It seems not all was “hella good” at the No Doubt concert on Jun 16 at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre (ACC). Lesbian couple Iman Kassam, 25, and Sasha Bricel, 23, say they were pushed apart by security guards and told to stop showing affection after “kissing once or twice” in between band sets.
“I was so caught off guard and in complete shock because I didn’t even know what they were talking about,” says Bricel. “It’s not like I thought I was doing anything wrong.”
Bricel says she believes she and Kassam were singled out because they’re queer. “If this was a straight couple, this would never ever be happening,” she says.
But Bob Hunter, ACC’s executive vice president of venues and entertainment, says the issue is not sexual orientation but sexual expression, period.
“I might dispute the fact that if it was a heterosexual couple and it was offensive to other fans [that] we wouldn’t have done exactly what we did,” says Hunter.
“We take great pride in trying to determine what is the proper decorum and we ask that of our fans and patrons. If it is a crowd that is not offended by that sort of thing then I think we would be much more conducive to let it happen but because we had a complaint we had to address it.”
Bricel says she was told by security that other concertgoers were complaining that the couple’s behaviour was inappropriate because there were children in the audience at the all-ages event. But Bricel argues the kids’ presence means their public display of affection was even more important because it served as a positive, normalizing example of same-sex relationships.
“They should be seeing this,” says Bricel, “because it’s a normal thing to be gay and people who are gay shouldn’t be ostracized.”
Both Kassam and Bricel have posted notes to their Facebook profiles to bring attention to the incident, which they say was a violation of their human rights. Although the couple hasn’t yet filed an application with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in connection to the incident Bricel says she plans to do so. Kassam has also created an online petition demanding a formal apology from ACC and calling for sensitivity training to be implemented for all its security employees.
Hunter admits that although ACC security staff is trained to treat attendees with “respect and dignity and general customer service” they receive no queer sensitivity training.
He adds that Kassam’s online petition doesn’t tell the whole story of their interaction with ACC security that night.
“The same security guard [who told them to stop kissing] found these women earlier in a restricted area,” he says. “So this was the second time these two particular women had to be addressed by security staff which conveniently was left out of their story.”
Bricel counters the restricted area “was just a bathroom. It was just like in a hall and we didn’t know it was restricted. There was no sign that said it was restricted.”
She says the experience has made her passionate about preventing others from enduring similar experiences.
“This was an epic moment for me,” says Bricel, “because I’ve been out for two years and then that was the moment I guess I really had to feel like I was doing something wrong when I was just being myself.”