A Yangon man says he was a victim of a homophobic insult after a security guard at the popular reggae bar 7th Joint told him and his male companion to stop “hugging” each other one night last week. He later described the encounter in a Facebook post that attracted dozens of reactions before it was deleted.
The bar’s ownership maintains that it has no policies that target LGBT patrons and has apologized for the incident.
“It was my third time there,” the man who requested anonymity told Coconuts. “I went there with a friend of mine. We were hugging and dancing. Then, the security man came and stopped us.”
Speaking Burmese, the guard told the the 29-year-old partygoer: “Do not hug and dance with another man.” When he asked why not, the guard said: “You cannot hug and dance with another man here. It can be interpreted as not allowed.”
“His voice was hard, and he looked hostile,” he recounted.
When the guard was done scolding them, his companion, who is not a Myanmar national, tried to comfort him, saying: “Don’t worry about what he said.” But they still stopped hugging.
“I didn’t know if it was good idea to keep hugging, even though we still wanted to,” he told Coconuts. “If we did, it’s possible that we would get another hard talk, which would be quite embarrassing for us. So, we just left.”
Commenters on the now-deleted Facebook post assured him that there was nothing wrong with what he was doing, and that the guard was simply homophobic. He agrees with this analysis, pointing out that never before in his life had he ever been insulted in a bar or restaurant for his sexual orientation.
“It was very homophobic. It was insulting. Humiliating. Degrading to our human dignity,” he said.
Mario Ebanks, a co-owner of 7th Joint, says the incident may have been the result of the bar’s policy to discourage excessive public displays of affection.
“I don’t believe [they were doing] something so simple as hugging because I, for one, greet most people with a hug,” he told Coconuts. “I think [the guard was] trying to be careful because we have had a lot of complaints about groping on busy nights from both males and females, so we ask people to go in private if they want to get intimate.
“This policy applies to everyone, regardless of nationality, sexual orientation, or age,” he said. “This will not get you kicked out of the bar; [our staff] should only inform you of the policy.”
He went on: “I am very sorry if anyone was insulted because of their sexual orientation or any other reasons at the bar either by staff or other guests. This certainly is not our intention.”
While the 29-year old does not hold the bar’s owners responsible for the incident. However, he added: “I would definitely sue the guard if we had an anti-discrimination law here in Burma.”