Without sounding cynical, I’ll begin by addressing the white elephant in the room of most LGBTQ+-based discussions — the verdict of decriminalisation of homosexuality should’ve come much before it did, but there is only so much mourning that we can do over it. I feel incredibly privileged to be a part of India’s youth at a time when my nation has more of the LGBTQ+ community in the zeitgeist and is steering somewhat towards the right direction. Only, captains at the wheel and along with their crew get replaced frequently, and our ship depends a lot on their progressive or regressive intent.
For now, let’s yay to the Supreme Court’s decision to decriminalise homosexuality, but let’s keep this cheer momentary. The first step has been initiated, but we stand upon the brink of a rather long journey. To adjudicate justice and human rights is imperative, but we heave our sighs of relief more often than we should. The more privileged ones amongst us retreat into their velvety cocoons and breathe in nirvana within sound-proof windows and conditioned air.
We don’t feel the brunt of legal amendments as much or as rapidly as our lesser privileged counterparts, but should we arrive upon this realisation, it is time for us to dispense our privilege towards furthering our collective journey towards greater gender justice in India.
It sounds more utopian than it would in practice, considering the blatant fact that most parts of our nation are yet to treat all genders equally, let alone all sexual orientations. When a liberal patriot considers this glaring aspect of reality, its tragedy amplifies, considering India’s numerous cultural blunders of disavowing its very essence. In other words, the very ethos of diversity, acceptance and resilience forms the very core of Indian society, and countless inferences from our rich past testify this.
To spread its ancient wisdom of multifarious power to the wider populace, Indian culture and tradition outstretch itself in the form of queer communities such as the Ardhanareshwara, Mohini, Brihanalla and Shikandi, to name but a few.
As is the case in most mainstream narratives, propaganda shunts dissenting factors to the periphery of discourse in its hegemonised plan of action. However, we live in interesting times when subaltern voices are reclaiming these alternative narratives that had been neglected for the better part of recent history. This is not to say that our society doesn’t continue to remain negligent, but it might be safe to say that we are less negligent than we were earlier.
After all, standing at the culmination of a decades-long battle for gender justice, our privilege carries greater weight than we are willing to accept. Our current unwillingness to accept that a tedious journey lies ahead of us bears its roots partially in an impending fear that goes beyond the legal domain. The declaration of human rights shines at an overarching height above its grassroots implementation. While both of these entail an exhaustive pursuit, they also evolve constantly while conditioning one another.
Without delving into a vast whirlpool of question marks, it might be useful to impart an incentive-based perspective to my esteemed readership. Since most of us owe our presence on YKA to privilege in some form or the other, to undertake basic incentives by perceiving ourselves as the law, our smallest acts gain a responsibility that they might have lacked earlier. For example, to simply joining the gender justice bandwagon isn’t enough. We must fuel its progression by embodying the gender justice that we seek.
It is more convenient to adopt hostility towards a person who lacks gender sensitivity because we attribute more of their conduct to choice and less to conditioning. The moment we gauge the extent of someone’s conditioning, we open ourselves up to the possibility of treating this other person’s prejudice with empathy. This is not to imply that prejudice can be compartmentalised solely into unassuming ignorance or lack of awareness. But empathising with prejudiced individuals as regards their ignorance and lack of awareness (but not their opinion) opens the possibility of being able to stir changes in the prejudiced attitude.
As an example, while hearing some prejudiced friends make atrocious speculations on gender issues, my inner feminist cringed at first. But then, I imagined a role reversal. Had I not had my experiences, privilege, exposure, outlook and of course, series of choices, I too could have been this prejudiced person. But the good news is, I am not this person. What now? It is way easier now to react in a way that is devoid of hostility or anxiety.
In this way, I embody a tenet of gender justice: if prejudice is to be driven away, one dispenses with everything that is prejudicial. I, and many like me, have come a long way in discovering ourselves, and some of our prejudiced contemporaries are yet to pursue their existentialist journeys with honesty. But most of them resist heterodoxy in some form or the other out of fear and speak for the very advocates of shaming that they fear.
The onus of changing their mindsets or outlooks towards a more liberal direction does not reside solely upon our shoulders, assuming this only serves to exhaust. Instead, while the mindset of others is their sole prerogative, conducting ourselves within their environment is ours. In choosing agency over complacency and voice over compliance, whether at a dinner table conversation or at work, sure takes courage, but it is the need of the present hour and the tireless hours that are to follow.
May each one of us realise the importance of this choice. It will be pillars on the foundations that our brave predecessors built, and may we never stop being hopeful that our nation will evolve into a kinder one. And most importantly, may each one of us be that hope.