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History And Politics Have Caused Much Harm By ‘Queer-Coding’ Villains, Here’s How

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Homosexualization of the villain or queering the villain refers to the idea of representing villains as queer people (not to be confused with ‘vilification of the queer’ where queer persons are shown as villains). The vilification of the queer has existed since the dawn of humanity. The religions have dehumanized and villainized us, science and media have done it, but the other phenomena of queering the villain is something that represents villains as ‘ambiguously queer’, the suggestions are often tongue-in-cheek but have over time spilt to be more concrete and on the face.

Statements like that’s so gay to refer to unlikable things are a prime example of queering the villain. This is something that along with media, we ourselves have done to us, and woke liberals do it with a special sense of authority that no one else seems to have. The story of ‘free’ India begins with homosexualization of Godse and Savarkar, where they are critiqued less on their politics and more on their alleged sexual relationship.

Gandhi has been considered too effeminate by Nathuram to be the father of the nation. This dichotomy of masculinity and femininity with masculinity being ‘better’ has also slipped into the nation’s understanding as people from left to right criticize Gandhi as much as about his ‘sexual self’ as about his politics.

But what is more interesting is that despite their constant homosexualization and vilification, they had to ban a book by Joseph Lelyveld which was rumoured to have shown Gandhi in bisexual light. Lelyveld claimed he had done nothing as such and many scholars agreed. Though a queer reading of the text reveals otherwise. Of course, homosexuality and femininity are seen as closely linked, with a strong belief that homosexual men are feminine, and feminine men are homosexual. This interchangeability arises from the disgust of femininity, something that western capitalist patriarchy has managed to instil very strongly in its own systems and later in its colonies – the burden of which we carry along with the abuses of Manu. In Caliban and the Witch, Silvia Federici writes.

“[T]he construction of a new patriarchal order, making of women the servants of the male work-force, was a major aspect of capitalist development.”

This construction ensured that the woman was lesser than the man, this construction also strengthened the binaries of ‘man’ and ‘woman’, and anyone who dared transgress was strictly punished. For men, it was below them to ‘become a woman’ and for women, it was above them to ‘become a man’. Both of which could not be allowed as it questioned the post-feudal patriarchal order of bourgeois male and proletariat female.

The man who banned the book on Gandhi went on to become India’s Prime Minister and has had his fair share of homosexualization. From Australian Prime Minister to American President, Narendra has been paired up with these men to mock him and not his politics by homosexualizing him. This is part of a bigger narrative where opponents, mostly political, are shows as ‘lesser’, and what is lesser than homosexuality, in contrast to pure, scientific, natural, god-given heterosexuality?

Babadook is a gay icon.

Disney had been doing it for far too long, so much so that a tweet by giabuchi (@jaboukie) reads representation is so important. Disney gave us countless queer coded villains and now we finally have one running for president referring to American Democrat candidate Pete Buttigieg who has a history of racism and recently denounced the ‘revolutionary politics of the 1960s’ which gave him the chance to be an openly gay presidential candidate.

Pete is a clear reminder of ‘intersectional failure’ as Kimberle Crenshaw calls it. Shashi Tharoor recently ‘attacked’ Arvind Kejriwal by calling him a ‘eunuch’. This transphobic comment reveals something crucial about the cis centric world order we live in. Anyone who does not agree with the vision of the power of those with the mic would be ‘lessened’, and this lessening would mean amongst many things that anyone who transgresses the strictly marked boundaries of cis-ness must be punished, and brought ‘in the line’ to uphold the structure.

The Connection Between Political Warfare And Homosexuality Is Complicated

Queer persons have often used it to attack homophobic politicians. The idea is to say that “you are one of us, so you must stop being cruel to us”. Liberals have then rallied on these queer persons’ backs to make homophobic comments on conservative politicians, which we can see being displayed as signs of wit and humour across the geopolitical spectrum. When liberals do it, the idea is ‘they are cruel because they are gay.’

The usage is inherently fueled by homophobia, of seeing homosexuality as less than worthy, of seeing it as laughable, as disgusting, as a joke. The problem is that this has seeped too deeply in the political structure that so many of us have bought into it as the ‘normal’.

To change our attitudes, and how we make our political criticisms, we need to acknowledge something that is crucial to our understanding of politics. We wish to see the people as lesser if we disagree with them.

And to achieve this we think of everything else that we see as lesser and extrapolate it to the political persons. This includes homosexuality, transgressions of gender, educational/ethnic backgrounds, physical and mental disabilities, and even caste.

The people who do this often cite their ‘coolness’, ‘wokeness’ and ‘authority’ to make such statements. In their zeal to question and/or denounce the oppressors, they, in turn, become the oppressors. They uphold the oppression of the ‘other’ in their quest to dismantle the oppression against ‘self’. this dichotomy of ‘self’ vs. ‘other’ is a construct that destroys any hope of solidarity between marginalized communities beyond a certain point. If they form solidarity, the one ‘more’ marginalized must compromise.

This reminds me ironically of Slavoj Zizek saying that he disagrees with the use of politically correct language, seeing these liberal people make such statements, I have to agree with him. At least this language, their real linguistic inheritance from the heteronormative1, ableist cistem2 makes the rest of us aware that violence often comes in the form of friendly gestures and jokes.

I could continue to analyze political campaigns, satires and debates, YouTube videos, protest posters, social media posts to show in graphic detail how deep that is, but if by this point you haven’t understood, then anything further is emotional and intellectual labour that I would like to invest in advancing this argument to show how it harms rather than convincing you when I full well know, that the end of the analysis you’d still say, “it’s just a joke, take it lightly”. Here is a joke for you then, “cisgender heterosexuality should be a criminal offence punishable by death.” Please take it lightly.

The ill-effects of homophobia and queerphobia, in general, are expressed in monetary terms amongst many. According to a 2014 report by the Wall Street Journal, homophobia had cost India between 112 billion to 1.7 trillion rupees in 2012. Though staggering this amount was and may have had increased in past years, this no way comes close to what a queer person loses in their life thanks to the straight world order.

I have lost people to suicide and heterosexual marriages and I do not know how to grieve them differently. I have lost lovers and friends, and I have often lost my dignity in spaces where my being and identity have been questioned. Someone who is not queer will probably never notice the shift in the eyes of cishets3 after they come to know of us.

The reconciliation of their imagery of our ‘self’ with our assertion of the ‘self’ is often almost too hard for them to make. Of the many homophobic jibes that I have faced, one stands stronger with me despite the fact that over years I have seen much worse. kya main Dharmesh ke saath surakshit hoon? These were the words of a man, leftist, nonetheless, whom I really valued and respected.

The homosexualization of the villain then normalizes the idea that homosexuality is something to be despised, shunned, defeated, mocked, and even murdered.

It contributes to violence against us, which is as much mental as it is physical, as much sexual as it is political, as much economical as it is sociological. The solution is to see these villains (in real as well as in reel life) as they are, mostly cisgender heterosexual abled-bodied neurotypical men, and question the cishet world order and its structure which has created a world of such fascist men. The solution is also to realize that by homosexualizing the villain, we uphold the structure that harms all of us.

At this point, I would also like to draw attention to the queer legacy of never backing down and turning the worst that is thrown at us into a fierce sashay move. Except we shouldn’t have to. We shouldn’t have to be strong and brave and resilient to live with dignity. This is a legacy that is also a burden. This is a legacy that we should not have to carry since this legacy is not just our strength but also our suffering, and it must stop. Not just because we deserve better legacies, but also because we deserve to live without have to carry the weight of heavy legacies.


  1. A structure where heterosexuality is considered normal.
  2. Another spelling for ‘system’ to point out how it is made of/by/for cisgender people and oppresses transgender persons.
  3. Cisgender heterosexual. A person who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth is cisgender. ‘cis’ is used as a short form or to use it with another prefix, such as ‘cisness’. A person who is attracted to ‘other’ gender is heterosexual.

About The Author: Dharmesh is a 2019 India Fellow, placed with Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS) in Bhuj, Gujarat as a part of his fellowship. He is involved in capacity building of adolescent girls to empower them so that they can deal with various issues they face. Dharmesh loves to read fiction across themes and experiments with different verse forms.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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