As a 15-year-old, I understand that in India, discussing sex is taboo. That also implies, that discussing all things associated with sex are taboo, including sexual orientation. But why is that really?
In order to find some answers, and keep my reasoning as objective as possible, I conducted an online survey titled ‘Understanding Sexuality in India’. It was filled in by 200 people; 82% of whom were above the age of 18, out of which 79% answered “yes” to the following question: “Do you feel uncomfortable discussing sex, and issues related to sex with your parents?”
This wasn’t simply a “yes” or “no” question. The options available were: “yes”, “no”, “can’t say”, and “not always”. Such a large majority accepting that this is never okay sends out a very clear message – we’re not ready to talk about sex, sexual orientation, and how these issues affect our everyday lives.
Despite queerness being an idea prevalent in many faiths, including Hinduism, we’ve settled into our binaries. Call it the after-effects of colonisation, western influence, or a result of patriarchal value systems, the problem remains that we are uncomfortable with discussing sex, and even more uncomfortable with discussing sexual orientation.
It’s understandable why this concept is difficult for many to understand, or be willing to understand. We live in a world which enforces gender binaries on a daily basis. Pink for girls, blue for boys. Calling someone a “chhaka” as an insult. Boys don’t cry. Girls only cry. Fill out your father’s name when signing up for a competition. Don’t wear pink, it’s a girly colour. Your skirt is too short. Your hair’s too long. Dress ‘like a girl/boy’.
But that’s not the only problem.
If things are bad (because stereotypes and taboos are bad bad bad!) with the 18+ demographic, imagine how people would respond to a situation in which their 14 year old son wants to attend a celebration of the blurring of definite gender identities, and the versatility of sexual orientations – the Pride March.
For queer students, taking part in a Pride March is fraught with several impediments.
Firstly, showcasing your support for causes such as LGBTQIA+ empowerment tends to be seen as a reckless act of rebellion. It’s “just a phase“, they’re “just teenagers” are phrases often encountered. But what Indian society is (ironically) yet to understand is that attending a Pride event promotes a sense of community among individuals who are made to feel like outcasts in almost every other sphere of life. Every day is a celebration of heterosexuality. From the school you attend, to the movies you watch- they all include, discuss and even promote a heterosexual, cisgender way of life.
Secondly, Pride events tend to be very crowded, and usually require moving from one place to another by road. Add to that the interference of the authorities and a Pride event will automatically auto-correct to disaster in the minds of most Indian parents. Liberal as some may be, we’re referring to a group of individuals who hesitate to send their children via auto for tuition, five minutes away. So for them, Safety is a major concern.
The most significant impediment, however, remains the fear that Pride events will transform you into either a Social Justice Warrior (continuously whining about the injustices you suffer) or confuse you about your gender identity, leading to you deviating from the ‘norm’ – the biggest fear of most Indian parents.
I’m not making this up. I remember being asked “Why do you want to partake in these abnormalities?” by an adult, on requesting permission to attend a Pride event.
As a minor, for taking any initiative, two things are necessary – a willing party, and a supportive environment. We may be willing, but our environment dissuades us. And if the environment in itself is dissuasive, then think of the impact it has on budding enthusiasm for the cause. Not all supporters of differing gender identities voice their opinions. And even the ones who do, are silenced.
And hence, I am forced to believe that in their current state, Pride events are only for adults.
But, as those of the rainbow spirit will tell you, not all is lost!
There are several things that can be done to make the current situation better, I feel, and the first solution would be to increase the involvement of the LGBTQIA+ community in these matters. Measures to ensure that Pride events are conducted in a safe manner will certainly put to rest several worries parents have. This may also invite greater cooperation from authorities – be it your local Residents’ Welfare Association, or a school.
Secondly, we must encourage relevant bodies, such as Municipal Corporations, to support these events. Whether they agree with the premise of the event or not is separate – it is still a public gathering, being attended by minors as well as adults.
Lastly, the most effective public lobbies are created due to powerful moments, which start off as conversations. We need to talk more. We need to write more. We need to comment more. As individuals who believe in protecting human dignity, we have to spark off a nationwide conversation about the grave injustice being committed by banning this sort of expression. On behalf of those who have been silenced, we must seek to reclaim what belongs to us all. And that includes those of us not yet 18, but motivated to fight the good fight.