By Shashank Sinha:
LGBT is an abbreviation for “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” peoples. In fact its range has widened to incorporate all people having non-heterosexual tendencies. The community was originally intended to signify a diversity of “sexuality and gender identity based cultures”, and to advocate the rights of its members. However, a lot of stigma has been attached with this group and even today being its member is considered a sign of disgrace.
Not only in India, but throughout the world being a non-heterosexual has many repercussions. In about 80 countries around the globe, homosexuality is illegal by law. In Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and various other countries, homosexual acts are punishable by death. Criminalization of homosexuality remains strong in more than half the countries in Africa.
Even in countries where it is legal, negative attitude towards the members of the LGBT community is order of the day. They face huge discrimination in social and political fields, and are subjected to widespread lampooning. Most of the members end up living a lonely and isolated life. Cases of suicides are common among these people with unusual sexual orientation.
In India, although article 377 was repealed 2 years ago, not much has improved. The affected section of the society stills feels insecure to come out in the open, for the fear of being neglected and ostracized. Not only the person concerned, but his entire family suffers from the stigma. They have to bear the ire of the dogmatic, insular society, which is trained to accept homosexuals as untouchables.
Homophobia is the term used to describe the fear of the homosexual, or the social ideologue which stigmatizes the LGBT. Strong religious beliefs, which severely disapprove of homosexuality is the most pertinent reason which causes people to be homophobic. This, together with the fact that we hardly have contact with individuals who are openly gay or lesbian, is what makes ‘straight’ people apprehensive.
There are many ways in which people belonging to LGBT community experience homophobia in everyday life, like malicious gossip, name calling, intimidating looks, vandalism and theft of property, sexual assault etc. All forms of homophobia are harmful, not only for the people who are openly living as LGBT, but for the society as a whole.
While living in a homophobic society, people tend to conceal their true identity for the fear of repercussions. Brought up with a mindset that disparages homosexuals, the realization that they might be one themselves leads to feeling of guilt and self-loathing. Concealing once sexual inclination involves concealing a significant part of our identity, and can lead to distress and depression among the protagonist.
Then there’s the fear of facing prejudice and discrimination from family and friends. Many people become homeless because of being rejected by their family members, after revealing their sexual orientation. The LGBT community is also the most affected by HIV/AIDS. The stigma and discrimination prevent the people from acquiring required HIV prevention treatment and care service.
For the LGBT people to survive in such an environment, they must challenge the prevailing views of sexuality and gender, and ultimately realize that they are excessively narrow. Instead of feeling shameful and misrepresented, they must grow to learn that the established ideas are just plain wrong.
Homophobia must be effectively tackled by addressing the prejudiced attitude, and discriminations in all areas of society. Laws against homosexuality should be revoked by the government of each country. Education has a huge role to play in removing the stigma associated with LGBT. Sufficient awareness programs should be held at school and college levels, to make the people aware that being a homosexual is not a diseased condition. Through active campaigning via different electronic mediums, a proper environment should be set up, where people feel free to come out and express their sexuality.
Also stereotyping of gays and lesbians, as broadcasted in movies and soaps, should be stopped. All this will encourage societies to embrace the diversity of different sexualities. Eradicating homophobia is essential for improving the quality of life for LGBT people, promoting fundamental human rights and preventing the spread of HIV.