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New Year, Same Struggles: Is Total Acceptance of the LGBTQAI+ a Myth in India?

To help understand and normalise the conversations around the community, we asked its younger reps about their most pressing mental health issues, post 6/9.

by Noel D'souza
21 January 2019, 7:24pm

Credit: Unsplash

“We now witness homophobia more clearly. Remarks are made more openly, especially by people who are not ready to accept us,” says Pratiksha*, a queer girl from Mumbai. “Full acceptance is a myth.”

2018’s landmark judgment that read down the archaic Victorian law of Section 377 might have helped end discriminatory activities such as blackmail, extortion, and invasion of privacy, but unconditional acceptance of the LGBTQAI+ community hasn’t been and isn’t going to be, easy. Their vulnerabilities include hostile work, home, and school environments, stigma, discrimination, and violence—all born through decades of oppression.

To understand how discrimination against the LGBTQAI+ community has now changed the way it expresses itself, we spoke to a few members.

Parental Acceptance

Shripad Sinnakaar, 21: My mom used to tell my friends, “Bully him. Only then will he start acting straight.” It’s like a game in which every stage is difficult and shit gets harder.

Shrushti Manha, 19: My family is in denial about my sexuality and often says, “You better be heterosexual after some time.”

Discrimination Within the Community

Varun Jacob, 21: There is a lot of bi-phobia within and outside the community. Many say, “Hey, you are just confused.” Ever since I came out as non-binary, a lot of people have been staying away from me. Within the community itself too, there is a lot of toxicity. Only one part of the community (gays) and their issues are given more prominence.

Durga Gawde, 25: People don’t understand that gender is fluid. The gays say, “Why are you making our lives more complicated? Firstly, it’s hard for people to adapt to us and now this.” The issues gays face are represented more, and they approach this topic with male privilege.

Self Acceptance

Shripad Sinnakaar, 21: I used to ask myself if I behaved too ‘girly’ or ‘manly’ every day. I had a problem conforming to my sexuality.

Durga Gawde, 25: I was constantly figuring myself out, from the way I dress to switching my gender to see how comfortable I was with the transitions. This body dysphoria takes a toll. At times, when I look in the mirror, I don’t recognise myself.

Acceptance at Work

Alan D’souza, 20: During my internship, when my colleagues found out about my sexuality, they started treating me differently. They started talking to me in a funny tone and mocked me.

Ashish Kedia*, 22: My ex-boss used to pass comments like, “I don’t like people like these. I don’t know why people behave like this. They are not normal.” This is why I no longer work there.

Bullying

Savio Gomes, 19: In college, boys used to grab my ass when I visited the washroom. I couldn’t do anything because I was young and wasn’t in a frame of mind to tackle a situation like this.

Shripad Sinnakaar, 21: I was bullied a lot for being effeminate in school. In college, my best friend bullied me because he wanted to be accepted by his social circle.

Priyal Kale, 21: Once, screenshots of my Twitter feed, showing me being vocal about the LGBT community were circulated through college. The next day, I had to make up a story to cover it up. But there was a sense of fear about someone finding out about my sexuality and blackmailing me.

Shrushti Manha, 19: I was attracted to this girl in the ninth grade and we had this secret relationship going on. When we passed in the hallway, the girls used to say, “Here comes the homo club.”

Sexual Harassment/Assault

Sher Singh Soman, 18: I have a habit of going for walks at night night walks. One night on the streets, an uncle I knew told me, “I’ll pay you if you sleep with me.” I was so scared that I went straight home without telling a soul.

Akash Sharma*, 19: I have been groped on the train and touched around the crotch. This is usually done by old men. We have two options in a situation like this: Either suffer or move on with a broken heart after voicing our opinion.

Navya Singh, 26: I have faced sexual harassment by my own male friend in college. In my village, a man sexually assaulted me. I couldn’t lodge a complaint either time because I had not come out to my parents.

Shakti Chakravarty*, 21: My own uncle molested, raped and extorted money from me when he found out about my sexuality.

The Anxiety of Coming Out

Shubham Ladhya, 24: Coming out to my family makes me deeply anxious. I’m scared of how they will react.

Mariyum Kasokar, 19: My mom thinks I’ll be marrying a dude when I myself don’t know who I’ll end up falling in love with.

*Ashish Kedia, 22: Coming out and talking to people about my sexuality was hard. Trying to be me was problematic. People just show that they care. But once an asshole, always an asshole. Homophobes will still be the same.

Shrushti Manha, 19: I come from a traditional family and I thought I'll be a disgrace to them. I used to cut myself thinking about all this.

Consent

Shubham Ladhya, 24: Once at a party, a girl told her partner to kiss me. But a stranger kissing me is a big NO. My friends later asked me if I gave my consent, but during that moment, no one really thinks about these things.

Savio Gomes, 19: People get touchy at gay parties. Sometimes, we don’t mind because we don’t get that love and crave that touch.

Mariyum Kasokar, 19: Once, a girl, who was drunk, tried to touch me. Later when I spoke about consent and told people she forced herself on me, they said, “How can a girl molest a girl?”

Durga Gawde, 25: At LGBT parties, I have been approached by men. I had to literally put their hands near my crotch to show them I don’t have what they want. Sometimes, gay men have approached me thinking I am a young boy. When they realise I am a girl, they are shocked. But what if I was a guy?

Vivek Lobo*, 23: Often while hooking up, a guy would force me to be in a sexual position that I don’t identify with. At that time, it’s hard to say no. These hookups lead to regret and depression.

Identity Crisis

Pooja Krishnakumar, 23: When I identify as a lesbian as well as asexual, people don’t understand how that works. Sexuality is a lot more complex than we think it is.

Shrushti Manha, 19: Labelling yourself has become the norm. But there are so many sexualities that are not defined yet. Why should I conform to some tag or the other?

Navya Singh, 26: Being a transgender, you are born with another identity and there comes a time where you realise that you don’t belong to that gender. You have to then explain to people that you are trapped in another body.

Lack of Information

Pooja Krishnakumar, 23: We don’t have enough information when we want to come out or understand our own identity. Safe spaces and places to experiment are scarce. When I was young, I didn’t have anybody to look up to who is brown and queer. Even within the queer community, people don’t have enough information about different identities and their own identities.

Bonita Rajpurohit, 19: I would never believe it if I’m told about a person who identifies as queer who did not have to go through hell during school years. Young students are ignorant, phobic and bullies.

Ramya Rajkumar, 22*: Teachers should be accepting instead of being perpetrators of homophobia, and the bullies must be cautioned.

*Names changed to protect identity.

Follow Noel D'souza on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on VICE IN.