Decriminalising homosexuality may have come as a huge relief to the LGBTQ community in India. But, things have not changed much for its members yet. Coming out continues to be a challenge.
Four months since, there is no visible change in the government machinery. The society at large looks at sexual minorities in cosmopolitan cities says, activists.
“The verdict is just the beginning of our fight for equal rights. Now, the task is to translate the judgment into action. We have a long way to go in terms of changing the societal perception and behavior towards the sexual minority community,” said Rajesh Srinivas, executive director, Sangama, a city-based organisation working on the rights of sexual minorities.
How Silicon Valley Supported:
Two Indian heroes in the struggle towards the LGBTQ+ Community. Arvind Kumar and Ashok Jethanandani, the first out gay Indian couple.
The couple started Trikone, the first South Asian gay magazine.
Trikone is a registered non-profit organization for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) people of South Asia.
Founded in 1986 in the San Francisco Bay Area, Trikone is the oldest group of its kind in the world.
Trikone, it played off the subcontinent’s shape and a pink upside-down triangle—the symbol once used by Nazis to identify homosexuals at concentration camps and reclaimed later as a symbol of gay liberation.
Trace their ethnicities to one of the following places: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tibet.
Trikone was just six pages stapled together. In his first editorial:
Arvind wrote,“Even in America, the number of gay South Asians who identify themselves as such is virtually nil.” But he lived in hope.
“I was relentless in terms of sending letters to the editors of every gay publication I could find,” Arvind said.
About the Boys:
Arvind Kumar and Ashok Jethanandani were living proof that it was possible to be gay and Indian at the same time.
Both were the two good Indian boys who studied engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), postgraduation in the US and a job in Silicon Valley. They were gay in a world where few gay Indians were visible.
Society, an Indian magazine, carried a story about them, with pictures of Trikone members marching in the San Francisco Pride parade holding banners with their logo.
They started getting letters from big cities and small towns all over India. They mailed out of California, as a way for queer Indians to find each other.
The main thing I got out of those letters was just the loneliness of having no one to talk to where you lived. And they needed to write to someone 10,000 miles away,” recalled Arvind.
“We would send a handwritten response back with almost every letter,” said Ashok. “Even if it was just a few words of support.”
We made sure that Trikone marched not just in the San Francisco Pride parade but also in the India Day Parade. A march showcasing the best of Indian culture.
Post the fall of Section 377:
The duo feel the change after the fall of Section 377. Ashok, was on a panel at HSBC for Amplifying Pride—an event raising awareness about the LGBTQ+ community within the company—watching their in-house theatre group talk powerfully about bias through song, dance, and drama.
The changes that are somewhat visible are happening at two levels.
Families are increasingly willing to accept their sons and daughters who identify themselves as sexual minorities. Companies are showing interest in hiring members belonging to the community.
Namma Pride Bangalore:
The annual pride march of the LGBTQ community saw parents joining the pride with their children.
“Since the pronouncement of the verdict, several of my friends have come out about their sexual identity with the parents. Being aware that it is no more a criminal offense to be a homosexual, parents, too, accepted them and participated in the pride march,” said Ayaan Syed, a member of the Coalition of Sexual Minorities Forum and one of the organisers of Namma Pride.
What others told:
Rumi Harish, a transman and research consultant at the Alternative Law Forum, said handling crisis intervention has become easier ever since the judgment. “We do not seek any police support in crisis intervention cases. We tell families that being homosexual is no more criminality. But they keep raising the issues of morality, Indian culture, and family prestige,” Rumi said.
Even the firms that were promoting diversity and inclusive space within the organisation were sceptical about hiring LGBT people in the past. Often, their legal teams would put a barrier to the hiring process suggesting that homosexuality is a criminal offence. And then the companies would hesitate to hire,” Shubha Chacko, executive director at the Solidarity Foundation said.
At the corporate level, there is a gradual change. Some multinational companies have expressed their willingness to recruit members of the LGBTQ+ community. For many others, coming out about their sexual identity is still a challenge.
The change, however, would happen only over time, step by step.