I often find myself envious of people who live in a world of black and white and for whom everything seems so simple and clear. It would be so much easier not to struggle, feel torn or grapple with complexity and uncertainty. One needs to find the courage, strength, conviction, and sensitivity to live in the grey and bear the tension inherent in a sophisticated and nuanced approach to complicated issues.
One such example is the increasing approach towards LGBT community or the organizations that are slowly and steadily rising in our country. Recently, I spoke to a group of observant teenagers about this issue and began by asking them: If a close friend were to invite you to a same gender marriage, would you attend? I was startled when every single hand in the group went up, with a few saying that they don’t necessarily approve of this lifestyle, but their dedication and loyalty to their friend and desire for their happiness dictate from their participation.
The controversial section 377 in India, has not only created a landmark judgment by granting a “third gender” category but recognizing them as a socially and economically disadvantaged class. It is the right of every human being to choose their gender, thus granting rights to those who self-identify as neither male nor female.
Various such organizations around our country are also doing much for sake of their betterment. One such community is ‘The Humsafar Trust’. A community-based organization for self-identified gay men, MSM, Hijras(eunuch) and LBT persons in Mumbai since 1994. HST also provides legal support, crisis management, mental health counseling, and nutrition counseling to its communities. The Indian government themselves are coming up with various projects and initiatives for this community. Taking up the research studies from these trusts such as HIV interventions for more betterment in the rural parts of our country.
With an exclusive interaction with this trust, I came across with the advocacy and online outreach manager of this organization, Rohan Pujari, who is also one of the Top 3 finalists of Mr. Gay, India. This 30 years old handsome guy, from the coast of Mumbai, works with The Humsafar Trust (HST) which is also India’s first registered LGBTQ organization. Rohan came out of the closet seven years ago, admits being bullied and threatened during his growing up years. Hailing from an orthodox South Indian family, and being the only son, coming out wasn’t easy for him. “My parents didn’t speak to me for days. My mom would say, ‘Forget all this and get over it.’ She was in denial for a long time, but I knew at the end of the day, what I was,” says Rohan.
Another such organization ‘Saathi IIT-B’, aims to make the college environment comfortable for these minority groups which are at the receiving end of mockery and ragging. It works to eliminate heteronormativism, homophobia and gender identity oppression and provide a safe place and counseling to individuals who have faced harassment because of their sexual orientations. The efforts were by Saathi, which is probably the first-ever institute-backed campus support group in India for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) people” at IIT-B. Started by a group of students, faculty, and alumni. Saathi is a home for LGBTQ community at IIT-B and is meant to be a “safe space” for people coming to terms with themselves and their sexuality. Being one of the reputed institutes of our country, IIT-B has set up such a support group.
Homosexuality is a matter of concern for the country of India; to combat it; in the initial days of the verdict, the government has put LGBT laws into place that banned the presence of homosexuality. Thus, the government had later responded to this heightened homosexual presence by increasing regulations which brought the establishment of Section 377, in the Indian Penal Code. This caused citizens in India to seek freedom from political constraints by revolting against the government. But the scenario has changed now. This “Grey” community has been waving their rainbow colored flag high in the sky and making their mark of love all over.
It is said by an anonymous once, “There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s a lot wrong with the world you live in”