YOU may be aware that June was Pride month. Originating in the US, the month not only stands as a time to promote awareness and acceptance of people who identify as LGBTIQ+, but also commemorates the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, demonstrations in New York City in June 1969 that are considered to be the most significant event leading to the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the US.
LGBTIQ+ is the acronym that represents people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer or other sexual or gender identities.
While it is important to have time set aside specifically to raise awareness and promote equality for all; it’s also vital to remember that LGBT rights are a battle that many people face every day – not just 30 days a year.
In the 10 months since Section 377 (an Indian law that banned consensual same-sex relations) was struck down, we’re happy to report some significant strides have been made by the LGBTQ community in India.
In an attempt to level the playing field, Bengaluru will host India’s first job fair solely for LGBTQ candidates later this month. Hosted by the Pride Circle, RISE – Reimagining Inclusion for Social Equity – is touted as a “day-long conference, job fair, and marketplace committed to empowering LGBTI inclusion at the workplace”. The job fair will host 300 LGBTQ applicants who will interact with 40 – 50 companies recruiting for a variety of sectors, as well as “20 booths set up by queer-owned businesses to offer insights about the work they are doing”.
Dutee Chand, India’s national record holder in the 100m, has used her voice to call out sexism and gender-based double standards in her fight for equality due to a “hyperandrogenism” condition. Chand came out as a lesbian in May 2019 and is India’s first openly LGBTQ athlete.
The Times of India presented its “Times Out & Proud Classifieds”, a column that TOI says “seeks to include the LGBTQ community as part of society”. People identifying as LGBTQ can post classifieds from seeking a partner to living arrangements to any other typical ads.
As one activist, Anjali Gopalan, put it: “anything that works towards normalising queer relationships is a good thing”.
May also witnessed the release of the first openly gay album in India. Pragya Pallavi dropped her first album on May 17 – the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.
India’s first holistic clinic catering to the LGBTQ community was set up by Humsafar Trust in Mumbai. Inaugurated on March 8, this community-based centre is not only a one-stop shop for people suffering from HIV, AIDS and other health concerns (they now provide testing, counselling, and anti-retroviral treatment), they also employ people who identify as LGBTQ to ensure that the ostracisation and stigmatisation that many patients face in other facilities is not a concern here.
This past February was a particularly special month of love for one same-sex couple who hosted the first same-sex wedding in India since Section 377 was decriminalised. Founder of India’s first LGBTQ choir and his partner celebrated their wedded bliss as well as the triumph it meant for the equal rights movement in India.
Released February 1, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, was hailed as India’s first feature film featuring a lesbian romance. With major Bollywood star power, this coming of age story depicts “an Indian queer woman’s life – the loneliness, internalisation of shame, the lack of courage to come out of the closet – and packages them as a quintessential Bollywood love story with songs and dance, tear-jerking moments, and melodrama”. Whether you love or hate the genre, this was a huge step towards normalising LGBTQ life and love in mainstream media.
While we recognise there is still much to be done to ensure equality and acceptance for all, we are happy there have been so many noteworthy steps taken within just the first half of 2019 towards the overall acceptance and normalisation of LGBTQ people within Indian society.
-by Micah Branaman-Sharma