and later sent a statement saying, ‘To ensure safety of single women, there are certain restrictions on the entry of men only groups and walk-ins (irrespective of gender).’
A story on gay couples being labelled stags and not allowed into clubs for New Year’s eve celebrations was carried by HT City last month. Not much has changed and clubs in the Capital say they’re not prepared to change their ‘no stags’ rule.
Sohrab Sitaram of Tabula Rasa in Saket says, “One evening, when we refused entry to two stags, they came back and said that they were a gay couple. Within minutes, all the stags said they were gay couples. At that moment, all men standing outside claimed to be gay. Now, how do I handle this situation? If a couple is genuinely gay, they are more than welcome.”
“Everyone wants to come to a good nightclub and they will easily pretend to be gay if that gets them in. That is why we do not allow them,” says Kinny Jain of Freeze Lounge and JYN-XXX.
Gay men in the city say that to avoid these embarrassing situations, they choose to go to exclusive gay night events. Gay rights activist, Mohnish Malhotra says, “Once my partner and I went clubbing with a straight couple. They were allowed in, while we were told that ‘we are in the wrong place’. I have heard of lot of homophobic statements, but the demand for a certificate is the most ridiculous. Such a person does not deserve to be in the hospitality business.”
Sharma now says, “There are many who organise gay parties and we would rather go there. We don’t feel comfortable being probed and laughed at.” Arvind, who did not want to reveal his surname, says, “I don’t put myself in a situation where I would feel embarrassed. We have tried to go to a few nightclubs but no one let us in. It is stupid and humiliating. This certificate thing is unbelievable.”
Out of 10 nightclubs that HT City spoke to, four said they would allow gay couples to enter, if they are of the right profile. Six insisted that they would continue to treat gay couples as stags.
(Some names have been changed on request)
Our guys at the gate can tell if it is a real couple or stags pretending to be gay.
Saurabh Khanijo, Poison Ivy
We allow gay couples if they match the profile. My staff can make out if a couple is genuine.
Kashif Farooq, Urban Pind
A couple for us is a man and a woman. Too many men make women feel unsafe.
Suchir Suri of Pure by Kuki