By Akshaj Awasthi and Shubhank Sharma for Nazariya LGBT:
“Queer”, according to Wikipedia, is an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual or cisgender. Queerphobia, on the other hand, is fear or hatred of queer people.
Queer kids and people all around the globe suffer from queerphobia at home, schools, colleges and workplaces on a daily basis. The largest democracy in the world, India, treats its queer community as a whole as criminals under the law. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code reinforces this and as a result, stigmatizes the community in the eyes of society. We are also marginalized by those who are in power or by those who have a voice. In fact, the whole state system works against the queer community.
Family is your default support system. Too many Indian parents are very conservative, but their ignorance about the queer community is on a whole different level. Most Indian kids never confide in their parents about their identity. Parents either blame their kid’s friends and the environment kids are exposed to or their lack of spirituality or simply consider it to be “just a phase”. It is, therefore, very important to sensitise your parents with patience.
They must be sensitized on the laws being passed, and developments and the behavioural shifts of societies around the world. Another way is to give them references about the existence and acceptance of queer people in the scriptures if they’re religious (like the “Ramayana” and the “Mahabharata” if they’re Hindu) so it becomes easier for them to comprehend how intertwined the community is with our society since time immemorial. They must be made aware that we are not ‘a plague’ brought by the colonial master, but rather a blessing — organic and wholly desi.
Expressing yourself at school and college is the most essential part of developing and learning as an individual. Trans and intersex kids especially need the freedom to express themselves or fulfil the right to be addressed as the gender they identify as. Bullying of queer kids and non-intervention by teachers/lecturers or the authorities in the matter is quite common. There are instances where the administration itself bullies and accuses the victim.
Bullying is because of cis-heteronormativity that is prevalent in the syllabus and lack of sensitisation of student peers, teachers, and the administration. The same can be achieved by introducing queer literature and texts with queer characters in the syllabus, or just by introducing gender-neutral toilets at schools and colleges.
Luckily, queer collectives in many institutions are playing a vital role through which kids can access support and services as well as participate in events that raise awareness and build a sense of inclusion on campuses. Queer networking between students living in the “posh” areas of metropolitan cities with the students of colleges in underprivileged locations has opened an unexplored new dimension of understanding and interaction and dismantling barriers.
Stereotypes are common in determining what job occupations queer individuals can occupy and policies similar to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” simply aggravate the already difficult situation. Poor representation or the invisibility of the queer community leads to a dearth of community members in the formal sector. People who are more visibly gender non-conforming face higher rates of discrimination at the workplace. This not only compels people to keep their identity undisclosed but also makes them the “invisible minority” at work. Ways to combat this include creating awareness in the community about harassment laws and the recent Right to Privacy judgement; establishment of queer employee support groups; and sensitisation and education of people at positions of power and administration.
All these may still not be able to address the root of the issue but perhaps they might help you as they’ve helped us. In a country that seeks to silence us, asserting our identity is a rebellious act that we must all do.