As a queer woman, it’s safe to say that publicly announcing my involvement with the LGBTQ community is only a threat in India. Though it brings me a great sense of identity, it also scares me quite a bit to be so loud about it, because I’ll never be sure of the consequences.
Bars, clubs, restaurants or hotels, I always feel like I should hide this part of myself because it isn’t safe to let go of it yet, which shouldn’t be the case, but that’s exactly what happened to Indrajeet Ghorpade.
Indrajeet and his partner were denied entry at a pub in Hyderabad because of their sexuality, the staff treated them as outsiders and offered them drinks in disposable cups, the authorities humiliated them in public and the bouncers were non corporative. Following this incident, Indrajeet reached out to more people to understand their experience and realized it was a common practice for that pub.
India has always been full of homophobic undercurrents in most areas, from treating people who are from the LGBT community in an outright disrespectful manner to making them a mere punchline on screen. The discrimination has always been obvious and degrading. Even after the recent overruling of Section 377, that criminalized acts of homosexuality, the country still has a lot more social change and acceptance to put itself through.
Taking into consideration his friends experiences and his own, Indrajeet reached out to Zomato to ask for a feature that allows people to view LGBT friendly pubs, cafes, and hotels. He suggested it was the only way to make public spaces safe spaces for outed and closeted gay people, considering that his effort to persuade restaurants to modify their existing discriminatory policies had failed.
Zomato has tie-ups with almost all of the cities eateries associated with it, pushing them to curate LGBT friendly spaces would only benefit them. Even then, Indrajeet didn’t hear from Zomato for six months after he voiced his concerns, so he took his plea further and created a petition on change.org for Zomato to take appropriate action.
The petition caught the attention of many LGBTQ individuals and allies who not only went ahead and signed the petition but also shared similar experiences, after a lot of pressure from this end, Zomato finally promised to release an LGBTQ+ friendly tag for most restaurants.
After a while of back and forth, Zomato has finally released the tag.
A lot of restaurants are on board, keeping with the authenticity of the tag. Though the tag has been taken up, some restaurants have no idea of its implementation, they have just blindly picked up the tag. Those that haven’t adopted the tag yet, stick with their view that they are anti-discriminatory but opt not to pick up the tag.
In addition to the tag, Zomato has made a conscious effort on their blog to educate and encourage Indian restaurants, cafes, and bars to be welcoming of people’s sexual orientations and to make everyone feel safe in the space that they provide for public recreation.
After the implementation of the tag, Indrajeet stated that - “With time, there were lesser instances of such discrimination as several restaurants started adapting to the tag and made sure it came into practice. However, the social media teams and other teams of the same restaurants were not aware of it,” he also added that - “Most companies would deny accepting such a practice under them. However, we have been extremely grateful to Zomato for taking up responsibility and also acting effectively.”
The new tag has been of great help to me and my friends, we just look under the tag to figure out a place we can go to and not feel the need to hide our identities or shelter our realities. It may not fix homophobia and there may be a lot of change to go through, but this small act of making public spaces safe for LGBTQIA individuals is a huge success for our day to day lives.