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There Is A Need For LBGT Support Groups In Colleges, Here’s Why

By Jayaprakash Mishra:

Why do we need LGBT support groups in educational institutions?

lgbt

In an anonymous letter published in The 5th Estate, a student from IIT Madras recounting his tale writes:

“Homosexuality in college is purely an outlet of comic relief. You call someone gay, you say you’ll be ‘cool’ with it, because you’re oh-so-progressive, and you tease him with another guy (In fact homosexuality has become indispensable in today’s interaction sessions)…”

On a similar note, another student from IIT – Bombay, under the pseudonym of ‘H’ ruminating on his difficulties during the initial days in the institute writes:

“And so I chose the path of aloofness. Under the pretence of being a muggu, and having no desire for human company, I sought refuge in the Institute library all through my fresher year, scrupulously avoiding nearly all social contact.”

As an IIT Delhi alumnus, Balachandran Ramiah, Mechanical Enginnering, B.Tech., class of 1982, recalls his difficulties of being closeted, and the unavailability of a peer group in the following words:

“It was true, however, that I used to feel extremely isolated and lonely, as I could not relate to the other boys’ interest in girls, their small talk, and I could not share my feelings with anybody. I was also not aware of any other gay student on campus, or in my class (I am sure that they were there, but everybody was in the closet and hiding)…”

(Fortunately, today IIT – M has Mitr, IIT – B has Saathi, and IIT – D has Indradhanu, the LGBT support groups and counselling cells, which ensure that such stories are not repeated, and students, irrespective of their sexual orientation, enjoy their stay on the campus.)

I am sure that these personal narratives can put anybody under emotional stress, and make any sensible person put on his thinking cap. So, what do we see here? Have we deliberately chosen to close our eyes towards educational institutions, when it comes  to one of the most important aspect of our lives – our sexuality? Why is it a big deal to talk about sexuality in educational institutions? Now, I can almost hear some people grumbling, “Why at all should we talk about it?”

‘Don’t these narratives answer the question well?’

So, with these narratives from some of the premier institutes of India, (I am sure this is just a tip of the iceberg) can I take the liberty to say that the alternative sexuality community in educational institutions are stigmatised?

What is stigma?

Stigma, as we understand, can be loosely categorised under the following headings – prejudice, stereotype, and discrimination. Our films are replete with examples of homosexual stereotypes, e.g., portrayal of gay men as sissy designers, and lesbians as butch psycho killers. People who are prejudiced endorse negative stereotypes. Similarly, discrimination is negative actions against a certain stereotyped individual or group, which can make a troublesome impact on them, limiting the quality of life and opportunities for those who are open and out, about their alternative sexuality status.

Strategies for changing public stigma on campus:

There is no gainsaying the fact that there is no hard and fast, magic-wand method to make the public stigma disappear, either through a legal framework, or by public policy. Since the problem pertains more to society, the strategies of dealing with public stigma have to be more social in nature. Public stigma can be encountered by three major strategies: protest, education, and contact.

Protests:

Any discrimination against any individual belonging to the LGBT community should be brought to the attention of the support group/counselling cell. Healthy protests can happen at two different levels; firstly, by economic boycott, and secondly, by putting the perpetrator (can range from an individual to a system) to shame through nonviolent protest.

Case in point is the petition against the reinstatement of Act 377 of the IPC by the Supreme Court from the teachers, students, and staff of the different IITs. A simple candle march or a public meeting with placards in solidarity with the stigmatised individual or group can certainly make a difference.

But, protesting has its own problems. There are possibilities of attitude rebound, whereby, people can often be seen saying, ‘don’t tell me what I should do, and what I should not’. Thus, protests may help in diminishing the negative attitude amongst the people, but fail to instill positive attitudes supported by facts and information. So, it is not just about protests, but also disseminating information amongst the masses as well as educating them on the LGBT issues, as these are equally important.

Education:

The biggest task that education, which may not  necessarily be formal education performs is that it replaces myths with facts. There are myths galore associated with homosexuality (it is a disease and is not natural), which should be replaced by facts (it is natural, and not a disease, courtesy – American Psychiatric Association, which dropped homosexuality from the list of mental diseases in the DSM).

On a larger scale, it has been seen that people who attend small educating sessions on issues like homosexuality are less likely to endorse stigma and discrimination. In educational institutions, short-term/semester-long courses on gender and sexuality should be offered. This will offer students a scope for discussing and debating the LGBT issues in a formal, academic set up. However, on a  smaller scale and informal level, screening of queer themed movies, inviting academicians and activists for talks, distributing flyers, encouraging people to write and publish on queer issues in the institute’s magazine and newsletter, will help in dispelling myths, and in widening the world view of the people on the campus.

However, the magnitude and the duration of the positive effect of education are limited and short-lived. Sometimes, it is also related to the prior knowledge of the person as well as his or her preparedness to receive the disseminated knowledge.

Contact:

The third and, probably, the most effective way to diminish the stigma of the general public is to facilitate the interaction between the members of the stigmatised group and the general public.

Celebrities coming out (unfortunately, iconic figures with possibly homosexual orientation in India, prefer not to openly declare it either), casts its own positive effect on the people. However, if somebody ‘just like me’ comes out to the public as a homosexual, it casts a larger as well as a deeper impact on both the closeted as well as the heterosexual students. Significant improvement in the attitude of the people can be seen by the actions of somebody in the neighbourhood they can relate to, and the students are less likely to endorse prejudiced and discriminatory attitudes towards the LGBT community.

Contact requires immense courage to come out, which also has its own setbacks in the educational institutes that pertain more to the heteronormative mind-sets and act in a homophobic fashion. One has to be very particular about one’s safety, financial independence, availability of a support system, and support from the family before deciding to come out. (Though not a fool proof coming-out guide, this may still help those in need.)

All of us, irrespective of our gender and sexuality, certainly deserve a healthy, stress free, and non-discriminatory educational environment, where our budding talents can come to fruition naturally. One has all the right to seek access to a safe space, where one can just be oneself without actually having to pretend to be someone else.

You must be to comment.
  1. Ducard

    Homosexuals cannot procreate, so they can never have their own children – That is unnatural. And if they adopt, their children will either have two dads or two moms – That is unnatural. Gays can only satisfy their sexual desire through anal sex – That is unnatural. (I am sure you don’t need me to tell you that the anus is not designed for penile penetration). I have nothing against homosexuals, but it is natural to question the unnatural. In movies, blogs, and the media, homosexuality is being ‘normalised’ so that we get used to abnormality.

    Of course, nothing abnormal comes without a hidden feminist agenda:

    “Heterosexual intercourse is the pure, formalized expression of contempt for women’s bodies.” – Andrea Dworkin

    “Feminism is the theory, lesbianism is the practice.” – Ti-Grace Atkinson

    I became a lesbian because of women, because women are beautiful, strong, and compassionate – Rita Mae Brown

    “When a woman reaches orgasm with a man she is only collaborating with the patriarchal system, eroticizing her own oppression.” – Sheila Jeffrys

    “All sex, even consensual sex between a married couple, is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman.” – Catherine MacKinnon

    1. Chill

      What about infertile couples? They can’t procreate either so is their union considered unnatural too?

      “Anal sex is unnatural”
      Yet God put a mass of pleasurable nerves in mens’ asses. Nothing unnatural about that.

      “their children will either have two dads or two moms – That is unnatural”
      Actually longitudinal studies show that children of lesbian parents tend to perform better academically and have higher self esteem than their peers belonging to heterosexual parents. Nothing unnatural about that either.

    2. Ducard

      – Infertile couples are an exception. And many infertile couples do end up having biological children.
      – Pleasure lies in the sexual organs, not in the ass. What a sorry excuse to promote homosexuality.
      – Which study? Please provide it instead of making baseless claims.

    3. Roh

      Some facts for you
      1. There are thousands of animal species which show homosexual behaviour.
      2. A large percentage of heterosexual women (myself included) desire other females physically. Which is why the most searched videos by female porn viewers is ‘lesbien sex’.
      3. Homosexual couples can’t procreate. Think of this as a natural way of controlling the population, which we desperately need.

      Let them be.

    4. Ducard

      1. Some animals eat their own shit. That must also be normal.
      2. Lesbian sex is searched by heterosexual men.
      3. You can control the population by using a condom.

    5. Roh

      1. Human beings are also animals. If eating our own shit was normal for us, we would. But since homosexuality is observed among humans what’s your point? Some studies show that it may be genetic as well (it may, not confirmed)
      2. Statistics show otherwise. Just search the porn statistics on pornhub if you can
      3. I think we both know the dangers of a broken condom.

    6. Chill

      People who think gays are disgusting are scientifically more likely to have issues with their own sexuality and attractions to the same sex. In a recent experiment they were even more turned on by gay porn than the average population. So everyone on this thread expressing hate for these two boys……we know you’re covering up for your own insecurities…the jig is up. 😉

  2. swati srivastava

    Mr ducard and green lantern, There is also something called LOVE which i highly doubt you know because you both full of hate. Who will decide what is normal and abnormal, you or god? God made them this way its not their fault but what you both are doing is your fault. Ducard, if you have nothing against homosexuality then why it bother you. Let them be. Don’t judge them and that is what they want.
    Alan Turing one of the great crypt analyst, mathematician and computer genius who made decipher machine during second world war and save thousands of live have to commit suicide because of people like you. During riot many transgender save people. Ellen degeneres who is a great comedian, who bring smile on thousands of people herself have to go through depression because of society.
    These LGBT people does more for society and people what you have done besides criticizing everyone.

    1. Ducard

      How do you know God made them that way? Are you God? This is not about love or hate. It is about trying to normalize something which is perverse, sick, twisted, demented, disgusting, and degrading. Do what you want in your bedroom, with whoever you want, just don’t come to me begging for its acceptance.

    2. swati srivastava

      how do you know god doesn’t made them this way? No one is asking for your acceptance all they want is to shut your mouth and stop bullying them. What these people done for society you can never done in your life so shut up and let them live.

    3. Ducard

      I am strongly against bullying anyone.

      Please enlighten me on what they have done for society. Just curious.

    4. swati srivastava

      read my previous post and if you are strongly against bullying then why you are bullying everyone

    5. Ducard

      You are bullying others by trying to force them to accept homosexuality as normal. Please do not force it down my throat. Thank you.

    6. swati srivastava

      Gay bullying and gay bashing are expressions used to designate verbal or physical actions that are direct or indirect in nature by a person or group against a person who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), or of questionable Sexual orientation, or one who is perceived to be so, because of rumors or fitting gay stereotypes.
      Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

  3. Chill

    “Heterosexuality has preserved and prolonged culture, tradition, and humans.”
    Lol yes let’s talk about Kim Kardashian’s marriage that ended after 72 hours. Really beautiful to see how heterosexual couples are upholding the sacred sacrament of matrimony.

    1. Ducard

      That is an exception.

  4. Meera

    I dont htink MiTr is a support group for LGBTQ students. The resource and support group for LGBTQ in IITM is Vannam. Though Vannam is not as active as it ought to be. I would like to specifically state that Mitr has not done anything yet for gender and sexual minorities in campus.

    1. JP

      Thanks for the Information.

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