As 6th September rolls around, the realization that it has already been a year since the Supreme Court repealed Section 377, effectively decriminalizing homosexuality and setting forth a historic judgement rippling pride walks and celebrations across the nation.
Yet, the crimes and discrimination against queer folk haven’t died out – in fact, coming out is a risk for a lot of people in India. The fear felt by the LGBTQ+ community is valid and real.
Although, Sikkim may have had a pride walk, there is still a stigma about the community as such. A girl may wear her hair short and get called a ‘tomboy’ or lesbian, or a boy grows it out and is ridiculed by ‘jokes’ that hint at their feminity. Casual discrimination or rather “it-was-just-a-joke” phenomenon has done little good at opening our minds. We expect people to stick to strict binaries – male and female – and hope that we just “grow out of this phase”.
Despite knowing that bullying and being viewed negatively is going to be a part of their lives, little by little, outside of their homes, young people are starting to come out and vocalizetheir issues through social media. But even on the internet, there is a steady stream of hate that filters into the accounts of gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans people, traumatizing them at a time of big transitions.
Apart from areas of health, progress needs to come in the form of inclusivity in places of work – both government and private sectors. Providing equal facilities that heterosexual couples and individuals enjoy is a right that the community is constantly denied.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) 2019 Bill and the Surrogacy (Regulation) 2019 Bill, carelessly thought out and problematic – it is these rules and regulations that the government doesn’t spend time and effort on reviewing and amending, that the LGBTQ+ community in India still lives on without rights.
Finding physical or virtual spaces to talk about individual issues is important. Digital spaces like Gaysi, Where Love Is Illegal, Queerythm, etc., help to share stories from queer people around the world and how they try to find their space in the places they run away to or have resigned to living in.
Sometimes even within the LGBTQ+ community, there is discrimination and ignorance towards the other sections. Bisexuals are constantly asked to validate their existence and sexuality, trans people are asked to fit into fixed binaries – in the end, minorities within minorities are subject to more harassment and mental trauma. For example, a Sikkimese lesbian would probably be subjected to racial, gender and queer inequity in both the society and the workplace.
Only two months ago, a teenager committed suicide in Chennai after being ridiculed for his sexuality. What more can I say? Unless heteronormative structures, narrow mindsets and orthodox rules of love are changed by the majority, there will be more deaths to mourn, crimes to condemn and voices to be silenced.