By Omnl Chow:
Journeys on metro trains are always interesting and harassing in new ways. From cold gazes and warm sweaty hands wanting to grab my skin, to inquisitive minds and fingers that pull on my hair – my entire body, for most of the eyes in the compartment, is a fascinating biological and social question. One that is wrong and disgusting, one that is worth-exploring, one that is different, creepy and undefined, one that doesn’t fit their normative traditions and cultures – but at the same time, appears bold and shameless. And somehow, this shamelessness seems to mean that bodies like (but not limited to) mine are overtly sexual bodies.
This relationship between shame and sexuality translates into misinformation, stereotypes and skewed attitudes towards people under the LGBTQIA+ banner. It’s funny how when it comes to queerness, there is both misinformation and a simultaneous complete lack of information! I feel that there is no room for conversation around identities that do not fit the ‘normative’ – and through this silence, the oppression is deepened, which often leads to depression.
Across our histories and pasts, people have made arguments about how we are all equally human – and these arguments have paved the way for better representation, and maybe the accommodation of different ideas, opinions and expressions, only to a certain extent. But, it is not all that simple. The stigma associated with being LGBTQIA+ is deep-rooted. Our identities challenge the fundamental unit of society – the family. The box of heteronormativity is something that we as a society keep intact, because acceptable gender norms provide us with some privileges that help us manoeuvre our everyday lives.
We need to realise how individuals, different or same, are still equal. We need to respect people’s personal choices that don’t generate any kind of violence. We need to talk about the kind of discrimination LGBTQIA+ individuals face on an everyday basis, and what effects this has on them.We need to create open, and if possible, safe spaces, where such individuals can come together and talk about personal struggles and the need for support groups.
We need to stand up against this right-wing hyper-masculine brigade – which wants to suppress those who are already suppressed and also wants to make criminals of consenting adults of the same sex who love each other. We need people to not care about ‘random people’ and their opinions. We need to be more inclusive as a society and as a community to accommodate as many people, identities and ideas as we can. We need to talk and we need to question!
The current scenario is bad – many people are being killed, raped and discriminated in the name of political agendas, religious beliefs and ‘culture’. More visibly, many LGBTQIA+ people, especially ‘trans’ identifying people, experience discrimination that’s so serious that they are often denied employment, accommodation, entry to public places and more. The constitutional recognition of the ‘third gender’ sounds progressive only on paper – such legislations and amendments have almost no effect on how people choose or think.
Another related, important – and yet, the most neglected issue – is that of mental health. Often, we never know what to do, what to say or whether to say anything at all, when personally confronted with such situations. We don’t talk about it and we don’t learn about it. I think we can learn from such experiences by putting ourselves in their position, and by trying to feel what the situation could have made them feel. On the other hand, there are times when it’s better not to try this at all, because certain situations might be beyond our imaginations. But dealing with mental health in a sensitive and comforting way is very essential.
Even while we lack good information about these issues, ‘gender’, ‘sexuality’, and ‘mental health’ are now ‘hip issues’ in popular media. Many people want to write on these topics – and often, without reading up or knowing about them. These representations perpetuate outdated attitudes and misconceptions – and many a time, corporate organisations mint profits by superficially appearing to support a cause, while oppressing a different community to do so! This is their hypocrisy. This is our hypocrisy.
Popular representations of queer identities seem to give people the license to assume people’s sexual orientation/identity/interests by reading their gender expression, which is absolutely bizarre. Even as I type this, I’m busy scrolling through Facebook, looking at the profiles of people I know and people I knew in school. All that these faces remind me of is the bullying and commenting I faced in school and the hurt I felt. All of this leads me to think that we have to start talking about queer identities, about mental well-being and empathy from the school level itself.
All we need to do is initiate thinking and questioning about what society has to offer, and create an open and sensitive environment for the marginalised and the oppressed to voice themselves.
The author is a TYPF Peer Educator and Youth Advocate.
The YP Foundation’s KYBKYR campaign 2.0 is a continuation of the Know Your Body, Know Your Rights campaign that we ran in 2010–2011. KYBKYR 2.o focuses on the need for young people to have access to sexual and reproductive health and rights information that is fact-checked, evidence based, and sex-positive. The campaign provides resources that assist young people to advocate for access to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) with the decision-makers and authority figures in their lives, including family members, teachers, and administrators in educational institutions.
This post was originally published on www.theypfoundation.org.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.