Whatever The 'Final Verdict', We're Not Going Back In The Closet

01/02/2016 6:24 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
MANJUNATH KIRAN via Getty Images
Indian LGBT activists hold placards as they demonstrate against the Supreme Court's reinstatement of Section 377, which bans gay sex in a law dating from India's colonial era, in Bangalore on January 28, 2014. India's top court January 28 rejected a plea filed by the government and activist groups to review its shock ruling which reinstated a colonial-era ban on gay sex. AFP PHOTO/Manjunath KIRAN (Photo credit should read Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)


By Dhrubo Jyoti

I still remember the day I crossed over. The day I realised that my vague, lingering but intense desire couldn't be denied or dismissed any longer -- that I was different.

It was a lonely moment for me, a gawky boy in small town India, brought up by a single mother struggling to fight gendered and casteist prejudices.

I didn't know any other queer-identified person, except for anonymous names on my "fake" Facebook profile, and was embarrassingly ignorant of any queer-themed literature or material --except porn.

The few interactions I had intimidated me -- sex shorn of conversation -- and for about a decade later, I kept away from websites like Planetromeo (this was before Grindr made things easier for some of us).

Section 377 casts a tall shadow... policing their desires, controlling their sexual expressions and making things easier for bullies and harassers.

Fear was a constant companion. Even at 14, with occasional internet access, I knew what I did was dirty and wrong and criminal. I knew of Section 377 through rumours, stares and stigma, and even though I had never read the provision for myself, I knew that being queer (I identified as gay at the time) meant not just potentially disappointing one's family, alienating friends and inviting harassment, but also getting jailed for who I was.

More than a decade has passed since, filled with hilarious stories of hormones and escapades, with all-consuming love and heartbreaks, and almost daily negotiations with caste, gender and sexual harassment.

My clothes are more colourful, and the grasp of the law has grown weaker -- Section 377 doesn't seem as intimidating as it felt to the hapless 14-year-old struggling to choose between respectability and desire.

But most queer people don't have the same class, education and other privileges to repel the stigma of your country criminalising your life. Section 377 casts a tall shadow in their lives, policing their desires, controlling their sexual expressions and making things easier for bullies and harassers.

It also translates in wanton violence against trans persons, sex workers, economically disadvantaged queer folk on the streets, in the erasure of crime against queer people, and in stymieing health interventions in rural areas.

Section 377 is unjust and wrong, and it will have to go, today or five years from now.

Starting today, thousands of LGBT people will start coming together across the country to hold vigils to remind the Supreme Court that the curative petition before it isn't a mere document -- it contains the hopes and aspirations of countless people who are fighting for their right to live with dignity and respect.

But this isn't our "last hope". It cannot be, considering how far we have come in just a few decades, despite legislative inaction and judicial dalliance.

Despite Section 377, so many of us are living and performing queer love in our schools, colleges, universities, in our homes and workplaces, in the streets and inside our heads. We are pushing for better access to education and healthcare, stronger laws and sensitisation programmes to stem anti-queer violence, and reaching out to younger people to be a part of the struggle.

Some of the most powerful forms of resistance are coming from smaller towns, villages and the countryside, where queer communities are showing the way in fighting back social and state oppression. Some of the most underprivileged people -- trans sex workers, gender-non-confirming people in villages who don't identify with our western labels -- are talking about freedoms and rights in a way that's both inspiring and challenging.

In cities, campuses are buzzing with queer activities, young people are more open and less judgmental that those even a generation ago, popular culture is witnessing a gradual but significant shift from its traditionally negative, stereotypical portrayal of queer lives.

This road is long and arduous but whatever the court may decide on 2 February, we are not going back into the closet. Section 377 is unjust and wrong, and it will have to go, today or five years from now.

In the meanwhile, we shall continue to celebrate our diversity, trying to strengthen voices from the margin, fighting against violence and for health, education and anti-discrimination laws. We shall hold and reach out to those worst affected by the law and initiate conversations within the community on our prejudices, privileges and problems. From where I'm standing now, the future looks bright with a rainbow in the background. My 14-year-old self would be happy.

About the author: Dhrubo Jyoti is a journalist by profession, a physicist by training. He works with the Hindustan Times, New Delhi, and makes better use of time with Gaylaxy.

This post was first published at Gaylaxy

ALSO READ: Voices Of Reason: Why The Supreme Court Must Reconsider Its Decision On Sec 377

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