The world would be so much more colourful if black and white weren’t the binaries we chose to live by. As time advances, we tend to comprehend and make sense of the world in binaries: day against night, silence against sound, whispers against shouts, and men against women. In all this, the grey is left unexplained. The grey is the nuances within binaries which question the formation of these binaries. We live in a world where the questioning of binaries is seen as transgressive because it can deconstruct the foundation on which our society is based.
Finding a place in Miranda isn’t difficult, at least not for a straight, middle class, North Indian, Hindu who can speak either one of the official languages fluently. The inclusiveness of its borders has not very often been called into question, but it has found itself struggling with accepting identities that are abhorred by the society for existing.
You look at Miranda House from a distance, and you feel that it has aged with grace. Had you told me there can be soft queerphobia in a college as inclusive as Miranda House when I came here, I would have doubted your stance, in fact, I would have rendered it baseless and why wouldn’t I? I am a straight, middle class, North Indian Hindu who can speak in both the official languages. Did you notice each word that I mentioned is, in fact, a marker of my privilege? A privilege that is made invisible by those in power (those who have privilege) and it becomes so imperceptible that we take it for granted as natural.
This isn’t really my story to tell. I am more of a medium than the narrator here. This is the history of Miranda House Queer Collective: it is the story of silenced voices that took to the stage with a loudspeaker. It is the story of Kabir Trivedi, a transgender man, a student of Miranda house who built a community inside a world. This is a story about the hard work of students who fought against a lax, conservative and rigid system. Claiming a space has always been difficult but Miranda’s proud walls have stories to tell about people who waged wars against the odds to make sure that the marginalised people for the batches to come don’t feel misplaced like they once did.
Kabir Trivedi, a student of Miranda House is an important subject of this narrative. It was his idea to build a community for the queer people and when MHQC was established in 2017, he became the head of the Queer Collective. According to Kabir the reason why he started MHQC was because he thought that most of the queer people in the college felt misplaced, he being one of them. The MHQC was a means of giving a platform, a voice to the queer community in Miranda House.
The MHQC is divided into MHQC and MHQCA. While the former involves the queer people who have come out, the latter is a platform for all the straight allies as well as those who are confused or closeted. However, they are both headed by the queer people because they don’t want the narrative of the QC to be overtaken by straight people. Tabassum, a member of the MHQC mentions how it has affected her life, “I personally became confident enough to come out to my best friend; it helped me find an identity. Earlier, there were queer people in college but there was no mechanism put in place to connect them with one another, and this is exactly what MHQC has achieved in the last one year.”
The journey of creating MHQC hasn’t been very smooth, it functions right now as an informal collective. Kabir says that “it’s been a constant battle with the administration since we started” and that they haven’t yet received the status of a formal society. At an event organized by Feminism India, Kabir said: “around 18% of 3500 students at Miranda House were either queer or questioning, but our college administration didn’t allow us to become a formal queer collective”. He further states that they rallied with the Principal for six months to get the society formalized, however, they were still denied permission on “legal grounds” but have not yet been told what the “legal grounds” are. However, the students, as opposed to the administration, have been very supportive towards MHQC.
The MHQC has had quite a few successful events and the biggest one was Kala aur Kranti which was in collaboration with Nazariya. The event took place at Lodhi Gardens where they had a compendium of performances by street theatre societies from across Delhi University, who were covering queer issues. The biggest inspiration for MHQC as Kabir puts it is Nazariya.
Nazariya LGBT is a grassroots intersectional alliance that was started in Kamla Nehru College and has since become an open society. They focus also on other social issues like gender inequality and caste. It has organized various protests and campaigns. However, building Nazariya LGBT wasn’t a piece of cake either. A member mentions how they didn’t receive any support from the administration and rejected their application on the grounds that it wasn’t a “cultural organization.” The students, on the other hand, believe that the prejudices associated with the LGBTQ+ community might have been the catalyst for the dismissal of their proposal.
The members also mention how difficult it is for a self-funded student organisation to work without any support from the administration. They have to generate their own funds for campaigns, workshops and speaker sessions, which is moiling and challenging for college students who have to maintain a balance between their studies and work.
It is enlightening to find college students fighting for the socially and culturally marginalised people in their college. Organisations like MHQC is important not just because it voices the repressed, or creates a safe space for them at least within the college but also because they were started, are run and controlled by the people for whom they work. Bureaucrats are the same everywhere; old, lax, average looking and indifferent to the demands of the people. In case of MHQC as correctly put forward by a member who refused to be named, “our college follows an approach of non-interference, it wouldn’t intervene in our events when we collaborate with different societies but wouldn’t openly support us either.”
It’s extremely disconsolate to know how little or no support is provided from the system to such organisations, which anyhow still function. However, on the brighter side of it, we have a large number of students coming out in support of such collectives and helping these become a success story.