It is a chilly evening in the suburbs of Bengaluru, and Ravi strolls with me in a heavily crowded street wearing a blue cardigan along with a raffish scarf. On chatting with him for a bit I come to know that Ravi, like most young urban Indians, loves Harry Potter and Lady Gaga, can name New York’s landmarks and aspires to go to college abroad. Yet Ravi, a smart, tall man with soft features, lives a secret life that isn’t ‘normal’ for most Indians.
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, deems any sexual intercourse, other than the conformist ‘straight’ procreation as being against the order of nature and makes it punishable by life imprisonment. As a result, most people who identify as queer live ‘in the closet’, a condition that is described by leading psychologists as being “an extremely unpleasant position that leads to individuals feeling isolated, frustrated and consistently angry”. Despite of a plethora of initiatives and efforts to normalise queerness in India, any concrete progress in this direction is yet to be made as fluid sexuality continues to be taboo in our country, even on the most progressive media outlets like Facebook, which recently received flak from the global LGBTQ community for not releasing its Pride Reacts to countries lacking LGBTQ security.
Treesa, student of Christ University, Bannerghatta Road campus, who’s an openly queer individual, says that despite college being a “comforting” space, the fact “that outside college, the situation isn’t as accepting and that you may be killed on the street for being openly queer and your murderers will probably get away with it because of the religious institutions that back them” terrifies her.
Treesa’s fears are not unfounded as globally, hate crimes against LGBTQ people have increased tremendously, especially in the past year. Chechnya’s autocratic leader got nothing from global leaders but a rap on the knuckle for rounding up, torturing and possibly killing LGBTQ people in Nazi-like detention camps. A 29-year-old radical security guard in the United States, took the lives of 49 people in Orlando, in one of the US’s most gruesome act of terrorism against the LGBTQ community.
One might ask oneself what is going wrong for the LGBTQ people of India. The answer to that very important question is that despite umpteenth Pride Parades happening in almost every metropolitan of the nation, they fail to garner mass visibility and are now considered routine and not viewed as liberating celebrations of an oppressed people.
The problem doesn’t limit to lack of representation but also pans out to a huge amount of gross misrepresentation. An example of this is the common Indian belief that queer men are supposed to be feminine and queer women supposed to be butch, an idea that has been ingrained by years of homophobic misrepresentation in Bollywood cinema.
In addition to this, there is a complete lack of legislation or even parliamentary discourse on the issues surrounding LGBTQ rights, transgender discussions being a pertinent exception. All this has resulted in the formation of a pseudo-progressive society that claims to be avant-garde but still recoils a bit at the knowledge or sight of a queer person.
We, the youth, can spearhead the inclusion of the members of the LGBTQ community into our society. For this, we need to make sure we do not trivialise sexuality. It’s no more taboo than issues like pregnancy or love marriage which were “hush hush” in the past but are not so now.
Try creating a safe space around you so that people who might be closeted may gain the confidence of speaking up to you and coming out. If they do come out, be supportive and accepting. Don’t sympathise or feel unsure of their relationship with you. If you’re the same sex as them, do not assume that they might be attracted to you just because they are queer. Understand that queer persons are no more susceptible to lascivious acts or desires than straight persons.
Sexuality is not a trivial subject. It defines a person on multiple levels. Sexual rights are human rights as well. Just like we fight against child marriage, rape, the selling away of daughters, slavery and polygamy, all for the people’s right to live the way they want, we have to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ community.
Love is love and we do not have any legitimate basis to look down upon let alone compare the special bond shared by two people, not only irrespective of their caste and class but also irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender
This Pride month, try and invoke pride, not shame.