Gender, a word that has so many plethora of beliefs and values associated with it. Views ingrained from our playing days are considered to shape us into ‘better humans’. But, do beliefs have no rights to change and open to more flexibility? Do beliefs make us more of a human and less of a devil? Does gender limit only to a boy and a girl? As we grow up, we are taught to refer to a person either as a boy, if he has short hair and stands tall, or a girl, if she has long hair and a slender body. We never considered the existence of other genders, for beliefs are never false or changeable. But what if there are ambivalent genders? What if a boy likes pink rather than blue? And what if a girl has short hair rather than a brown cascade?
Recently, we have been knowing a community deeply. Still, it has been a part of our society since we existed and if not the beginning, but for a long time for sure. The LGBTQ community, which includes Lesbian, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Queers, has longed to live with some dignity and enjoy the wind of freedom, which we ‘normal’ people do. This community has people with the same flesh and blood. Yet, they become subject to harassment and hatred because they chose to live a life that differs from the ancestral ‘beliefs’ taught to them as a child. They have marched on different sands, protested with counter-attacks, discriminated for dressing ‘odd’ and stopped from loving a person the same as them. For the LGBTQ, sustaining in a world where only a boy and a girl, and not other gender breathes, has turned into silent wars. Every day, there is a war within oneself, there is a war at home, a war in school, a war with emotions and a war against man-made norms in society. These wars start with one, but they definitely are meant to influence the masses. Within the rigid barriers of homes, schools, workplaces and communities, acceptance of LGBTQ’s choices is still a series of questions and arguments. Amidst this, the repulsive society has generated their own conceptions and believe in several myths that convey such an ‘unusual behaviour’.
In India, it is believed that homosexuality is a western phenomenon and is just a deviation from the traditionally rich attributes. LGBTQ are ‘not sane’; rather, they are a creation of the modern age. Their identities are just meant to attain some sort of trends set in today’s time. Words like ‘queer’, ‘faggot’, ‘dyke’, ‘hijra’ are used to rub disgrace on the community, and some take it as slang to insult ‘normal people. A person’s gender is understood through the way they dress. So if you are a man and like to wear nose rings, you are Gay. For society, being around a person who belongs to the LGBT community shall make them gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Parents tend to keep their children away from this community, for they might become one of them. This attitude is inclined with the kind of stoic perception shaped, that is, a world has only two kinds of human, a boy or a girl. Shame and humiliation shall bore on a family if any members are not a boy or a girl. Homosexuality is considered to be an illness or a health issue; as a result, ‘effective treatments’ are framed to cure this health issue. Economically, the community lacks several aspects, and the prime reason is the unavailability of jobs in their hands. As soon as they reveal their identity for a job opportunity, they are rejected based on who they are. With it, their qualifications are never accepted. In our nation, honour killing is for the boys and men who reveal themselves as Gay while women are subjected to family sanctioned corrective rapes, committed mainly by their own family members. Quacks and shamans also advise the families to lock up those who have fallen prey to such misleading illness so that they shall be back to senses. Vyjanti Vasanta Mogli, a transwoman activist and public policy scholar at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad told that transmen and lesbian women belong to the ending of hierarchy and rights in rural India. Such concepts of gender do not exist in rural India, and anyone who follows it is going astray from his or her values.
Apart from India, many countries have rejected the existence of such a community, while some have opened their arms to welcome it. In a 2013 poll in Ghana, 96% of Ghanaians believe that society should disagree with homosexuality. Brunei has made any contacts that are homosexual, punishable with death through stoning. Brazil’s Supreme Court has now voted in favour of naming homophobia and transphobia as crimes but only after killing many LGBTQ communities. Across the continent of Africa, LGBTQ faces discrimination, persecution and potentially death too. Homosexuality faces grave punishments and is criminalised in Mauritania, Sudan, South Somalia and Northern Algeria. Middle Eastern countries are repulsive towards the LGBTQ community as it acts against the religious beliefs upon which the laws were made. For a long time, this community had lived in constant fear and experienced trauma after undergoing the consequences of coming out as one of ‘them’. However, like the sea, which raises the most during tides, the LGBTQ community has some prominent faces which challenged the communities they live in and present themselves unrefined.
The first transgender person and mother, Gauri Sawant, is a known face after she appeared in the Vicks advertisement. She was the first amongst the LGBTQ community in India to file a petition in The Supreme Court of India for adoption rights for transgender people. She adopted a baby girl in 2008 after her mother passed away and was a sex worker. She was also a National Legal Services Authority petitioner, where the Supreme Court recognised transgender as the third gender. Gauri has given hopes and identity to the transgender to live life just like us.
A person who advocates against the discrimination and atrocities towards women, child abuse and the LGBTQ community, Harish Iyer has himself been through a rocky patch of his life for 11 years. He has opposed the ideas of opposition for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in India. The National Human Rights Commission in 2018 appointed Iyer to the Core Group on the LGBTQ community. He made a mark in history by being the first openly known gay and joining a political party in India.
A prolific writer whose works centre around the issues and alienated feelings of LGBTQ, Vikram Seth started off with his writings dedicated to this community when India had no legality for it. Seth believes that the LGBTQ community must not be glorified; instead, they should have the same living rights others have on being a citizen of India. His works have been accorded. He is the recipient of prominent awards, including Padma Shri, Sahitya Akademi Awards and Pravasi Bharatiya Samman.
Becoming the first transgender to play a role in Bollywood, Anjali Meer stood firm for what she believed regarding her gender. Losing her family at a tender age, Anjali was always attracted to femininity since she was a kid. She moved away from her family and lived with transgender communities. She bagged modelling projects earlier and now is keen to play a role in Indian Cinema.
Being transgender and aspiring to crack India’s civil examination, Atri fought a long battle to find her category in the forms concerning the examination. Only two options in the Gender space in the form triggered her, so she went for a legal battle until she found her category. She is India’s first transgender to appear in the Indian Civil Examinations.
Manvendra Singh Gohil
Born as a prince, Manvendra Singh Gohil was disowned by his royal family after he came out to the public about his identity and gender. Passing this hurdle, Manvendra had set up Lakshya Foundation, a foundation dedicated to homosexuality. He and his foundation work with homosexual men and the transgender community to educate them about safer sexual practices but is often intervened by the police.
An actress and a vocal activist for the LGBTQ community, Sonal Giani for the Lesbian and Bisexual women, highlighting their issues. She co-founded India’s most prominent LGBTQ youth initiatives, named Umang and Yaariyan, which works for lesbian-transgender-bisexual women. Through her film projects and theatre productions, Sonal has voiced the struggles for women who come out as part of the LGBTQ community.
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi
A face known to India and the world, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi is an actress and a professional Bharatanatyam dancer. She has a movie dedicated to her, which shines light upon how society treated the LGBTQ community. She became the Dai Welfare Society founding member and represented the Asia Pacific in the United Nations in 2008. She launched the Indian Super Queen beauty pageant, breaking all the shaped norms of beauty.
Ashok Row Kavi
A journalist by profession, Ashok Row Kavi is a strong activist for the LGBT community. Chairperson of Humsafar Trust, Ashok is among the first people to talk about homosexuality. He founded the first gay magazine in India, named Bombay Dost, in 1990. His organisation works for the homosexual community in India and several programmes raising information about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Moved from Bhutan to India, Onir is an editor, scriptwriter, art director, music producer and director. His directorial debut “My Brother, Nikhil” deals with the issue of AIDS and same-sex relationships. His work, “I Am”, deals with single motherhood, child abuse and same-sex relationships. He won two National Awards for this film, and an I-VIEW 2010s Engendered Award in New York for Outstanding Contribution.
Many like the personalities mentioned above have and are making a mark in society on topics of sexuality. People’s prejudices and no willpower to accept diversity has led them to think that LGBT is odd. While the new reformations are coming in favour of this community, hatred still reeks in many areas. We need to go beyond the so-called structured vision of the world and appreciate the rainbow patterns that breathe with us. Only then the LGBTQ community shall not cage their hearts and bury their actual feelings. Only then, nothing beautiful will be concealed!