Since the commencement of June, the International Pride month, the entire social media has been filled with posts related to the same. Everyone’s feed on Facebook, Instagram and various such platforms have been flooded with the pictures of Pride March and the rainbow flag and a lot of people have recently posted long paragraphs adorning their timelines. But, all the opinions, counter-opinions, ongoing arguments and debates make us go back to the one question time and again: is the LGBTQIA+ community truly accepted?
What is LGBTQIA+?
Sexuality is a large spectrum. There are way more types of sexual orientations than people are generally aware of. The abbreviation LGBTQIA+ is used to denote individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex or asexual and other individuals who fall under that part of the spectrum that does not denote heterosexuality.
The LGBTQIA+ community has, over the years, grown and expanded worldwide, with more people gathering the courage to come out and own their sexuality.
Societal Acceptance In India
The ongoing struggle of the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies to make society more accepting towards different sexual orientations goes way back. The fight to alleviate trans-phobia, queer-phobia, gay-phobia has been going on for decades. India, too, in recent years has stepped up and become more vocal in the fight.
Our society, in every sphere of human existence, sets the general norms according to which people are expected to behave. Any deviance is penalized, and the risk of becoming a pariah or an outcast is ever looming. The same goes for sexual orientation as well. For ages, the only form of sexuality that was identified and socially accepted is heterosexuality, that is, a man being attracted to a woman and vice versa. Any other sort of sexual orientation has been seen as ‘evil,’ and from exorcisms to corrective rape, every brutality was performed to ‘right the wrong.’
Transgenders too were looked down upon. Being cis-gendered, that is, being either a male or a female, was seen as ‘normal’ while trans-genders were seen as biological transgressors. Not only were they alienated from society, but they were also denied a family life and almost forced to live a separate life, grouped with other transgender individuals. Although some communities regarded them (and still do) as holy, they are still deprived of a normal life, which is as heart-breaking as it gets.
In India, gay and queer individuals have always been treated differently. From the movies to advertisements, every form of popular media made fun of such individuals, and problematic representations have been found everywhere. And this is something that can be noted even today in several shows and videos. Even though a part of the population has become more accepting, there still exist a large number of people who treat non-heterosexuals as almost ‘untouchables,’ especially in the rural areas. Apart from this, a lot of schools in India play a major part in propagating queer-phobia. Bullying of LGBTQIA+ kids is often overlooked and goes unpunished. This encourages the bullies to grow up into individuals who spread hatred against the community.
Today acceptance might have been achieved to some extent with people being sensitized via the different forms of media and courses like Queer Studies being offered in colleges and universities, but still, a large mass of the population doesn’t quite grasp the concept. Even today, the complete acceptance towards different sexual orientations looks like a distant dream that will take quite a long time to be realized or transformed into a reality.
Metro And Rural India Outlooks
While the metro cities or the people belonging to urban areas are exposed to a certain amount of sensitization, the same is not true for the rural areas. Thus, most people belonging to rural areas still have the same orthodox mindset that has been perpetuated through ages by their ancestors and the people before them. Individuals belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community are not only looked down upon but considered as disgusting. They are avoided at all terms because, according to rural belief, these individuals will infiltrate and ‘pollute’ the populace. From shopkeepers to even doctors have been reported to treat them disrespectfully. They are made to stand In lines for hours or left untreated for a long time. The amount of queer and transphobia predominant in the rural areas of our country is startling, to say the least.
But, it will be wrong to state that such insensitive perception of LGBTQIA+ individuals exists only in the rural areas. Even some of the highly educated people belonging to cities have massively distorted views regarding LGBTQIA+ individuals. From encouraging gay-phobia and queer-phobia on the Internet to spewing hatred on the entire community in real life and online, some people know no bounds when it comes to these.
All this being said, there are some genuinely sound individuals who have a broader mindset and accept people belonging to the LGBTQ+ community wholeheartedly.
Families And Their Acceptance Levels
Family plays an integral part in an individual’s life. One’s mental well-being to a large extent depends on one’s family.
Most of the families in the rural areas have been reported to be pretty intolerant towards members of their own family who come out as LGBTQIA+ individuals. They are treated as outcasts and even at times ousted by their families. Some families even forcefully get them married as a ‘corrective measure.’
In urban areas, too, there are families that show the same kind of acceptance level as above. Being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community has been stigmatized for so long that as soon as someone comes out as an LGBTQIA+ individual, their family reacts in an extreme manner which is far from being accepting.
But, on the other hand, there are also families and parents who accept their children just as they are because they understand that sexuality is a choice and should not be imposed upon anyone. These families contribute towards normalizing the idea of being gay, bisexual, queer or asexual, thus helping the community in its long-drawn ongoing battle.
There’s a noticeable disparity in what people say or preach and what they actually do when it comes to the LGBTQIA+ context. There are people who claim to be allies yet show signs of holding problematic notions regarding the community. A lot of sensitization is still required to make people understand and properly grasp the concept of LGBTQIA+.
Other than this, a lot of disparity is also noted in the treatment of the individuals of this community, starting from educational institutions, offices to even shops and medical or healthcare facilities. Such individuals are more often than not deprived of opportunities and the recognition that they deserve.
Laws In India
Back in 1861, sexual activities “against the order of nature” were considered punishable and carried a life sentence according to section 377 of the Indian Penal Code or IPC.
But, on 6th September 2018, the Supreme Court of India legalized consensual gay sex, and that day of victory is celebrated every year nationwide.
Patience and Being Okay with Who You Are is the Key to Change
First and foremost, you need to understand that it is absolutely alright if you’re still in the process of exploring your sexuality and haven’t figured it out yet. There’s no hurry. We, human beings, are complex creatures, and it’s okay for everyone to take their own time to figure themselves out. There’s no bar in terms of time or age. Gender and sexuality are fluid concepts, and you might not feel the same about your sexual orientation today as you felt a few years back. Sit with yourself, be gentle and try your best to understand your needs.
If you have already figured out your sexuality, if you feel like you belong to the LGBTQIA+ community but are scared and apprehensive to come out to your parents or your family, then we understand. But you know what? No matter how your family or society reacts, you should be the most accepting and loving towards yourself. And with time and a little patience, people will start seeing you for who you are, and the right ones will always stick to you no matter what. People who understand and accept you are the ones who deserve you.
Be accepting towards yourself and others, and together, let’s normalize and destigmatize ideas surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community. Every individual deserves to express themselves to their fullest. Everyone deserves to live a life without inhibitions. No one should have to hide their real selves to survive. It is a basic human right, and it is our duty to play our parts in changing the distorted notions of society.