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Recently, controversy erupted when the ‘Ambedkarite Queer’ attendees at the 2024 Mumbai Pride Parade were allegedly barred from chanting “Jai Bhim,” a popular slogan for Dalit liberation and the annihilation of caste. In the light of this missing intersectionality, along with the all-too-familiar hijacking of Pride by corporations professing ‘rainbow capitalism,’ the question arises: where is the soul of Pride today?

While Pride stands as a symbol of celebration of diversity and a fight for equal rights, it has been exploited over the years not only within the realm of capitalism but by political parties in the country, who have been handed over the task to initiate laws for marriage equality by the honourable Supreme Court. India hosts several Pride marches across cities like Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, and many more. However, the history of the Pride march illustrates several obstacles, like police and legal restrictions, all over the country.

Recently, the Pride March conducted in Mumbai on February 3rd, 2024, witnessed bouts of ‘political tokenism’. Altercations were reported between groups that were accused of raising ‘political slogans.’ In reality, it so panned out that individuals who identified themselves as ‘Ambedkarite Queers’ were barred from chanting ‘Jai Bhim’ and their posters of B.R. Ambedkar were snatched by the Pride Volunteers. While Pride is a celebration of the diverse gender spectrum, it is also a battle for equal rights for all. While gender and sexuality sadly pose a barrier in today’s world, individuals also have to surpass other social barriers like caste and religion, depicting the intersectionality of oppression. While Pride aims to propose a ‘safe political space’ for claiming moral individual rights, incidents of such sorts explain the ‘hollowness’ behind its façade of progressivism within the country.

Furthermore, the reading of the Preamble of the Indian Constitution conducted during Mumbai Queer Pride allegedly missed out on the word ‘secular.’ Interesting, sigh. Apologies if this smells of ‘saffronization’ of long-protected social justice spaces as well. Allegedly revoking the word ‘secular’ sadly reeks of an established right-wing government injecting its agendas into what was supposedly a liberal safe space. Nevertheless, members of Mumbai Queer Pride soon after published a public apology on Instagram, citing their “respect to stand with every cause that intersects with Queer lives.”

Much earlier, the 2020 Pride, then scheduled to be held in Mumbai, was cancelled owing to protests related to the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, squashing the annual celebration of the city’s widespread queer community. Similarly, even Delhi’s Pride Parade, which has been held since 2008, has witnessed over hundreds of police personnel and restrictions in place every year (yes, queer people are ‘too dangerous’ after all).

Indeed, several questions come to mind. Can Pride ever be apolitical? Can the fight for queer rights be fought without taking into account intersectionality? And most importantly, is the liberation of any queer people possible without the liberation of all queer people, intersecting religious, caste, and other social hierarchies?

While the answers seem obscure, Pride Marches was initially conceived with the idea of creating a protected sphere for queer individuals where their individuality is celebrated and their need for fundamental rights amplified while the rest of the world shuns them. Pride today has been tainted with flimsy populist politics, evident from such policing and legalities.

With the 2024 Lok Sabha elections nearing, we flashback to the 2019 elections and the manifesto promises of providing equal footing to the LGBTQ+ community within society with equal opportunities in health, education, and work by all the political parties. While the abrogation of Section 377 served as a major win for LGBTQ+ rights, the ruling party, after coming into power, has since taken scarce measures to ensure a safe space for the community. There has been hardly any legislation for trans inclusivity in employment, health, education, and likewise.

This brings us to another pertinent question: are political parties using the ‘fight for equal rights’ as an ‘agenda’ to gain votes from the youth? Has the soul of Pride been sucked into the circle of ‘vote-bank politics’? A student from Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi, shared their opinion on this matter,

A lot of institutions before electoral processes conduct ‘rainbow representation’ for tokenistic purposes, and even after they get elected, they hardly create any change for the betterment of the community. Pride also witnesses ‘rainbow capitalism’ where organisations are’selling’ queer people while they are intrinsically homophobic or transphobic in their manufacturing purposes or ideologies. It’s tragic and cannot be solved unless the majority from every electoral poll holds MPs and MLAs accountable for providing equal gender rights.

National-level politics, besides capitalism, have exploited the LGBTQ+ community with manifestos that are just fantasy and rainbow-themed products in corporate organisations, while rejecting jobs for any individual who identifies as a part of the community under the garb of a progressive corporate work environment. Several examples can be cited from student politics as well. Pride marches conducted by student political parties, while turning out to be a huge success, get overruled by the spotlight due to how ‘woke’ the political party is. An instance of this can be pointed out in the Pride March conducted by the Student Federation of India (SFI) at the North Campus of Delhi University in 2023. Several gender-rights collectives that were part of the parade claimed that the march was boiled down to an ‘SFI-led event’ with SFI flags overruling the Pride flags. After all, it’s never a fight for equality, but ‘look how progressive our party is’ implying that ‘do not forget to vote for us; elections are just around the corner!’ 

“Pride will always be political,” they say, but moral boundaries between what is an election stunt and a genuinely progressive cause are the need of the hour; otherwise, it plainly delegitimizes the fight of generations. For years, caste oppression, poverty, economic inequality, and a lack of education have been favourite playthings of parties running for elections. But LGBTQ+ rights are now grabbing the spot of the top favourite toy of political parties, which are hell-bent on turning it into another token movement. While social justice movements embedded within the realm of politics are getting fooled by the world of politics itself, is there no way out of this paradox? Is justice, indeed, blind?

The abrogation of Section 377 was never about the liberty of the LGBTQ+ community. It was always tagged as one of the greater ‘achievements’ of the ruling party and the Prime Minister. While ‘taking credit’ remains a societal norm, social justice can hardly prevail in such a society.

As long as same-sex marriage still remains a far-fetched dream in a country of the twenty-first century, it is important to think how many Pride Marches, police restrictions, legal obstacles, political tokenism it will take for justice to prevail and to live equally in this unequal world.

Read Also: Pride, Privilege, Politics: A Third-Year Perspective on Being Queer in DU

Featured Image Credits: DU Beat

Priyanka Mukherjee
[email protected]

As months of anticipation and years of struggle come ostensibly crashing down, here is a moment of reckoning with institutional failures and the road that lies ahead.

10:48 AM on the crispy morning of 17 October, 2023. Groups of students huddle at the back of lecture halls, their eyes or ears fixated on the livestream or latest updates from the Supreme Court’s (SC) judgement on same-sex marriage equality. Nearly 5 months of waiting and 10 days of preceding hearings had led up to this moment. While the expectations going in differed for each individual, I swear we all experienced a collective adrenaline rush in the hours and minutes leading up to it. It is as if the weight of this verdict and the bearing it would have on our fates and futures had suddenly come crashing upon us.

Such is my intent with this piece. I am no queer activist with credit or contribution to the struggle that was fought for this case. Nor am I an expert who can offer insight or add to a conversation that has already been covered much better than I ever could. I am simply a young queer person seeking to memorialise this event in my eyes and those of the people of my age and community. Because if there is anything that queerness has taught me, it is that the power of memory and the power of stories outlive everything.

The pronouncement of the judgement certainly began on a high note, in large part due to the Chief Justice’s words, whose queer-sensitive remarks had been a highlight of the hearings as well. It did not take long, however, for all the hopes and exhilaration to come cascading down, ultimately solidifying as a pit in the stomach as we saw a relatively trusted institution shift the mantle of responsibility to one that few queer people hold faith in. Prakhar, a student who had been closely following the livestream, shared the initial joy he felt in being seen,

While all of this was happening, I was feeling very, very emotional. I was almost about to cry because of how we were being validated and talked about, and the fact that someone at a high level was acknowledging that queerness is not western and that we exist to deserve better. But of course, as the judgement moved on, all of these statements became futile. All the emotions that I was feeling went straight down the drain.

The degree of institutional trust held by the queer community is key to understanding the verdict at hand and the reactions it has elicited. The battle for LGBTQIA+ rights in India has historically found more success in the courts than it has in our legislatures. From the 2014 NALSA judgement to the 2018 decriminalisation of homosexuality, the judiciary of India has upheld the rights and dignity of queer individuals in the face of a cis-heteronormative society whose majority opinion seldom sways in the favour of marginalised groups.

In the case of the queer movement, legal reform has had to precede a social overturning of long-held prejudices. To see an apex institute abdicate itself of the responsibility to initiate such change is disappointing, to say the least. Add to this the Centre’s affidavit in March disapproving of same-sex marriages as something that “would cause a complete havoc with the delicate balance of personal laws in the country and in accepted societal values” and their history of misrepresenting the queer community in legislation such as with the Trans Act 2019, and it is evident why people are calling this verdict the setback that it is.

Not all hope is lost, however. In fact, far from it. In conversation with DU Beat, Yash Sharma, founder of Official Humans of Queer, says,

While this verdict may not grant us all we’re fighting for, it has ignited the flame of determination within us. This newfound resilience will undoubtedly aid us in future battles, whether it’s for marriage equality, horizontal reservations, mental health support, or any other essential rights.

Moments like these also bring out the dire need for queer representation in the leadership and decision-making institutions of our country. Reflecting on the judgement, Gavish from Hindu College Queer Collective says,

The fiasco made me realise how just pressure from our side is not enough, we need more and more queer folks in position of power to change the prevalent conditions. Queer destinies are being determined by people who do not relate to queer issues; hence they are bound to fail.

In my conversations with queer peers, I was saddened yet felt empathetic upon observing great dejectedness and hopelessness among the youth of my age group. Perhaps stemming from the fact that this was our first face-to-face incidence with an institutional failure of this scale, a reaction of hurt and rage is naturally expected. It is in moments like these that I find it crucial to turn to our queer elders and queer history. Georgina Maddox, queer feminist art critic-curator, shares,

The younger generation should not feel defeated or depressed because queer rights have been gotten through fighting. We faced a similar set-back for Section 377 of the IPC that criminalised ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature.’ Similarly, the marriage act for queer couples has to be redefined in gender non-binary manner and re-applied for. We will not give up but continue to struggle till we get our rights.

This should serve as a moment of reckoning. If you are a young queer person, especially one whose intersectional privileges have allowed them to distance themselves from politics and activism, this is your wake-up call. Apoliticism will not bring you queer rights, but channelling the pain and rage into actionable dissent might. As the LGBTQIA+ movement wages on in the country, which side of history will you choose to be on?

Read also: Student Unions and the Queer Community: Authentic Representation or Queer Baiting?

Featured Image Credits: DU Beat Photo Archive

Earlier this month, rumors surfaced on Twitter about Ali Sethi, one of South Asia’s most reputed musicians and the man who brought ghazal to contemporary times was said to have supposedly married Salman Toor, an American artist of Pakistani origin. While both have been highly praised for their work, it seems as though simply rumors of their union (which have been refuted by Sethi) spurned South Asian masses against the two artists, which brings into question of how we can continue our formation of new traditions, if we deny such cultural icons the opportunity to be themselves and therefore, fully realize the true capabilities of their art.

 Toor is a famous Pakistani artist, credited for his depiction of male homosexuality and intimacy in his artworks, with his most famous exhibit being “No Ordinary Love.” The solo exhibition attempts to capture brown men in scenarios of comfort, where they have regained autonomy over their queer identities and can shape the narrative surrounding their sexuality, something which Toor was deprived of during his childhood back in Pakistan. His paintings also question the colonizers’ lens and point of view.

By creating private, deeply comfortable spaces, I hope to give dignity and safety to the boys in my paintings. Somehow, this also makes me feel safe and comfortable, solidifying my context in this culture as a queer man from a Muslim cultural background.” – Salman Toor in an interview with Design Pataki.

Sethi, on the other hand, is one of Pakistan’s only openly queer public figures and has been credited for reviving the ghazal and making it relevant in modern times. His most recent global sensation, Pasoori has also said to subliminally underline fluidity and redefinition of gender identity and the freedom to love who one’s heart desires. The song, which mixes Turkic and South Asian elements, poses a certain duality given the Punjabi lyrics but it can be said that it speaks of the perseverance of love in the face of adversity. Sethi’s use of Sufi motifs, which are notoriously and conveniently ambiguous, allow for the expression of homosexual love, something seen in Sethi’s previous works like Rung. The juxtaposition of traditional garb with bright eclectic colors all through the music video can also be indicative of a mixture of tradition and modernity.

One would think that the peoples’ love for these two artists would transcend such regressive beliefs but mere rumors for their marriage sparked conflict on social media. Accusations of violating Islamic beliefs, derogatory memes, and calls for boycotting Sethi’s performances by his fans ran rampant on Twitter.

This incident brings into question the place of art in our community, and how we look at personal expression and its intersection with identity. If we cannot accept the two of our most loved artists, who’ve entered our homes and hearts through their music and art, who’ve been sources of joy and entertainment, who’ve reinvented and preserved South Asian culture –  then what is the purpose of our traditional values?

 

Read also – https://dubeat.com/2023/07/03/saffronisation-of-cultural-expression/

Image credits – luhringaugustine.com

 

Chaharika Uppal

[email protected]

 

What distinguishes Taali is that it is one of the first biographical works that focuses on the challenges and life of a transgender person, therefore providing a glimpse into their tough lives from their own perspective.

Taali is a biographical drama series based on the life of Shree Gauri Sawant, a transgender activist played by Sushmita Sen. The series, directed by Ravi Jadhav, lasts for three hours and is broken into six thirty-minute parts. It is available on the Jio Cinema platform in India. I was thrilled to watch the show after watching the teaser for the first time and being aware of the real-life inspiration. While inclusion of the LGBTQA+ population in mainstream films and series has expanded recently, there are a few that highlight the realities of the transgender community, such as – Laxmii, Super Deluxe.

What distinguishes Taali is that it is one of the first biographical works that focuses on the challenges and life of a transgender person, therefore providing a glimpse into their tough lives from their own perspective. Many notable biopics based on the lives of athletes, freedom fighters, army officers have been produced by the film industry. Taali thus adds a feather to the cap because it is innovative in its approach to raising awareness and praising the efforts of many such activists who seek to improve the status of the Third gender in India. This is certainly one of the most compelling reasons to watch this series.

Before we go any further, here is a quick summary of the transgender activist as to why she is remarkable –

Shree Gauri Savant is a transgender activist from Mumbai who has been working diligently for the transgender community for many years. Gauri established the Sakhi Char Chowghi Trust in 2000. The NGO encourages safe sex and offers transsexual counselling. In 2014, she was the first transgender person to petition the Supreme Court of India for transgender adoption rights.  She was a petitioner in the case of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), in which the Supreme Court declared transgender as a third gender. She also starred in an affectionate Vicks commercial and in Kaun Banega Crorepati. In 2019, she was appointed as the Maharashtra Election Commission’s goodwill ambassador.

Taali, focusing on the Supreme Court’s watershed decision in 2014, which officially recognized the third gender, It flashes back and forth in time to Gauri Sawant’s life, from her days as a child battling with identity to her days as a mother advocating for equality. The show seeks to cover major events in her life, such as her childhood and troubles with her father, gender affirming surgery, adopting a child, and handling the atrocities of the society. In the first episode, named Teesri ladai, she explains how her battle is separated into three stages: struggle for identity, struggle for survival, and struggle for equality, with the final one referring to the Landmark Case.

Krutika Deo’s performance as Young Gauri, known as Ganesh, helped viewers connect to the character’s predicament of feeling unfit. Her desire to be a mother, which no one around her understands, her loneliness after her mother passed away and her father’s reluctance to accept her identity are all major points where the audience can relate to the helplessness faced by young Gauri trapped in the body of a boy, wishing to be a girl.

Sushmita Sen, who plays a grown-up Gauri, does a fantastic job in the part. Her performance was a combination of grace and aggression, accurately calibrated to the necessities of the scene. Sen is depicted in the story’s midsection, where Gauri works with an NGO and as a waiter to earn and teach at the same time. These were the rare sequences where Sen seemed out of place in huge Kurtas, shirt trousers and even a fake moustache.

The story progresses from her days of survival to finally founding her own non-profit organization, dealing with other transgender people. The affection and warmth between Gauri and her new family could be seen in these specific scenes. Sheetal Kale’s performance as Nargis, a fellow transgender, was another highlight for me. Her friendship with Gauri, from once saving her life to presenting her a neckless that Gauri tressures as a trophy, are heartwarming experiences that will also have an impact on Gauri’s life.

Aside from the impressive performances, the show had its own set of flaws. To begin, despite the fact that the show drew out Gauri’s life across six episodes, it failed to give greater space to crucial moments that required more creativity, more time for viewers to absorb it and appreciate the depth of it. Factors such as Gauri’s transformation as a mother and her struggle to gain support from her own community were mentioned but not adequately developed. There are several situations in which Gauri faces adversity and hatred from members of her own community who believe that her work is harming their daily lives, even to the point where a fellow transgender tries to poison Gauri. However, these scenes are addressed with dialogues such as Mere paas na dushmano ki directory nahi dictionary milegi (you won’t either the directory or the dictionary of enemies with me) or inhone mera makeup kiya hai mei inka pack up karwati hoon (they did my makeup, I will do their pack up).

What was missing was a genuine confrontation moment to really show why many transgender people believed Gauri’s work was harming them, and it could’ve led the viewers to the real issue of why many of them are resistant to these changes. This alternate perspective was not properly explored.

Another letdown was the addition of sequences that felt like an attempt to inject some drama into the show. Scene of Gauri celebrating the commencement of her womanhood while dressed as a bride, was paralleled by her father performing Ganesh’s final rites. This was done to symbolically represent Gauri’s father’s reluctance to embrace her new reality.  Instead of this addition, it would have been good to devote more screen time to Gauri’s metamorphosis.

Other attempts at eliciting emotions were made with background music and almost poetic dialogues. It seemed as though Gauri’s every response was designed to be an inspiring statement. Gauri’s more open exchanges with people, such as the flight attendant on a trip to the United States or the school principal, were much appreciated.

Taali provided to the audience something that they had already seen on the internet and in the news. There was a lack of artistically narrating the story so that viewers could better comprehend the perspectives of the third gender. Taali remains an amazing first-of-its-kind biopic packed with a number of profound performances, and we hope that mainstream cinema brings out more work of such activists while providing LGBTQ people the opportunity to play these parts.

 

Read Also : https://dubeat.com/2016/09/03/transgender-accepting-the-non-conformist/

Featured Image Credits: JioCinema

Priya Agrawal

While the idea of fluidity in gender might seem new to people, it is not a modern phenomenon. Examples of bending identities from history and myth can pave the way for deeper perspectives on this long-established concept.

When I was first introduced to the concept of gender fluidity, the notion felt familiar instead of strange. As a devoted explorer of mythology and folklore, I had long been reading about Gods and mortals who transcended the confines of the gender binary. On the contrary, a well-received opinion today is that fluidity is a contemporary phenomenon. A 21st-century ‘invention’, even. Doesn’t this claim conveniently erase the rich history of fluid identities throughout cultures of the world?

For a brief overview, gender fluidity means flexibility in one’s gender identity or expression, or both. It’s about not feeling tied to a single gender label, allowing it to shift and change with time. It plays a significant role in understanding diverse gender identities. For centuries, if not millennia, traditions across the world have recognized and honoured gender nonconformity. As we celebrate Pride this month, it’s imperative to show appreciation and learn from them the vast ways gender can be perceived.

A recurring theme in Hindu mythology that I grew up fascinated with, is that of Gods and Goddesses often blurring the lines between masculine and feminine. The ‘Puranas’ recite various tales of this including one where Shiv merges with Shakti to become Ardhanarishwara, (Sanskrit: Lord who is half-woman) who is seen in many Southeast Asian sculptures. Another story is that of Shikhandi, who was born into a female body but always knew was a man and later entered the battlefield of Kurukshetra as one. It was also ordinary for Gods to turn into Goddesses to enchant ‘Asuras’! In Norse mythology, Loki is a famous gender-bending entity. In Greek myth, the prophet Teiresias spent seven years as a woman, and in Mesopotamian lore, the Goddess of fertility and love is depicted with both masculine and feminine elements.

Ardhanarishwara sculpture in Mumbai, Source: Elephanta Caves Web,

While such beliefs provide significant insight into the perception of gender thousands of years ago and still remain a part of cultures worldwide, people may find it hard to see some sense of reality in it as it is lore, after all. This is why it’s essential to also discuss credible historical accounts of gender fluidity that go a little less far back into history.

Flourishing cultures have not only accepted but also revered the dynamic nature of gender. One of the more prominent instances is that of the Native Americans. In their societies, the existence of feminine men, masculine women, and transgendered people was ubiquitous. They were called “two-spirit” people and were considered strikingly knowledgeable. There were no rules regarding expression of identity and cross-dressing was routine. With the advent of the Europeans, this flexibility was no longer tolerated. The Mahus of Hawaii and Tahiti, who never put restrictions on gender identity, met with a similar fate after colonization. Certain ethnic groups in Madagascar would raise their boys with long hair and multiple piercings if they tended to show feminine traits and this practice is still prevalent. These are only scattered examples from a myriad of customs from all over the world.

While in some historical contexts, queerness might have had a negative connotation, it’s refreshing to realize that more often than not it was nothing out of the ordinary. Its acceptance sure did gradually plummet after the Euro-Western dominance, but its existence could simply never be questioned.

We’wha, a famous two-spirit, Source: Human Rights Campaign Web

For a modern interpretation, legends and lore about the fluidity of gender can be viewed through a lens of acceptance and inclusivity. These stories serve as a powerful reminder that gender has always existed along a diverse spectrum, and they should encourage us to pursue social structures that protect the dignity of all individuals, irrespective of expression or identity.

There will always be diversity in the human experience, let’s honour it. Today, as the modern world wrestles with the idea of accepting anything that is beyond the binary, remind yourself of this perpetual truth- Gender fluidity is as old as time itself.

 

Read also: How Ancient Mythologies Defy the Gender Binary

                   Gender Fluidity Around the World   

Featured Image Source: Medium

 

Arshiya Pathania

[email protected]

 

The recent Parental Rights in Education bill passed in Florida, USA is just the latest in a long line of
homophobic legislation and policies in and around schools and education. This piece attempts to
trace the history of international and local legislation surrounding LGBTQ+ issues in educational
institutions.

Educational institutions are regarded as the bedrock for development and windows to the world for
young, impressionable students. Educators are trusted by parents and tasked with the enormous
responsibility of guiding, instructing, and leading bright minds of the future. So, who decides what a
child should be taught to equip them with the necessary cognitive, social, and emotional intelligence
to thrive in society – the parents, the teachers, or the government?
With increasing open discourse on historically ‘inappropriate’ themes, particularly LGBTQ+ issues, it
is only natural for such discussions to make their way to classroom settings. However, this liberal
and unorthodox approach to learning has caused widespread alarm among parents and legislatures
internationally. Parents have expressed disapproval and even hostility towards educators trying to
make inclusive learning spaces, saying it goes against their ‘personal beliefs’. Right-leaning,
conservative legislators have weaponized this vitriol to push their own agendas in school
curriculums, severely limiting the scope for necessary discussions to take place.

International Scenario
Recently, in Florida, USA, Governor Ron DeSantis expanded the scope of the Parental Rights in
Education bill which essentially bans lessons in sexual orientation and gender identity up to grade
12. Topics such as these which were part of courses on reproductive health have been made
optional for students. Critics have called this the ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’ which aims to limit or outright
prohibit open conversations on LGBTQ+ positive issues.
At least 15 other states in the United States are considering bills in the current legislative session
that target Queer Clubs in schools, faculty’s and students’ use of gender pronouns, gender-neutral
washrooms, trans students in sports or restrict curriculum, instruction, and library books that
feature queer themes. Educators are being forced to adhere to students’ genders assigned at birth,
not openly discuss matters of sexual orientation, and cannot state their personal attributes or beliefs
on a host of issues including race, religion, and sexuality.
In 2014, in Birmingham, UK, an assistant head teacher designed the ‘No Outsiders’ programme
which sought to educate children about protected attributes under the Equality Act such as sexual
orientation and religion through age-appropriate literature. Storybooks were to be used to introduce
students to ideas of diversity and equality. However, the programme was halted in many schools as
there were widespread protests by parents stating that it goes against their religious beliefs and not
to ‘pollute’ their children.

Dire Consequences
These homophobic legislations or protests often stem from parental fear that educators are
‘indoctrinating’ students in liberal ideas or social justice. There are concerns about teaching ‘sexually explicit’ topics to young children and often homosexuality falls under this umbrella. There exists a
belief that openly homosexual teachers, social workers, and counsellors can encourage sexual
deviation in children. Ideas of ‘perversion’, ‘promotion’, and ‘exploitation’ of children’s innocence
have been widely used in homophobic contexts.
However, this refusal to acknowledge the diversity within communities from the grass-root level can
have detrimental effects on budding learners. Ignoring gender dysmorphia and questioning sexuality
can prove to be psychologically harmful. It serves to boost a sense of internalised homophobia and
isolation among queer students. Furthermore, children with LGBTQ family members, friends, or
children who do not know any LGBTQ people within their near circle are fed the idea that it is
inappropriate to even acknowledge homosexuality.

Closer Look
Moving on to a more microscopic view of the sentiments on queer issues within Delhi University, the
varsity has often been hailed for its progressive student body. Recently SFI organised a Pride Parade
in North Campus which saw active participation from members of the queer community and allies.
However, there are very few colleges in the university with a formally recognised Queer Collective.
There is often hesitance or hostility from the admin to legitimize such collectives despite there being
demand from the student body. Reasons such as ‘this is a minority religion / women-only institute’
or roadblocks such as ‘get permission from your parents’ are presented.
Gender studies within the curriculum are often limited to women’s struggles and refuse to
acknowledge a wider spectrum of gender identities. Despite UGC guidelines preventing
discrimination on the basis of sexuality, there exists a glaring chasm where LGBTQ+ discussions
should take place.

Education is an essential element in combatting homophobia. Therefore, healthy discourse on topics
such as sexual orientation, gender, and sex and its nuances goes a long way in educating the youth
and eliminating bias that has been handed down over generations.

 

Image Credits: DU Beat Archives

Read Also: The Need for Queer Collectives in Colleges

Bhavya Nayak
[email protected]

As final-years gear up for farewell, here is an attempt by a first-year queer student to ask and articulate what their LGBTQ experience has looked like.


When I first took up this piece, I must admit the tinge of narcissism I brought to the table with me. As a first-year student, I wanted to look up to these seniors—these wonderful, proud, queer seniors, whose mere existence on campus had made me feel safe and like I belonged—for answers. It’s as if my long-suppressed desire of stopping every queer senior in their tracks and bombarding them with questions had finally found a less-creepy outlet. I wanted to ask them if they had felt the same way. Had they stepped into college with similar dreams and aspirations as me? Did those dreams come true? Did they feel just as lost and lonely? Was the feeling going to last forever, or was there someone to turn to? I reached out to the ever-so-loving hand of the guiding senior that DU had taught me to trust so much.

As you can imagine, my plan of mapping out a queer journey and, vicariously, a personal trajectory too, is not exactly how things panned out. Assuming the existence of a single, unified, queer DU student experience was a fallacy in the first place. Each day at DU is a lesson in the incredible diversity of this university, and its queer students are no exception. Queer people are far from a monolith, and their journeys as students at Delhi University are shaped by their wide range of backgrounds, privilege, and family values. Equally important is the college in which they land.

It is certainly true that for many, DU, or college in general, represents a highly liberating and exhilarating experience—to be away from the shackles of one’s often queerphobic and non-accepting family and to experiment, question, and live on your own terms perhaps for the first time is no small deal, after all. The question I wanted to pose, however, is how often those hopes are realised. 

I did have very high hopes about Delhi and queerness but it didn’t meet my expectations. Queer people in Delhi have this very secluded, exclusive circle. The community itself has not been too welcoming. If you see a bunch of queer kids hanging out and you think that you can just go and blend in with them, you probably can’t.

Titas, a final-year student from Miranda House

This feeling of alienation, resulting from a homogenised, elitist, and exclusive queer culture, is one that I sadly found echoed by most final-year students that I talked to. Another person lamented,

Being queer is always supposed to look a certain way in DU. I, as an individual without coloured hair, multiple piercings, non-ability to party, drink alcohol, etc always feel like I don’t really belong in these circles.

An anonymous final-year queer student

Rejected from these social circles, one may turn to queer collectives and gender cells for community—or at least so I thought in my naivety. The very existence of these bodies in most DU colleges remains an exception to the rule, especially when it comes to whether or not the college administration recognizes them officially. Much to my disappointment, I was additionally disillusioned about the integrity and effectiveness of these bodies in colleges where they do exist.

Most administrations are happy to use places like the Queer Collective tokenistically to appear progressive when required, but otherwise want everyone to be hush hush about the same on most accounts. You’d expect at least DU professors to be progressive and all that? Most aren’t.

—an anonymous final-year queer student 

Problems of elitism are quick to seep into queer collectives too. Their effectiveness, in that case, seems to stem from how empathetic and accepting an environment they are able to cultivate and the true sense of community they may foster.

We were able to start a queer collective in our college. It’s not a formalized society, but it does exist as a safe space for people to come and talk about things. I personally saw a lot of people journeying from what they thought was their cishet identity to their queerer identity, and that was really nice to be able to see them be open with their friends and have that safe space. So, I think in terms of the University, if we just have more places like that where people, one, have the ability to learn, and two, have this community where they can talk to people, it would be great in terms of making the University more queer-friendly.

— Sagarika, a final-year student from St. Stephen’s College

As with all things DU, politics also factors in a big way when it comes to being queer on campus. While for some, their identity becomes a political statement in itself, others prefer to distance themselves from such a stance.

The “safe” space of DU definitely comes with multiple terms and conditions. At a time when there is a humungous right-wing upsurge in the university, there is constant control of the queer folx around.

The queer community itself is largely covertly divided because not everyone has the access to the same kind of social resources and that creates the image of what queerness is acceptable and what is not. Nonetheless we have come a long way from multiple colleges to having just gender cells to now having queer collectives. It is definitely a step forward but there still stands a long way to go.

But amidst all the brouhaha I hope that people never lose sight of the fact that pride was and must always remain a protest first and a celebration later. To alienate one from the latter is a disservice to the history of this deeply political movement.

– Anwesh Banerjee, final-year student from Ramjas College

One of the loveliest anecdotes that I came across while working on this piece was one shared by a final-year student from one of DU’s women’s colleges. I must spare the details for the sake of anonymity, but they described finding, within the pages of decades-old library books, queer love letters and Urdu shayari written for and by the women students of the institution. There is solace to be found in this history of queerness at DU, but it also signals the continuing presence of queer students as part of the diversity of this campus. LGBTQ+ voices have mattered and will always continue to matter as queerness continues to shape this dynamic university space.

Read also: The Need for Queer Collectives in Colleges

Featured Image Credits: Scroll.in

 

Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi, has recently witnessed a controversy surrounding a video that was released by some students from the English department, containing harmful misinformation and hate speech about the transgender community. In response, VenQueer, the unofficial queer collective of the college, condemned the video and demanded an immediate apology from the perpetrators.

 

VenQueer has expressed support for the transgender and gender non-binary groups and urged the administration to take strict measures against those who were behind the video. To promote inclusivity and a safe space for the queer community on the college campus, the collective has also urged for the conduct of more gender and sexuality sensitization programmes and workshops. They have also advised all college students to express their disapproval of the clip and avoid circulating it.

 

On 30th March, the English Department Association of Sri Venkateswara College released a statement on their social media platform, denouncing the video and expressing their support for the queer community. The association has made it clear that none of the views expressed in the video are tolerated or propagated by its members. The association has also appealed to all college students to refrain from sharing the video and to express their condemnation of it. The association has explicitly stated that none of the opinions presented in the clip are supported or encouraged by its members. The association has also urged all college students to publicly denounce the video and desist from sharing it. 

 

This is not the first time that instances of discrimination against the queer community have come up at the University campus. Queer individuals faced backlash after the DU Pride parade held a few months back. There is opposition from many colleges. The administration responds to the requests of queer students on campus with hostility, ignorance, indifference, and sometimes threats. Students’ calls for a queer collective are rebuffed with opposition, ignorance, indifference, and even threats from officials as reported at various colleges of the varsity in the recent past. 

Read also: https://dubeat.com/2023/03/31/student-protesters-at-arts-faculty-brutally-detained-by-delhi-police/ 

Image credits: DU Beat Archives

This June, remember to hold onto your anger and pain as you set out to celebrate your pride. Pride was, never a celebration alone to begin with. It was and will always, remain a fierce riot.

When I joined DU Beat, I was a lost correspondent with too many opinions on Netflix and zero knowledge about graphics ideation. But one thing I knew for sure was that I wished to write stories rooted in my immediate cultural experiences. Stories about people. Stories about students. Stories about queerness.

I never viewed queerness as something that was associated with a sexual identity but rather as something that served as a deviation from a set norm. Queering of narratives, discourses, readings and even something like non-linear documentation of time always interested me. As a marginal figure in my most immediate circles while growing up, I felt the need to understand and by extension empathise with anything that occupied a position of marginality around us.

Ever since I stepped foot into DU, I realised that there are hardly any places more queer than those afforded by educational spaces – where marginal social identities offset hundreds of students from the larger crowd of normal adherence. And such varsity spaces become intersectional convergence points for glorious bonhomie – and sometimes sites of extreme cruelty. Taking pride in visiblising intersectional identities in university spaces like ours are more often than not the share of a privileged few – their economic and social position allowing them affordances most are denied. The same identity that becomes the pride of a select few – comes at a cost for others. For most people of such social minority identities, making common knowledge of your lower caste identity comes at the cost of having your narrative being baited by upper caste saviours, your gender identity becomes a double edged sword in your path of progress and your sexuality a constant site of speculation and amusement for those around you.

But amidst the pride colours, pride watchlists and other glittery extravaganza is the overlooked loneliness of growing up queer. To survive a childhood of conflict with your truest point of self-identification, knowing that perhaps the biggest truth about you will always be held as a questioned truth by those around you and eventually coming to a city this big and finding yourself lost amidst a sea of unknown faces – each presenting to you hierarchies of power previously unknown to you. You are immediately swept into a whirlwind of heterosexual college romances, and your heart yearns for that singular same-sex romance that you only see in your annual token queer Netflix romantic comedy and before you know it you have set sail on the flood-prone waves of the hookup culture. Eventually your life is a string of making your way from one bed to another, from looking for ‘spots’ and asking for ‘places’.

But every year in June, corporations and allies around you urge you to forget this language of heartbreak and make you drown in their definition of a glitzy celebration of queerness. To all those queer souls lost this Pride month – to you I say, remember Pride began as a protest, a riot to be precise. Take the anger in your heart and hold onto it – for being queer comes at great pain of surviving a staunchly heterosexual society. To all the allies planning your next pride march, make sure to administer a consensual hug to the next queer you meet this month – queerness is a struggle with loneliness and for all your good intent some loneliness of the self that will take this community an entire life to overcome.

Anwesh Banerjee

[email protected]

 

What if your options did not have to be between queer ally or queerphobia? What if your options could rather be between flawed and flawed?


TW: Queerphobia

“It is only a pollution instigated by the West!” or “This goes against Indian sabhyata!” are just some of the things you might have heard when the discussion approaches queerness— in any shape and form; statements, that more often than not, have come to become the defensive pedestal of the right-wing, hetero-patriarchal ideology of modern India. But to what extent can it be considered the gospel truth (minus, of course, all the homophobic sub-text)? 

From vows of celibacy going hand-in-hand with intimate same-sex friendships, to rebirth in different gender forms, or sex change and the existence of gender fluidity— accounts from ancient India might have been somewhat successful in pulling a thin curtain over the Indian queer reality but that doesn’t make India devoid of queer representation. Mahabharata with its story of Shikhandini or Shikandi, King Bhagiratha with his two mothers, the story of Babur and Baburi, or the existence of an Indianized version of Achilles and Patroclus found in the walls of the Jamali Kamali tomb, all points far away from the fact that India’s “sabhyata” might have only existed in gender binaries.

But that doesn’t mean that living in ancient India as a queer person was a bed of roses; It also had its own share of thorns. With extremes like depictions of same-sex intimate interactions being largely confined to Rakshasas (a literal demonisation of queer identities) to Manu smriti listing a range of quixotic punishments for homosexual men and women, the relation between queerness and Indian history isn’t much less of a Pandora’s box— it might seem all bright and rainbow-coloured from outside but the real horrors only come through when the box finally lies open in your hands. 

So, does that mean that all those statements made under the veil of nationalism and rightist ideologies are true? Does it mean that phrases stringed together in hatred and queerphobia are what we need to fall back to?

When the landmark Article 377 verdict was given by the Supreme Court, Rajya Sabha MP Subramaniam Swamy took to telling news channels how “homosexuality is a genetic flaw”. This was the same person who had earlier told the media that “being gay is against Hindutva” and it needs a cure (Source: moneycontrol.com). But couldn’t that easily be just one person’s point of view out of a few hundred? Or is that something only said because the queer community happens to be a huge vote bank nobody wants to lose out on?

It is true that the British came to India and brought something in this regard with them; just that the something wasn’t the reality of queerness but, in contrast, the institutionalisation of queerphobia with the Vatican’s puritanical ideology finding its echo in the anti-sodomy law, something that did not leave India even when the Britishers did.

These two sides of a coin that exist when talks of queer identity travel through the air of India—in whispers or in free cries, in solidarity or in phobia — are as flawed as they are pure. Two rotting but shiny sides,  existing as an anomaly in oxymorons, leave you with only one outcome, however impossible: the coin landing on its edge, the coin landing on neither. 

 

Feature Image: economictimes.indiatimes.com

 

Manasvi Kadian

[email protected]