Are There Safe Public Spaces Where Queer People Can Go To Relax? Yes, And Delhi Has Two!

While considerable progress has taken place in the area of advocacy and interventions around vulnerable communities, even today, there is significant stigma and discrimination against the LGBTQ community in public places in our society.

Not many places welcome the community without being judgemental or perhaps even just looking askance. Other than a few branded spaces such as bars and dating portals, there are very few leisure and lifestyle spaces where the community can safely enjoy a meal, a drink, or, perhaps, even a dance. However, even in this negligible space, there are two lodestars—Big Fat Sandwich and the ‘Q’ Café in Delhi, both of which promise to welcome the community with no prejudices.

Big Fat Sandwich (BFS) is a 3-year-old eatery which offers snacks, soft beverages, and freshly baked cakes. Situated in the heart of Hauz Khas market, the café catches the eye with a dramatic rainbow flag pasted on the entrance. While Delhi houses thousands of restaurant, only a few display the courage and spirit to whole-heartedly welcome queer people.

By placing the rainbow flag on its door, the café fulsomely supports the fight for LGBTQ rights and recognizes the need for safe spaces,” Siddhartha Kharbanda, Director of the chain, told me.

Big Fat Sandwich has massive artworks displayed on the walls, all of which are iterations of the rainbow flag. Across the world, the rainbow flag demonstrates inclusion, whether it’s a 40 feet display or a tiny sticker on the door of an establishment. It demonstrates some truisms–that queer people are welcome here and this is a safe place.

In that, and given its heavenly aromas, bubbling brews and effervescent conversations, BFS is an ideal place.

On the other hand, the first-of-its-kind in Delhi, Q Café (Q stands for Queer), was conceptualised by the queer rights activist Sambhav Sharma and chef Jerome, an expert in French and Indian cuisines, back in October 2016. “The motto of running this café is to provide a safe and relaxing space to everyone including those who fall outside the man-woman binary and struggle to find spaces accepting of their ‘other’ status,” shared Jerome.

A regular visitor, Priyanka says, “I come here with my gay and bisexual friends. This is the only public place where I get a chance to see them coming out of their closet and express themselves the way they want without fearing prejudices.”

In fact, people feel comfortable working at the café even if they don’t belong to the LGBTQ community. Bhimsen, a server who works at the café, told me that he enjoys his work and adores the fact that people from all sexual orientations, cultures, and communities come here and make up the essence of this place.

Ushering in a palpably fresh change, these two cafés, in their own way, are helping to generate awareness around the need for equal rights and safe spaces for the LGBTQ community. There is a need for a collective effort to strengthen the voice against the stigma and discrimination against the LGBTQ community and help them secure a safe space to express themselves freely. More spaces like Q café and Big Fat Sandwich, we hope, will help in strengthening this connect.
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