Yes yes, anniversary. It is true, it’s been a year. A lot has happened over time, and most of it has been fairly good. The year has witnessed queer weddings, people coming out on social media, successful pride parades, and celebrities accepting their orientation. But has this affected the heterosexuals? Has the world become a better and a more colorful place for them? Are they really aware of LGBTQ+ laws and care about the fight we fight?
We conducted a small survey to help us find out if the abolishment of Section 377 changed their environment for the better. We asked 40 people to fill out a survey and answer simple questions about their engagement with the LGBTQ+ community. Among the 40, 39 were under the age of 30, and 5 who were 20 and under. We are clearly dealing with the millennials who have had exposure to media and news and keep up with what’s new.
So yes, that does mean that there is a certain troupe that we are looking at it. This is not because of our partiality, but rather that most older people had no idea about LGBTQ+ at all. Either way, this is what we learnt from the survey.
We asked them a few simple questions.
Since Section 377 was one of the laws that affected the LGBTQ+ community in a larger manner, it’s decriminalisation promoted many people to come out. For many others, it was an opportunity to initiate conversations about non-binary genders and the spectrum of sexual orientation. In India, especially, the conversation became louder and more spoken about in the mainstream media as well. So did it become easier for people to come out to their colleagues, friends or parents?
Have any of your close friends/relatives come out to you in the past?
23 said no and 17 said yes.
It is not that the members of LGBTQ+ are found in only certain regions or are limited to certain careers. They are everywhere. So why aren’t more people coming out? Is it that there are no more LGBTQ+ left to come out of the closet? Definitely not the case.
The issue lies in the lack of a comfortable environment and unavailability of an appropriate setup/procedure that allows people to come out and for others to take part in the conversation. Another major factor is the ignorance and indifference. Most people do not care about LGBTQ+ because they believe that it simply does not directly affect them. And it is high time we break this nonchalance.
For the 17 who said yes, we asked them to describe their first experience when someone came out to them
A few shared happy stories:
- It was one of my classmates, who was known to be Ace but later came out as gay and everyone in the friend circle really embraced him
- I was mildly surprised at first, but later glad that they trusted me to understand.
- The first time someone can out to me was at a time when I did not really know about the community. So I asked him to tell me more and we ended up speaking for hours.
- I figured that this friend of mine was in a thing with this other girl, and I could sense it. I called it and she admitted, there wasn’t any awkwardness of coming out to me.
- We always suspected it, so it wasn’t surprising. Happy he finally trusted us enough to confide in us.
- I was surprised but I was happy
A few that needed a little time
- I felt a little weird because that was the first time I was encountered with such situation but later I realized how ignorant I was.
- I was surprised because I knew her from childhood. And she suddenly came out to me and I did not know how to react.
- My roommate told me she was bi, I was a little worried about living with someone who identified that way because I was conservative. Now, thanks to her, I’ve learned so much more about the entire community, I guess I was just wrong to judge her so early on.
- I was happy that she trusted me and opened up
Did it change how you saw that person?
Only one person said that it changed how they felt about the person who came out to them. But the transition was a good one. This is because they moved from being conservative to becoming better aware of LGBTQ+.
Coming out to people is usually responded positively because the people who are coming out can gauge whether it is safe to come out or not. When heterosexuals are not a part of the LGBTQ+ conversations, it becomes harder for people to come out. Allies hold a pivotal role in creating safer spaces for the members of the LGBTQ+. Unless you become a part of the conversation, people will be forced to stay inside the closet longer.
So how do you become a better ally?
You can begin by educating yourself and talking about it with peers to educate yourself and others. Majority of the participants said that they learnt about LGBTQ+ through movies, TV Series, schools and colleges, and social media. Do you see why we believe representation and creating conversations are so important? Here are a few more answers.
- I knew about the community but a deeper understanding and knowledge came when I worked with transgenders and activists like Sanaa who is Akkai Padmashali’s associate. I worked with them on a documentary and became good friends with them.
- From the person who came out to me. I learnt more about the proper way to address people. They have already had a difficult time wondering whether they will be accepted by the people they come out to, and educating oneself makes this process a lot easier.
- A few years ago, when my brother was participating at MUN, LGBTQ+ was the topic of discussion. He was engrossed in a detailed study. That’s how I gained a better insight into the same.
- I learnt about it in detail when I was in college and had to research on it for a competition
- In school when I heard stories about a person who opened up before my mother in her office 10 years ago
- I always knew about it. But learnt more about it when I joined FSOG.
- When my college friend came out to me.
- Drag events and work
- My roommate
Exposure is the key to learning anything new.
Allow yourself to read without letting your past experiences or knowledge get in the way of new learnings. When people know better, things evidently become easier. Out of 40 people, 35 have never attended a pride parade and 28 have never been to an LGBTQ+ friendly bar. Only 24 keep themselves updated about LGBTQ+ laws and news. And yet a majority of the participants have kept themselves informed of the essential things. 30 of the 40 people know at least 1 person from the LGBTQ+ community. 34 also consider themselves an ally to the LGBTQ+.
The idea here is not to say blame or point fingers. This is an experiment to understand how much the heteronormative society really cares about the LGBTQ+ agenda. We need all the support we can get, and this is how you can start. By being more aware of the straight privilege and understanding the LGBTQ+.
Here is how the participants think people can be better educated about LGBTQ+
- Removing stigmas is very important. I had a lot of them before I got educated about it
- Schools would usually be the best place since it educates children early on. This definitely makes their transition/coming out easier. As for people who are not students anymore, a few pop up stalls giving out brochures with basic information/ a few talks explaining this concept would be educating. Not many know the exact difference between lesbian/trans/queer etc. Or that they prefer certain pronouns etc.
- People should be more open-minded and accept everyone as humans. And try to learn more about the aspects of the LGBTQ+ community.
- By ensuring that it is a part of the curriculum. For instance, we were never taught about it, only recently kids of my brother’s age (20 back then) were encouraged to be aware, discuss and learn more on the topic. It was definitely an eye-opener for them and their families.
- We have to break the cultural wall which creates this bias. Inclusion of LGBTQ+ culture in school syllabus might help create a generation which doesn’t have this wall. Plays, Books and cultural festivals are a good way to educate the masses.
- They need a tolerant temperament. It comes with education and exposure. I personally feel it is a generational change and any attempt to force things will only make things worse.
- By people actually speaking about it and not be weird about it
- Short movies and plays
- Sensitize people about what it means to be a part of LGBTQ. Create awareness using visual media.
What do you think?
Are we there yet? Do platforms similar to FSOG still have a long way to go? Or do you think we are done and it’s people’s turn to make an effort to learn? Feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to us on our social sites.
Thanks to Rashmitha, Vikas Bhatt, Srinihthi, Ritika, Bhaarat Pannu, Simran Pannu, Amrita, Dikshita Damodaran, Srinivasa DG, Anup R Bharadwaj, Akshay, Prathana, Shravan Kashyap, Aisiri Shankar, Yaagyanika Gehlot, Harshitha, Pranav Venkatesh, Vivek, Trupthi, Ajay Puranik, Parineeta, and Meghana Ravikumar and our anonymous participants for taking part.