Photo: Sai Tejo (left), Shambhavi Saxena (centre) and Teenasai Balamu (right)
Recently, the Maharashtra Class 11 sociology textbook was updated to feature queer families. It’s great news for queer visibility, except that quite paradoxically, there are no laws in place in India that recognise and affirm queer marriages. As a result, the laws concerning Assistive Reproductive Technology and adoption are prohibitive to queer couples.
The recently passed surrogacy bill makes it virtually impossible for single, queer (and therefore, unmarried) partners to have children through surrogacy. Single women have been happily accessing surrogacy and they are allowed to adopt, but lesbian partners cannot be legally recognised as co-parents yet.
The recognition of marriage is also important because the family is considered the fundamental unit of society, and integral to accessing basic financial rights, which the community lacks. But just under eight weeks after the historic Supreme Court ruling, a three-judge bench dismissed a plea seeking civil rights for the LGBTQ community, with the strange and infuriating justification that "We are not inclined to entertain this petition after the decision of this Court in Navtej Singh Johar Vs. Union of India…" Recently, a similar review petition was dismissed again.We know what the law thinks, but what about queer folks? We reached out to the community to ask, and the answers were surprising.
“Wanting your own biological children only serves an economic and egotistic purpose.”
I’m a believer in anti-natalism. I think wanting your own biological children only serves an economic and egotistic purpose. It's about bloodlines, it's about caste, it's about son preference, it's about producing more labour and human resources. That's where the pressure to have children comes from. That said, some people have an innate desire to have and raise children. I'm not one of those. Now my pool of friends is tiny, but I would say for 90 percent of my queer friends, it isn't a priority for them either. In fact anti-natalism seems to be catching on quite a bit! I guess as queer people already challenging so much in society, the pressure to have kids must be felt way less. —Shambhavi Saxena, 26
“I don't believe in marriage as an institution.”
I think marriage as an institution needs to be dismantled and the premium placed on monogamous 'socially approved' marriages must be discounted. As a queer person, I also believe that there is a certain premium placed on romantic sexual relationships and that only a romantic or sexual partner is 'family'. But for me, family is one of companionship, common ideals and means and beliefs, and I put a premium on friendship and community as family. —Nadika Nadja, 37
“It's not really queer acceptance. It is queer conformance.”
Queerness and families have always existed in multiple forms without the need for marriage, like the gharana system in the Hijra community. These have reimagined how families can look like. This entire attempt to re-forge queer relationships and kinships into the heteronormative is the attempt of marriage rights. It's not really queer acceptance. It is queer conformance. Turning around the ‘We are just like you’ understanding to ‘Yes, you are just like us, now do everything that we are doing.’ This does not recognise difference; it tries to erase it.The marriage of two individuals in the country we live in is not a priority while we have a rampant criminalisation of the gharana system through the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, and also the trafficking act. —Sai Bourothu, 24
“Equal opportunity is very important.”
To each their own, but I have a very cynical view of where the world is heading towards right now. Sometimes I even have thoughts like, what's the point of everything? We're just going to die anyway! But I think equal opportunity is very important. Whether or not a couple wants to have children is a secondary factor, but having the choice to do it is more important, like with marriage. Straight people don't have to get married if they don't want to, but if they want to they can and with children, it is the same thing.
So if it's a same sex couple, at the moment, there's no way that if I adopt a child, with my partner as the child's co-parent. If that is not recognised, that's going to be a major problem for us. —Teenasai Balamu, 24
“I know that the fact that I'm queer is not going to be an easy ride. But that is of no concern to me.”
Previously when I was dating a girl, the desire to have a child was extremely strong. It has been three years since my full-blown entry into the queer world and my acceptance of myself. The desire still exists, but not to the extent where I believe having a child is a goal.That said, raising a child would mean I should have things that I want to give to the child: first of all, financial stability. The second thing is that I want to be educated enough about parenting and experienced enough to be able to give the kid a good childhood. When it comes to the outside world, I know that the fact that I'm queer is not going to be an easy ride. But that is of no concern to me. —Vidur Sethi, 25
It's not just about being queer, it's also about the class we come from: my partner and I are middle class and we have a different set of struggles also to deal with. Many of us queer women, first of all, go to battle with our parents to tell them that we don't want to get married. Half your time and energy is spent on that.Also, in the current political environment at least, people like us are doubly, triply at risk because we are marginal in several ways. I don't think that we can manage to protect ourselves and I don't see why I should bring a child into this situation. —Jennifer*, 43*Name changed to protect privacy.Check out other stories on where India stands one year after Section 377 was read down here.