For our history paper at Christ University, our batch was to hold an exhibition with stalls that focused on social evils like child abuse, red tape, etc. hoping to raise awareness and starting important conversations. Six of my friends and I took up the issue we most strongly felt about – “Homophobia in India”.
What always bothered us the most was that the authorities, who are supposedly more ‘experienced’ and ‘sensible’, have only passed regressive and baseless statements regarding non-binary identities in the past. The government doesn’t have any anti-discrimination laws to protect the LGBTQ community. In fact, the lack of statistics regarding the LGBTQ community in itself talks about how in a ‘multicultural’ nation like ours, we still refuse to acknowledge their presence. On the other hand, my circle of friends (which consists mostly of 18-19-year-olds) as well as most people I interact with online (which are quite a lot), were constantly thinking of ways to achieve gender equality in our nation. I often wondered that if we are all a part of the same society, the same country, then how do we have such extreme stances on the same issue? Where do we stand on LGBTQ rights as a country? The process of putting up this stall answered this question for me.
Like every other stall in the exhibition, we had various charts and stats regarding our topic and initiated discussions with people who visited the stall. Members of our team made badges that said “Born This Way” with a rainbow coloured sperm made on the same. These were such a huge hit with the crowd that we saw people wearing them even after the exhibition was over.
We talked to the people who visited the stall about the lack of response to discrimination against people from the LGBTQ community, why this discrimination exists and what needs to be changed, among many other facets of the problem. We wanted to address the issue of religious institutions preaching the idea of homosexuality being a crime. However, after pondering about it for a while, we dropped the idea, since it would automatically offend a certain part of the audience. If people get offended, they just focus on getting offended without bothering to think about context and stop making attempts to understand a point, which would defeat the purpose of the stall. This made me realise that in everyday life too, most of us have to keep shut about our views that might offend anyone’s faith.
This made me realise that in everyday life too, it could be a good idea to keep opinions about other people’s faith to ourselves, lest we end up offending others.
Even then we made sure that there was a satirical theme to our stall. Jacqueline, a group member, cosplayed as a homophobic person, thus personifying homophobia in India. She portrayed an ignorant urban adult who knowingly or unknowingly (not that it makes a difference) subjects her own friends to discrimination based on their sexual orientation. This portrayal left a mark on the audience as it acted as a mirror to how brutal the world is to homosexual people.
Much to our delight, we received a positive response from most people who visited the stall. However, to no one’s surprise, there were a few people who were adamant on their stance on homosexuality being a ‘genetic disorder’, in spite of the many proofs and explanations we provided at the stall. We were aware that similar misconceptions have lead people to reach regressive and baseless conclusions and knew we would have to put up a fight to dispel them. But some people were so sure about their views, that they didn’t even bother to put up an argument in their defence; our efforts went in vain with these people. A faculty member commented on how homosexuality must not exist since homosexual couples can’t reproduce, and hence do not contribute to the society. Another person asked what would happen to the world if everyone would start ‘practising homosexuality’. We tried to explain to them how absurd both these statements were but weren’t shocked by these statements since absurdity has been reaffirmed time and again in our nation.
I often hear people question if these ‘small’ demonstrations and conversations make any impact? After the exhibition got over, when we saw some people who had argued against homosexuality earlier at the stall wearing the “Born This Way” badge with pride, I knew the answer to that question; we had been successful in our endeavour to make a difference. I realised that while many people do not understand something as basic as the need for equality, including the ‘authorities’, everyone has the potential to. The experience of putting up the stall has left me with the hope that while there is a long fight ahead, it is one that we can definitely win.