On September 6, 2018, in a historic judgement the Supreme Court of India read down the colonial law which criminalises the relationship between people of the same sex. It was historic not just because it gave a large community their fundamental right to love and privacy, but also because one of the judges made a significant comment about how history owes the LGBTQ community and their families an apology. After this historic judgement we saw our cities errupt into celebration by activists who fought against Section 377, and the members of the LGBTQ community, and rightly so. But in a small town in Assam where I live, we received this news with the usual uncaring attitude.
Though it’s not really fair to say that this attitude is characteristic of a small town, but as per my own observations, it’s tough to live in small towns as an LGBTQ person. I would like to highlight the story of someone I knew here. I had a friend and colleague who, after his father’s death, took on the role of a breadwinner and a caretaker to his old, widowed mother. He even sacrificed his budding career in the big city, as per his mothers wish.
He was a great guy, loving and caring. He remained friendly even to the people who would ridicule him behind his back, just because he was gay. In our workplace too the so-called educated people would not miss a chance to take a dig at him. Though it all happened behind his back, he knew all about it!
When he invited a few of his close friends, a few girls and only one guy, to his place for dinner, the guy didn’t show up. The next day, we asked him why he didn’t go. He said as he was the only guy there he didn’t want the other guys to think that he too was gay and there is something going on between them. We were baffled by this admission. My friend was so hurt by this, he left this job. We had not just taken away a person’s right to love. Most of the time, we deprive LGBTQ people from basic things like companionship, and offer them a dark lonely place in return.
We have no delusion that to have an equal status in society, the LGBTQ community has a long way to go. We know the people of our small town will not start behaving any differently after September 6. But the judgement the Supreme Court gave is a huge leap forward in creating the equal society we all deserve, yet still just dream about. And while an apology may sound insignificant, it may give hope and provide solace to many of those to whom we have done irrevocable damage. So, we apologise, my friends. May the world make space for you to be you, as you are.