I AM A PARTY GIRL.
I love my alcohol and I love to let my hair down and let my body surrender to club bangers. Being a trans babe, I use the M.A.D. pill (Music, Alcohol, and Dance) as a quick fix to my dysphoria. It allows me to access my femininity and feel comfortable in my skin. Earlier, I would shut myself in the bedroom and dance in front of the mirror. I grew resilient with time, seeking inspiration from indomitable cis and trans women and the drag and gender non-conforming community, be it my grandma who, at 86, never skips her Zumba sessions or Nicki Minaj and her patriarchy-can-kiss-my-ass twerking. Be it the awe-inspiring acrobatics of the ‘my-body-my-choice’ black and Latina strippers or the fierce drag queens from the RuPaul universe and their go-hard-or-go-home lip-syncs-for-your-lives. I eventually opened up to the idea of dancing in public spaces, no longer shying away from swaying my hips or shaking that ass when I hit the dance floor!
I realized expressing oneself freely in the public sphere whether through dance or any other medium for that matter, can be a complicated for gender and sexual minorities. The public sphere in India continues to be dominated by cis and heterosexual men. Their toxic and predatory masculine gaze threatens to control, scrutinize, sexualize, objectify, stereotype, mock, prohibit, and destroy us and our desires. It pervades in most of the existing institutions – religious, academic, political, or corporate. Even recreational spaces like bars and clubs are no different, be it the shady inexpensive pub you’ve always been warned of or the high-end talk-of-the-town nightlife spot you’ve saved up your hard-earned money for.
I was subjected to discrimination and witnessed exploitation first hand when I visited Café Mambo, part of Tito’s chain of popular nightlife spots located by the beachside in Goa. My friend-cum-colleague and I were in town for three days and we decided to explore Goa’s nightlife. Before going the club, we had stopped at a shack where I was pleasantly surprised to find our server recognizing my gender identity without me having to spell it out. My joy was short-lived on reaching Café Mambo though; the security guards at the club seemed confounded by my appearance and referred to me as ‘sir’ throughout the pat down.
Anyway, when we entered the darkened but crowded room, we noticed more women in the crowd compared to men and felt somewhat relieved. However, within ten minutes itself, my companion began feeling uncomfortable by a row of men standing in one corner who seemed to be ogling at the womenfolk. To avoid a confrontation, we rationalized, ‘At least they are not getting physical’, and chose to ignore them.
In the center of the dance floor, there was a narrow podium with a pole which caught my attention. Three to four women were cavorting around it, and they were surrounded by (guess what!) a bunch of evidently thirsty men with lust on their countenance. I’ve always longed to dance on the pole, finding it a mysterious and inviting space that tantalizes my inner femininity like no other. So I edged towards the podium once, twice, thrice… my desire intensifying each time. Each time I would get cold feet thinking how the cis-heterosexual males in that space would react to my presence among the cis-women. So I decided to cheer from the sidelines. My fourth time near the podium, however, one of the girls invited me to join them. That’s it! The M.A.D pill took complete effect and I immediately climbed onstage throwing caution to the wind.
THIS PARTY GIRL WAS ON FIRE.
And then, suddenly, a bouncer rushed to the podium and signaled me to immediately get off stage. ‘No this is MY time’, I argued. He didn’t budge, an extended one hand to pull me down – just me, not the cis-girls. I finally chose to get off before the man could touch me, feeling humiliated by the experience. Both my friend and I stormed out of the club and approached the management. Their response was brief and cutting, ‘Even other men were not permitted’. The M.A.D pill’s effect wore off instantly and my dysphoria kicked in big time.
The club had invalidated my femininity because it did not conform to cis-heteronormative and patriarchal expectations. Worst of all, I WAS CONSIDERED THE THREAT. Not the men who leched after women and made them uncomfortable, who had no real appreciation for femininity and treated woman as mere sex objects. They faced little to no repercussions. The management just couldn’t risk that. After all, it’s a man’s world and its toxic predatory masculine gaze has to control, scrutinize, sexualize, objectify, stereotype, mock, prohibit, and destroy us and our desires.
This incident has fomented the activist and the fighter in me, not just for the trans community, but also for ALL gender and sexual minorities. We need to call out the hypocrisies that exist in our society, particularly within so-called ‘elite’ and ‘urban’ spaces like Café Mambo. Even if it means missing out on ‘one of the best nights of your life’ or avoiding the freebies of ladies’ night.
THIS PARTY GIRL WILL NEVER DANCE TO CIS-HETERONORMATIVITY AND PATRIARCHY.
AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU.