To establish a space for queer students, the recently formed Hindu College Queer Collective shines as a ray of hope for many who wish to be the torchbearers in this march for equality.
On 6th September 2018, when the ‘landmark’ verdict on Section 377 had made it to the headlines, a cheer had erupted in mainstream media and the conversation around LGBTQIA+ identities had been thought to gain impetus. However, two years down the lane, young queers still feel that the verdict had done the bare minimum for a community which has been deprived of basic human rights for eons. Marriage and adoption amongst other necessary rights still appear to be a distant dream, yet to be asserted and embraced, in a cis-heteronormative society barely pushing for change now. This year, the Pride Parade had also been disrupted by the pandemic induced lockdown, ambushing many queers who look forward to the movement and celebration of identities. The coming of Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 has further led queer students to believe that the verdict on Section 377 has just not been enough to ensure a safe space for the community. Afterall, the spectrum goes way beyond the understanding of trending hashtags such as “Love is Love” and “Love wins.”
“We are often classified as Rainbow people. Cis hets often generalize queers and use umbrella terms which further propagate several stereotypes regarding the different identities on the spectrum,”Amitoj, queer History Hons. student and the President of the recently established Hindu College Queer Collective.
In such a scenario where the conversation regarding gender identity and sexuality is full of myths, the effort to debunk these falsified ideas and to create an accepting environment for young LGBT+ students at Delhi University, is taken up by queer collectives. Yet to be formalized, the Hindu College Queer Collective was incepted during the lockdown with the aim of normalizing the discourse around desire, sexuality and gender as well as to solidify the much-needed safe space for doing so. Up to 20 queer students including the founding council- Suyash Labh, Gauri and Yaksh Handa have come together to carry out activities such as film screenings, discussions as well as webinars which revolve around furthering awareness and empathy in the community.
“The lack of quality sex education and misconstrued understanding of identities along with no immaculate representation has hindered the process of establishing a safe space for queers for an exceptionally long time. More so, for non-binary, trans and intersex people who have not been given their due rights, even in DU which is tad more breathable for young LGBT+ individuals.”Amitoj (President, HCQC)
Further discussing if “tad more breathable” was enough, Amitoj said that since Delhi University witnesses individuals from different walks of life, the intersectionality in the community has still not been fully recognized. Dalit and underserved queers often come from hostile families who find a sense of comfort to voice their concerns freely in queer collectives instead of other upper class-caste westernized spaces. He also emphasized that to ensure representation, all functioning at HCQC will be carried out in a multilingual, autonomous and queer led manner.
The effort of Hindu College Queer Collective along with other such groups at Delhi University instills faith amongst those who have faced systemic discrimination and have been marginalized for identifying themselves on the spectrum. Sharing one such instance, Panchali, a trans woman and an ex-student of Motilal Nehru College, talked about her struggle of navigating through Delhi university.
“While the English Association of my college provided me with a space to be myself, I could not escape cat-calling and harassment in the college campus. Despite the decriminalization of section 377, DU does not recognize sexual harassment of queers and homosexuals. In 2018, I had wanted to attend the lit fest in a saree, but my professors had refrained me from cross-dressing, because they had been concerned about my “safety”. Nevertheless, I had unapologetically walked the college campus in a saree and stunned everyone. The unsolicited questions and judgmental eyes had made me aware of the deep-rooted transphobia at DU. And nothing has changed after the verdict on Section 377. The professors and students in the university are still very transphobic. There is little to no recognition for trans women.”-Panchali, trans woman and and former student of Motilal Nehru College
Misgendering, lack of recognition of correct pronouns and dead naming are a few harsh realities pointed out by young queer students. And seeking redressal for such complaints is a long tedious process, embedded with its fair share of problems.
“The Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at Delhi University, are either not functional or actively bigoted which is very problematic for queer students who want to seek respite from everyday discrimination. DU, in this regard, is not a safe space for queers. The verdict on Section 377 has just granted us rights that savarna cis men have enjoyed for centuries. Hence, it is inconsequential and redundant as queer students can legally, so to speak, file a case in court for their rights but the path to accessing such facilities is full of gaps and threats.”Srishti, Non-Binary student at JMC
Hence, the role of queer collectives in creating an access to resources and acting as ‘pressure groups’, rightly pointed out by Amitoj (President, HCQC), is of utmost importance in today’s testing times. The centuries’ long battle for equality and recognition should not yet be deemed as won, solely based on the Section 377 Verdict. The 2-year anniversary is largely a drop in the ocean in the emancipation of young LGBTQIA+ individuals.
Featured Image Credits: DU Beat Archives