If you are a lesbian in Mumbai, the one thing that really hits you is the lack of LGBT social spaces. Gay or not, if you are a travel buff, you must have heard of the Castro District in San Francisco, Soho in London and West Village in New York. But for all of its cosmopolitan aspirations, Mumbai’s socio-cultural life has meagre offerings for queer females.
Of course, in a country where homosexual acts are criminalised, one might find it shallow to bicker over the lack of lesbian pubs or bar nights. However, after a few of those political meets, marches, and the serious stuff, you just want to go somewhere to let your hair down, grab a beer and maybe flirt a bit, dance a bit...
But, as a lesbian, your best bet on a Friday night is to head to a bar with friends and not have weird conversations with men who want to know how two women ‘do it’. Or, with other straight women who want to introduce you to another lesbian they just met because, if you both are gay and single, you are perfect for each other, right?
So, when an invite for an all-women LGBT party pops up on Facebook, you are, at the very least, curious. This was the first time that a group known for organising some of the best LGBT parties and bar nights decided to organise one exclusively for women. Why? Because of the sheer lack of such events in Mumbai.
It happened at a bar in a hip suburb of Mumbai. I wasn’t expecting to see such a huge crowd, given the closeted nature of Mumbai’s lesbian world. The organisers were expecting about 70 people and yet, by 10 pm on that Saturday night, there were over 150.
There were some regulars to LGBT events, some old friends (lovers, even), but mostly, there were so many unknown faces. And what an amazing cross-section it was: from well-known activists letting their hair down, to bankers and yuppie corporates grooving to music. There was a businesswoman with her first-ever girlfriend; and a teacher with whom I had an interesting conversation about the way we deal with gender and sexuality among kids (for there’s always a child who needs to know that it’s okay to be gay).
I even spoke to someone about automobile designing, and got (much-needed) advice on using online dating apps from a couple that had connected on Tinder. It was also touching to speak to a mother-daughter duo that had come to the party – one supporting the other – reaffirming the need for such casual spaces, especially for those just coming out.
There was something for everyone – a nice little dance floor, great music, an outdoor area for those conversations over a cigarette... It gave the women present a non-political, carefree and safe space to freely express themselves.
It is hard for a venue to host an LGBT event, given the legal status of homosexuality in India. Therefore, for whatever few events happen in the city, one has to appreciate the courage of the organisers. Indeed, when the injustice and discrimination against this minority ends, we can hope for a more thriving socio-cultural scene that befits a cosmopolitan city. Till then, we live in the shadows of our aspirations, exploring freedom in our closets.
* If you are an LGBT supporter or a member of the community and want to keep track of similar events, follow the Facebook pages — Salvation Starlets (for women-centric parties) and Salvation Stars (for other LGBT community events).