“History owes its apologies to the LGBT Community,” says the Supreme Court. So the question comes up why do we have to apologise to the LGBT community?
What have we taken away from them, which we must now return?
If we look at the issue with a mind that detaches itself from the blame with which we see the LGBT community as a minority of people who aren’t afraid of breaking social norms. A group of people who claim that they are different from anyone you have ever met before or a stranger you see on the road who seems to be dressed differently.
But this is not the case, there are more people from the LGBT community that we know about, than we are brave enough to admit. Perhaps it’s a gay married uncle, or a sister who doesn’t seem to like men or a son who likes to experiment with makeup.
Maybe we try to imagine these people as heterosexuals who need fixing. That there is something that they should change, that we are altogether anxious to get rid of, in order to fit into the norms of society and a more worrying question plagues our mind of “Log kya kahenge?” It is this fear that makes us cruel and mean towards them. Family and parental pressures make them most worried. Therefore, they live secret lives.
Beautiful, talented and loving individuals are suppressed. Their gifts to the world and work take a step in the other direction. Careers are ruined, family bonds are broken. With no outlet to their emotions the people of the LGBT community are taken in by depression, drugs, harmful connections and scammers online. This is the path of the closeted individual.
Those who are brave enough to admit to the world that they are indeed members of the LGBT community and come out to their family, friends and acquaintances are ridiculed, laughed at, cursed, denied jobs, disowned by their families, kicked out of their homes and sent to mental asylums forcing them to undergo “corrective” therapy.
Gender is a fluid concept. Chief Justice of India Deepak Misra says “Criminalising gay sex is irrational and indefensible.” LGBT individuals are not criminals. They are not perverts, who commit sexual crimes. Rapists, paedophiles, murderers cannot be clubbed with the LGBT community.
The recent judgement scrapped the controversial Section 377, a 158- year-old colonial law on consensual gay sex. The Supreme Court reversed its own decision and said the Section 377 is irrational and arbitrary. “LGBT community has same rights as of an ordinary citizen. Respect for individual choice is the essence of liberty; LGBT community possesses equal rights under the Constitution.
In addition to decriminalising gay sex between consensual adults, this judgement decriminalises the entire LGBT community. So how does this judgement impact the lives of the LGBT community? In addition to the Facebook posts, we saw happy rainbow flags waving proudly, LGBT couples announcing their love, people colourfully dressed taking the streets, pride marches being held.
The first thing that we witnessed was a huge sense of relief and a newfound fearlessness. What does it mean to live without fear? It means having the right to privacy and freedom to express themselves. It means police stations taking LGBT cases seriously, it means pride marches going on successfully and without interruption.
The media has been a champion for LGBT rights in this regard. Popular TV shows such as Satyameva Jayate and the Tara Sharma Show have helped raise awareness among parents about LGBT issues. Social media giants have also played no small role. Recently the popular dating application Tinder now supports more ways to express gender identity, by giving users the ability to add information about their gender outside the binary, in their initiative known as, #All types of swipes.
It means the LGBT community is finally recognised as parents and friends are embracing their children and finally accepting them. Government jobs can be allotted to LGBT individuals and private companies will not be able to take action against an LGBT staff member.
It means something can be done about homeless LGBT youth, shelter homes being established without fear of being closed down. LGBT couples can live together in peace without being dragged back to their homes by the police on the accusation of kidnapping. Sexual harassment suits can be filed by the LGBT individuals, against their perpetrators.
A new and honest dialogue will embrace people irrespective of their sexual orientation, which will normalise LGBT issues. But for all this to begin we need to do our bit in handling everyday instances with LGBT people correctly, respecting the dignity of every individual and sensitizing ourselves towards our attitude and vibes we give out, when we come across LGBT friends and relatives.
Our stance towards the LGBT community matters as much as the Supreme Court. One can choose today to be an ally to the LGBT community and help them live lives of dignity and happiness as because we must remember that heterosexuality isn’t the only way normal, it is just common.
The author is a student, 3-year LLB, Semester-3rd, Indian Institute of Legal Studies, Siliguri.