Our Voices The Orinam Blog

Homophobia: An experience at Hotel Accord, Chennai

Editor’s Note: This is a personal account from MP list member Srivath.

It took every ounce of my energy and will to write this mail without being overtly emotional though the entire experience was an eruption of emotions.

Never in million years would anyone of us have thought that our regular weekend pub hopping would end up in such disheartening and humiliating experience. Being able to glide through in and out of the lounges and bars for many years we never would have imagined that something like this will happen to us. Assuming being well educated and being in the cream layers of the society will make things easier for queer men was shattered.

What can be merrier and joyous than being with bunch of gay men who could just see everything on a lighter note???

That was the state of mind we were in when we started out on 23rd October Sunday evening. As we were getting ready we got a call from couple of our friends who were already in a bar (The Zodiac bar at The Accord Metropolitan) to come and join them. Since this is one of the bar we have frequented we went inside and after the usual greetings and hugs couple of us placed the orders and others started looking through the menu.

 

Image Source: http://www.theaccordmetropolitan.com

 

One of us was carrying a man bag and the waiter sort of whispered to the bartender pointing him. When our friend asked the bartender about our order he didn’t answer. The manager I presume told him that there is no service for our group and we are not allowed and asked him to leave the bar.

Since he couldn’t talk Tamil and the manager couldn’t respond well in English, we, who were busy going through menu sensed something was wrong as our friend started looking perplexed.

The entire scene unfolded in the lounge outside the bar when we asked why there is no service. One of the service guys said they allow only men and women. We were shocked by this response. It was a blow to our pride and we were completely taken aback.

Incredulous as it sounded one of us asked him again what he is trying to say, he said that “men and women only sir, gays lam allowed illa”. We shot back that there is no such rules listed in entrance and we have every right to be there and they are unreasonable denying service. Then came another guy who started talking in Tamil said “ungala ulla vidradellam asingam. Kelambu kelambu” (it’s a shame for us to let u inside. Move move).

We were addressing him with respect till then and he started addressing us in a disrespectful way, tone and body language.

The argument got heated and we asked them if they have any rules against letting gay men in the bar and if so they should put that in sign board and or give it to us in writing stating so. When we were inquiring on the regulations this guy became abusive and told “naalu aalungala kooptu thorathunga ivangala” (Bring four guys and chase them away).

We were so shocked and stunned by the way the management was handling and we demanded we spoke to their higher authority stating that’s they aren’t managing the issue well. He said that “adhellam mudiyaadu. Ungalukku yellarayum kooduvaangala”. (We can’t call authorities and all).

Though I had every intention of making a protest in the lounge we realized that we could do nothing about it and decided to leave the place before things got uglier.

The entire experience was so humiliating, though we all stood up against the discrimination, it dint fail to leave a deep rooted scar. I couldn’t imagine how worse the same would have been if we weren’t a bunch. When I look back at this entire scenario, I realized how feeble legal and social support is towards the queers.

Though we couldn’t do much on the issue, sharing it in this space might make us realize that we don’t have to put up with everything. At the least we could voice our protest.

Thanks
Srivath

Comments

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  1. Srivath: This is very sad and outrageous. I am very sorry you had to go through this.

    I think we should gather and voice our opposition to the hotel management. This could be an isolated behavior by some hotel staff and may be the management is not aware.

    1. Hey Srivath

      I am sorry to Hear about your experience in this hotel in Chennai I have spent all my career in the hotel Industry mainly top branded hotels such as Hilton Hyatt and Marriott, as a rule of thumb no one has the right or power to deny access to a Guest unless they are intoxicated, abusive towards bar staff or management. In this regards you should have taken it to the General manager of the hotel the Manager on duty its the staff’s responsibility to provide service to any patrons that walks into the establishment than discriminating against their sexual preference unfortunately India has a long way to go.

      Hope everyone will stand up and fight for their freedom of rights.

  2. Srivath,

    A warn hug for you and your friends, you guys have my respect for enduring such a humiliation and still maintaining your dignity. It’s sad that one has to go through such incidents when as you have rightly said that ‘ Assuming being well educated and being in the cream layers of the society will make things easier for queer men ‘. This is certainly not a solitary incident, there has been times when one has been the target of other educated men and women’s idea of a funny comment.. anyway, let tlak about it some other time. Right now, I am suggesting the following:-
    1. Send emails to the hotel’s mail id, thanks DEVI for the input.
    2. Share the experience with queer friendly Chennai media, if any.
    3. Post on visitors review sections on prominent travel sites. Call the hotel homophobic.
    4. As a community, blacklist the hotel. Spread the word so that the ‘men and women’ who believe in the cause also do not give any future business to the hotel.
    5. I tried but could not find if this hotel is a part of a some renowned chain of hotels, then, lets write to those guys as well. Let’s tell them that 1 black sheep will create an impression that all their business of India or elsewher is equally homophobic and therefore wll result in loss of business.

    1. I got to know this through Srini’s post on FB.

      First of all a warm hug those who had to actually face this primitive behavior by a hotel staff/management and I can understand their agitation, its natural.

      But please think about it calmly, I know this is a classic case of ‘Homophobia’ but trust me if I was facing the waiter, my response to his statement “men and women only sir, gays lam allowed illa” would have been ‘your statements explains that you will always remain behind the counter’ and gracefully leave the bar/hotel without getting angry or feeling humiliated. Somebody who’s so primitive in his thoughts/up-bringing, you cannot expect them to rise up to your level, you have to give them time to look within to realise where they stand and where we stand.

      It’s below my dignity to ask for a written apology from something/someone so small and primitive. You cannot expect a stray dog to behave like a good pedigree breed. You can only make people aware of staying away from a stray dog, so do spread the msg/warning about such incidents amongst friends/family.

      Sorry to say but I am really disappointed with the choice of Bar/Hotel you guys were hanging out, looking at the image of the interior of the Hotel, I wouldn’t go anywhere near or be seen around, that image itself speaks so loud about them.

      By making so much noise or protest, you are only giving them more attention and it may come across that we are seeking attention, please, that’s the last we need to do, we are not some random mob.

      By reacting so strongly we are making ‘homophobia’ such a big thing. You cannot fight for respect, if someone does not respect you for who you are, its not our problem.

      I ask a simple question to those who seek written apology ‘will you go back to the same bar/hotel even if they give you a written apology?’. Think about it, a written apology will not change their way of thinking, it’ll be out of fear of losing business. If somebody makes a mistake and does not realises himself, forced apology does not hold any meaning for me. I choose to ignore the whole incident as an act of a primitive mindset.

      Coming back to Srini’s question on FB: What should we do people?
      Well I think I have shared what we ‘shouldn’t do’ and what we could do is already stated by ‘DPNWTA’, that’s a dignified and mature way of reacting to a situation of this nature.

      Cheers!
      Alok

  3. I was really peeved when I read this. We even thought of organising a protest in front of Hotel Accord tomorrow. But I thought of speaking to the management first and listen to what they had to say. Initially they said the managers were available only at 11pm. I insisted then one of the managers called me up. I mentioned about the incident he continued saying some homophobic things and then later he blamed it on the security person saying that “in other hotels they are used to throwing the gay people out, so thats why they did that”. I got quite furious by this point and said “if somebody treats you this way at a hotel, how would you feel?” then he mumbled some gibberish and he connected me to another manager (Mr. Pasupathi). So with this man I asked “Do you know what this is about?” He said “Yes, Maam. We are very sorry about what happened and infact I wanted to call up the guys and apologise but I didnt know their numbers.” Then I read out all the homophobic things there were told in tamil (from the above article). I said it is all over the internet and we are all extremely upset about what happened after hearing about it and we were infact planning to protest in front of hotel Accord tomorrow and boycott your hotel. He apologised profusely again. I thanked him for apologising said we wanted an apology in writing and It would make a difference to everybody online as well who reads about it. He said he’ll speak to the other management and let me know tomorrow afternoon about the written apology. I said we are here at Chennai and can come and collect the apology tomorrow evening. He also said they have sent a memo to the staff (security) who was responsible for this when I mentioned that they should talk to all their staff about what happened and homophobia should not be tolerated and everybody should be treated respectfully. He also invited us to hotel tomorrow. Hoping to get that written apology from him tomorrow 🙂 .. will keep you posted.

    1. maam, really happy to hear that.. and we cant bear such things in future.. though there are educated and white collored, they still things bugs and no mind to communalise individuals. humanity is a hard thing to see. we should not allow this just posting in internet as there is world beyond the internet, thats the common people. many dont know what is happening to them but still thrashed by society as queers.. find and share the ways to educate each and every one about this issue and the human rights to be fought for.. thanks again maam

  4. This is sheer disgusting and insult to humanity too.
    How can they behave in such a manner when they know that Sec.377 has been revoked.
    Would it have helped if they would have called some queer group or police?

    1. I’m sorry, but Section 377’s reading down has nothing to do with Homophobia. We still don’t have laws in India concerning Homophobic behaviour or sexual abuse against gays/lesbians/transgenders.

  5. We must organize a nationwide protest, clearly; this is an act of homophobia and can happen anywhere if it has happen in Chennai.
    Sambhav from Delhi
    In Solidarity

    1. I think a nationwide protest would need a list of such Homophobic / Transphobic incidents in cities like Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, etc.
      I’d suggest that this be taken up in each and every Pride day in India – be it in November in Bangalore/Delhi, or January in Chennai or June 2012 in Chennai/Kerala.

  6. This is insane

    Every one goes to the bar to have some fun and a couple of drinks with their friends.It seems people are still in their conservative olden days and would not think of such scenarios in a positive manner. What can we do? Are you guys planning for a signature campaign?

    `

    1. Signature campaigns help nobody Vijay.

      The following could be done:
      A letter stating the exact proceedings that evening, including, if possible, names of employees of the Accord Hotel, and the disgust at such homophobic behaviour, seeking action.

      A get-well-soon card and bouquets to all the hotel employees/chair-people/managing staff with some good media-people to back it.

      A letter to the Senior Management of the Hotel Group redressing the issue of Homophobia, possibly a legal notice.

  7. I am really surprised. India is growing very fast. However, Indians are not changing their conservative mindset. We need to escalate this issue and file a legal case of human rights violation against the hotel management. So that this issue will be highlighted on a global level all over in India. It will bring the need of laws to make people understand that everyone has right to live his life as he/she wants.

  8. yes this is a idiotic. i am also like you my friends. my name is narayanan. in fact i also very eager to join with you as friends and to protest against this activities. first of all, i request that gays should be strong in their minds and hearts to fight anything in the world if anybody against them, that is not there in our minds. how many guys can openly say, that they are gays in front of the society, tell me. even though sahotharan and so many persons are there, but Gays are still not ready to fight and support us. marriage between girl and boy are also getting changed and no one want to have marry a girl.

  9. Dear all…
    Thanks every one for your support and insight into the issue.
    Alok,
    thanks for the insight into th issue. I still would like to say that the argument in the lobby wasn’t outburst. I think we held our dignity by not just accepting their homophobic behaviour. I think when i accept their behaviour, i would have felt guilty for being a silent witness to something outrageous. Sweeping under the carpet and pretending as if its not worth attending to just makes us soft target.
    Yes i agree with your suggestions on what’s to be done. But i do not feel even a bit of shame for what i stood for.
    And yes, about the bar. You really don’t have to care about where you hangout as far as you hangout with people who make u feel happy.

    Sowmya
    thanks a lot for the initiative. I am really happy that you are part of the process.

  10. man thisis really outrageous… im so sad to hear such things….

    y there is respect for us in thisworld…..

    we are humans too…….

  11. I have read the article in the newspaper abou the incident happend in Zodiac. I’m very regular to this place and was present that day also have been many times toto that bar and they are basically very friendly people and this might be one of incident. Moreover the people involved have left the organization and the matter should be over now

    1. Vasudevan: This could be an isolated incident, but certainly a serious one. Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender presentation is absolutely unacceptable and condemnable. It is very disappointing that none of the “friendly people” from the hotel you mentioned, intervened when the incident happened.

      The hotel management can’t escape from their responsibility by saying their security service is outsourced or it is the employee’s fault and not theirs. They are accountable for providing a safe and welcoming space for all patrons. Also, when the activists approached the hotel management in a peaceful manner, they agreed to issue a written apology in few days, but they didn’t. To me that is cheating and lying and shows their escapist attitude. So the matter is certainly not over until the hotel issues a written apology and ensures LGBT folks are welcome there.

    2. Vasudevan

      i made it clear in my post that we have visited the bar many times before.
      I wouldn’t be writing so much if that day was one among the many. I m not sure whatever u mean by friendly. I dint see friendliness the way they treated us neither was anything close to decent the way they handled the situation. I m not sure if you would feel friendly if subjected to a similar treatment

      To me even if its an isolated incident, the management must take responsibilities to the action. The security even made a statement saying its the management’s decision to keep gay men away.

      That day we stood up against the way one of us was treated. If we just let go of something like tht, we just stand a silent spectator of injustice to a fellow human.

  12. First of all, I am sorry you had to go through that. Those guys were just plain brain-less homophobic haters, I mean what category of dumb are they to not know the difference between a gay person and a transgender! Not, that it would be right to do that to anyone. :/
    Oh, I feel like punching that guy in the face!!

    Second, 377 might have been revoked but still, the LGBT community should have the right to stand proud and have laws dignifying them! It saddens me that I personally don’t know even one gay/lesbian person because people are just that scared to come out of the closet! You crossed that hurdle, so you can overcome anything!
    I just want you to know, we(me, my frnds n every person with some grey cells b/w d ears!) are here for you! <3

  13. i wrote about the incident to the hotel management and asked them how they have addressed the issue/ what actions have been taken so that there are no further incidences.
    first they denied , then they asked where i learnt of the issue, which i told them of orinam, then they have stopped correspondence.
    they are still in denial.
    shame!

  14. That’s awful. The prime issue is that they do not understand that gay men are MEN as well. They consider gay people belong to a third sex outside male and female sexes. It’s funny how stupid that is. They don’t have any clue as to what is sex, gender and sexual orientation; and how they are different. It’s always the ignorant shunning the unknown, and the ignorant stooping to low levels of abuse. So, they don’t deserve your time or the peace of your mind. They can never live an enlightened life anyway with that underdeveloped an intellect.
    Secondly, yes, you have done something significant by raising your voice here. You have protested. Congratulations, you have done your part. 🙂

  15. Dear srivath, It’s an atrocious act on the part of a star category hotel to single-out gay community friends under some pretext or the other. I am at a loss to understand why even well educated are unaware of the rights of LGBT community. A pitiable situation for gay like us.

  16. In my city, I was also humiliated similarly by the management of the hotel. Apparently the Hotel’s main OWNER was on a visit that day, and I went there with my bf..
    Though we actually tried to book a room there. Who knows why we did that in India.
    It is a serious luck that nobody called the police or media or our parents.
    We are a heterosexual couple by the way. In the land of India, anything/anybody that is not given express permission by patriarchal society(marriage) is insulted and humiliated.
    Another incident I know of is a female teacher in my school had a love marriage. There were loads of people who said she should be sacked. She would probably have been sacked if it had been a private school. And 100% a gay guy would be sacked in such a case. 🙁
    I remember a professor from Jamia milia university I think was sacked for being gay. :'( India makes me sad. I don’t like being here.

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