Too much blood has flown from the wrist,
Of the children shamed for those they chose to kiss.
The Supreme Court of India read down the archaic section 377 of the Indian Penal Court in the year 2018. September 6, 2018 was a day when 10% of the Indian population tasted victory after a long battle and celebrated. The verdict was a landmark in queer movement and a step on the long journey of declaring the LGBTQ+ Indians as full citizens of the country.
On July 2, 2019, a 19-year-old boy named Avinshu Patel committed suicide in Chennai because of homophobic bullying. On June 27, 2019, a 25-year-old MBA graduate ended his life because of the constant homophobic attitude of his workmates. Recently on May 12, 2020, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Anjana Hareesh, who identified as bisexual, hanged herself to death in Goa due to the horrors of the conversion therapy that her family had forced her into to turn her straight.
These are just few of the many instances where queer people have lost their lives or have been driven to commit suicide due to the widespread homophobia they face in their daily lives.
Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia have permeated every space from schools to colleges, from homes to neighborhood, from private workplaces to government offices. For queer individuals, the shame and abuse begin very early in schools, where they are generally isolated from others and shamed for their expression by both peers and teachers alike. The young impressionable minds of queer children begin to absorb hate, abuses and shame from a very early age which often leads them towards depression and developing chronic diseases like blood pressure, anxiety and obesity in future.
LGBTQ+ bullying in schools is the most dangerous and the most ignored form of bullying. The absence of any form of redressal mechanism to address such cases makes it more difficult to deal with and protect the children from being bullied. As a result of which LGBTQ+ students often drop out of schools or skip school more frequently which may lead to lower levels of achievement and possibly lower income in future.
The mental cost is much more; such children often live a life full of shame and guilt. Bullying strips them of their confidence and many resort to suicide or self-harm. The present syllabus does not in any way normalize the gender diversity, and most students and teachers remain oblivious of the gender spectrum. The system’s ignorance is costing queer people their lives.
If we want to save our queer children and let them live a life of respect and dignity, we need to bring about many changes in our schools, colleges, homes, offices, neighborhood, etc. But more importantly, we need to bring about a change in the way we think.
We need to stop using homophobic jibes like “chhaka’’ and “meetha” to make fun of queer people because their respect and dignity is not any less important than others; we need to recognize our own biases and prejudices against queer people and address them; we need to encourage institutions to come up with queer inclusive policies; we need to be supportive of our LGBTQ+ friends; we need to call out people who discriminate on the basis of gender and sexuality; and sometimes all we need to do is to accept them for who they are.
There are many more ways to be an ally; all you need is to be willing to learn and unlearn and a belief in equality.
This International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, we should pledge to not make lives more difficult for queer folks because queer lives matter.
The article was first published here.