The battle of the LGBTQIIA+ community to make their voices heard in society is praiseworthy. However, the ones from North-East India have their own story to tell.
As I begin to write this, my mind takes me back to my high school days when the actual expression of something identified with the LGBTQIIA+ pulled in chuckles and murmurs. One could hear somebody discussing something very similar in mumbling, whispering voices: “Did you know that she’s into girls?”, “Ew! How weird.” Such were proclamations of day-to-day
discussions. In spite of the fact that the LGBTQIIA+ community had been perfectly alive in the North-East (NE) since the commencement of time, it was covered up; covered up under the shroud of disgrace and revulsion.
With the progression of time, the daylight of opportunity began to fall upon these issues which were under the murkiness of obliviousness and cultural standards. A common perception that lies in the minds of the mainlanders is that the North-East is relatively unprejudiced in nature. However, the reality is not so rosy. The thunderstorm of homophobia in the North-East leaves the Queer community in tears. Teasing individuals who are male by birth and who possess feminine characteristics as ‘chakkas’ is still prevalent in many parts of the North-East.
Most of the older generation considers non-heterosexualites as mental disorders. When the Queers of NE enter the mainland, they are subdued with the clash of two “problematic identities”.
However, the main issue is the absence of a substantive amount of support groups in NE to bridge the gap between the community and the rest of the society. A resident of Guwahati and an alumni of the University of Delhi (DU) shared their experience of being targeted for their sexuality:
“When I was in school, I was in a relationship with a girl. Everyone would call us a lesbo in
a derogatory manner. Some even said that they don’t want to be in the same
class as us because we are different. We were given counselling by our directress to stop this behaviour because it is ‘unnatural’. We were told to think about how it would break our parent’s hearts if they found out about us.”
“There’s not as many people from the community as we’d think. Or even if there is, we wouldn’t know because it isn’t a safe space to come out with the number of homophobic people
around in NE,” states a member of the community from Sikkim. Another individual from Gangtok,
Sikkim illustrates, “I think the situation here is still not so good because we don’t have a proper LGBTQIA+ support group or community. Many states in the North East have them but the
number is very less as compared to mainland India.
In mainland India, things like Pride marches, etc. have become very common as many people
participate in them. The North East is lagging behind in this case.” With more and more people coming out, talks about sexualities and gender are normalizing. Initiatives such as Pride Parades, mental health groups, Queer support pages on social media, etc. are trying their best to create
a safer space for the community.
Although, the positivity on our screens may not always align with the realities faced by the community, there is definitely a space for one’s voice that will be joined by the screams of a
thousand others. The wave of Pride parades is yet to sweep the shore of North-East India
in its entirety. The first Pride parade in the North-East region was held in 2014 in Guwahati, Assam; 15 years later after its inception in mainland India.
Since then, the Pride parade has turned into an annual event for the city. However in other states of NE India, annual Pride parades are still a figment of one’s imagination.
Feature Image Credits: Northeast Pride Collective