– R Bharati, I B.Sc Psychology
Image source: keepcalmandwander.com
While striving towards advancement in many fields, India still lags abysmally when it comes to LGBT rights. Many members of the LGBT community choose to stay closeted for they fear honour killings, lynching, and ostracization. There exists very little legal reform, same-sex sexual intercourse is criminalized under the controversial Section 377, and there exists noprotection for LGBT individuals. Despite the hostile environment, there is a sliver of hope; tolerance and acceptance of LGBT individuals has grown rapidly, and many organisations work tirelessly toward abolishing the draconian laws that stand in the way of love.
In what can be described as a poetic end to Pride month, India stands on the brink of the greatest breakthrough for gay rights as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on whether homosexuality is illegal. In the wake of this milestone, I interviewed a few LGBT individuals on what life as a member of the LGBT community is. Names have been changed to protect anonymity.
1) G, a gay man
Q: When did you first come to terms with your homosexuality?
A: As cliché as it sounds, I always knew I was ‘different’, and that’s how I realized I didn’t fit into heteronormative code. Middle school was torturous for me- all my friends would speak about how they had crushes on girls, and I just could never relate to them. It took me a lot of time to accept that I was gay.Until last year, I would just tell myself that I didn’t find any girl attractive.
Q: Have you come out to anybody? If not, why?
A: Not really- I have told a few friends, but that’s it. I’m lucky the few people I’ve told are supportive. A lot of the guys I talk to crack gay jokes and are legitimately afraid of gay men, and it takes all my strength to tell them that I wouldn’t find them attractive even if I were a girl. I haven’t come out publicly because of two things: the discrimination, and the stigma. Even now, I’m worried about going to college, because it’ll be a completely new environment and it’s too stressful to figure out who’s an ally and who isn’t.
Q: What according to you is the toughest part of being gay in Chennai?
A: Honestly, not knowing that there was a gay community in Chennai. Oddly enough, I understand why it ‘doesn’t exist’- I avoid discussing my orientation to save myself the judgmental stares and the homophobic comments. I still haven’t met many gay men here, and I think that speaks a lot about how tough it is to be openly queer here. Nobody wants to speak about it for they fear being harassed, blackmailed, or worse.
Q: How can allies help the gay community? What measure do you feel is the need of the hour?
A: By speaking up. This may seem like the smallest thing, but itdefinitely helps. Shutting up about the LGBT community when you’re near your conservative relatives and being an ally in front of your young cousins does us no good. The key to acceptance is normalization- we’re humans, just like you. We love, just like you. It’s just that who we’re attracted to is different from what you’re used to. It isn’t a bad or a good thing, it’s just an Is. As allies, it would mean a lot to us if you could help show the world that we’re just like anybody else.
2) B, an openly bisexual girl
Q: What is one misconception you’d like to clear up about bisexual people?
A: That it’s just a phase, and that we’re ‘confused’. It gets annoying and repetitive after a point,people often forget that we’re also part of the LGBT community.
Q: Tell us your coming out story.
A: I came out to my parents first- initially, my mother didn’t accept it, and my father tried his hardest to. The funny thing is, both were accepting of it because they thought I’d just date girls and then eventually get married to a man. It took a lot of arguing to show them that I wouldn’t choose who to marry based on their gender but on whether I loved them or not. I don’t think my parents have fully accepted it yet, but I’m very lucky they try. Just the other day, my mother and I were out shopping, and she pointed to this cute girl and said, “She looks very nice, you should talk to her.” It was very awkward, but sweet!
Q: How can allies help the LGBT community?
A: I feel the simplest way to show you support the LGBT community is by giving monetary support to organisations that work towards their upliftment. It’s a great way for allies who are afraid to use their voice to help. Whether you donate ten rupees or a thousand, you’d have put solid, tangible efforts to support LGBT rights. Find an organisation that you trust, andthen donate.
3) A, a genderfluid person
Q: What do you identify as?
A: I identify as female. It’s very hard to be genderfluid in India. I’ve been harassed for wearing skirts in public and I’ve been bullied since middle school for my feminine ways. But, my family and friends love and accept me, so I’m grateful.
Q: What misconception about trans people would you like to clear?
A: There’s this raging notion that all trans people are perverts, this hurts and saddens me a lot. Imagine living all your life thinking you were born in the wrong body, and when you finally get the courage to be yourself, you get labelled a deviant for it. We mean no harm- we’re just trying to live our happiest life and to be ourselves.
Q: What is the hardest part about being genderfluid in India?
A: We’re denied legal rights and protection, so I’m not sure how much tougher it can get. But, I’d like to answer this question differently- it is hard, yes, but I have met some of the best people ever. The kindest allies, the most passionate activists- one of the best parts about being genderfluid is that you never have to doubt the strength of your friendship with others from the community. There is an unspoken bond created simply by way of the common hardships you go through. I’m lucky and proud to have some of the best friends and allies ever.