by Priya Thangarajah
Last Friday, a few of us were prohibited from entering Silk: a club in Colombo. The reason: “people like you are not allowed” i.e queer women. I remember awhile back when another friend was banned from another club for looking ‘butch’
Should I be happy that the ‘pink’ Rupee has made no impact on Colombo’s economy? Should I bear the burden of my class and dismiss this restriction of my space as an upper middle class elite women’s problem?
No. My spaces as a woman in the public sphere are always contentious. They are often riddled with harassment, negotiation and sometimes with exhilaration and joy. But its assumed that I must battle as a woman to keep these spaces. So here I am battling it.
As a woman I am supposed to expect harassment; especially when I go to a club and try to explain that no means NO and that I am not interested in dancing with every man who shows an interest. I am taught to expect less harassment when I am accompanied by men.
I agree that going out dancing is an upper middle class experience and as an upper middle class woman this is a space I inhabit often with my friends. SILK’s reaction was to queer women inhabiting a space and engaging in consensual adult displays of affection. This queasiness about PDA is of course, only limited to Queer people.
Safe spaces where people can express themselves, can engage in public displays of affection, to dance, to kiss, to be seen and to be validated are healthy and badly needed, for queer people as much as heterosexual Couples. No one was harmed, no harassment was caused, Just consensual adult expression. But homophobia doesn’t allow for it.
As a private institution SILK and all other clubs have the right to deny admission, but discrimination is not one such ground. Sadly in a country where queer people still struggle for our rights this action cannot be challenged legally.
But we don’t have to like it. We don’t have to take this discrimination from our spaces. We now know that SILK is homophobic. That it discriminates. That it hates. We’ll take our ‘Pink’ Rupees and regular Rupees somewhere else; where our friends can walk in with short hair. And share a consensual kiss without being banned.
Yes, my spaces keep shrinking. My joy from dancing, sharing positive spaces is reducing; but I will work around that and keep making my spaces. Emma Goldman once said: “A revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having.”. I assure you I am dancing, challenging, living and loving