‘LGBTQ Pride Continues To Grapple With Prejudice’
Harpreet Singh, 46, a literary editor from Mumbai, says LGBTQIA+ relationships continue to be judged by same old yardstick, in spite of getting legal sanction three years back
The word ‘pride’ is often associated with the LGBTQIA+ community. Perhaps we should also add ‘prejudice’ to the mix. The LGBTQIA+ community finds itself constantly moving between ‘Pride & Prejudice’ (of feeling pride one moment and fighting prejudice the next) and not really feeling settled. One must have thought that the 2018 verdict decriminalising homosexuality (annulment of Section 377) might have given the LGBTQIA+ community wings and the sky, but people are still prejudiced against us more than three years later, even though the judiciary tells us that there is no rhyme or reason for doing so.
Until and unless we become part of mainstream, until the legal judgement seeps into the social ethos, we cannot truly say that change has arrived. We continue to be othered and bothered, misunderstood and silenced by the majority of people. There is no sense of belongingness and we feel secluded, kept away and marginalised.
LGBTQIA+ people rarely feel completely safe and free to love. Barack Obama brought in the legislation for same-sex marriage in the most progressive country in the world and Trump weakened its provisions. At home, in 2009, a Delhi High Court bench gave a verdict in our favour, which was overturned in 2013. So you never know which way the wind would blow the next moment as far as one’s sexuality and thus one’s life is concerned.
There is no solid ground on which we can stand and examine our identity, our feelings and emotions even 3 years later. The power is always in someone else’s hands. In case of same-sex couples, it is still the next of kin rather than the partner who can make important decisions when it comes to matters of life and death (say someone wanting to be taken off life support as a last wish).
Love can never be unnatural, and while we are on the topic of nature, I would say climate change issues are a reflection of our othering of nature. We take her for granted, much like we take people with different sexual orientations, identities and interests for granted. Sex education and conversations around sex have still not been given due importance, while our population proliferates. Dialogue is necessary between different sections of society if we want to go further than token change.
I am an optimist and love celebrating small changes, which might become big over time. At least those aware of their rights in big cities can no longer be mistreated by cops. The social media explosion in the past 3-4 years has meant that many people from the LGBTQIA+ community have found a voice, a social support structure (even if only virtual) and a small scope for discussion in a civil manner.
Around a decade ago, one had Dostana, a neither here nor there film on homosexuality, but now we have Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan which knows what it is talking about and doesn’t do so in hushed tones. That, to me, is change. To me Axis Bank introducing joint account for same-sex couples is also a win.
Whenever new people come in contact with us, they see our sexual orientation first and our hearts and values later. Shouldn’t it be the other way round? Or maybe it should not even matter. How we express our love to our beloved in private is our personal matter.
My family is one of the most liberal families you will come across. It is full of inter-cultural marriages. My dad, a Sikh, married my mother who is a Parsi, and yet he couldn’t not understand my idea of love. I came out at 16 to my mom and at 19 to my family. I was beaten every day by my father since I was 13 and till I turned 17. Our relationship remained fractured till his death in 2018. I was lucky however that my mother stood rock solid behind me and even took part in many a pride marches.
Love for your partner, family, society, country and world at large needs a series of adaptive actions and compromises from everyone. I am a man of love and I can see beyond gender, skin colour, caste, religion, nationality etc. and straight to the heart of a person. Hope someday the community will also be seen for their hearts rather than just their bodies. My best friend is a woman named Poonam who loves me unconditionally and truly sees me for who I am. Soon there will be more and more Poonams… I continue to hope.
As Told To Yog Maya Singh