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Out of the closet and into the light

Neelam, a lesbian, is an events coordinator at the Humsafar Trust, a prominent NGO supporting the rights of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community, writes Karthik Balasubramanian.

mumbai Updated: Sep 14, 2009 02:09 IST
Karthik Balasubramanian

Neelam, a lesbian, is an events coordinator at the Humsafar Trust, a prominent NGO supporting the rights of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community.

She joined soon after the July 2 Delhi High Court decree read down section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and decriminalised homosexuality.

According to Kalpita Patil, a psychologist and counselor at the Humsafar Trust, Santa Cruz, Neelam is one of the five lesbians who have approached the organisation since the amendment — a sharp increase given that before the amendment, only one or two lesbians would approach the trust in a year.

Patil also adds that gays have also come forward in increasing numbers. “Before July 2, I would get about five cases every month,” she says, “all of them males. Now, I have received 13 cases for counseling, out of which five were females or lesbian couples,” she adds.

The number of people who approach the organisation through email or telephone (to keep their identities secret) has nearly doubled.

“We would get about 20-25 cases per month through the telephone or email. Now it has gone up to 42,” she says. Neelam’s case stands out as particularly edifying.

“I was living with a childhood girlfriend,” she says. “Once the law was amended, I heard of Humsafar that took care of people like us. After some counseling, I really liked it here and joined them as an employee,” she added.

Neelam’s case might seem like a perfect story of a homosexual benefiting from the amendment, but Patil points out that the other cases are not as smooth.

“A lesbian couple approached me (after July 2). One of the partners wanted the other to change her sex so that they could live as a ‘conventional’ couple,” she says.

“Some of the gays who approach me don’t want to reveal their sexuality to their parents. They are just looking for a way to negotiate the problems like marriage to a woman, dealing with being HIV positive, without coming out of the closet,” she adds.

Rajan Bhosle, a consultant in sexual medicine and counselor, says, “A homosexual cannot cease to be one. He can at best develop an attraction for the opposite sex.”

“There are two types of people who come for consultation — those who want to change their orientation because they are themselves not happy with it, or their family is not, or will disapprove, and those who want to live with their homosexuality, accept themselves for who they are,” he adds.

Patil, however, is quick to point out that reasons aside, the very fact that homosexuals are approaching the organisation, especially for face-to-face consultation is an encouraging sign.

Vivek Raj Anand, chief executive officer of the Humsafar Trust feels that the amendment has helped bring out mainstream homosexual issues in the Indian community.

“The recent gay pride parade (on August 16) was a case in point,” he recalls, “I have never seen such huge crowds before. The law made us famous, I suppose,” he says.

“I don’t know if how society views homosexuals will change,” Patil adds.

“But this amendment may impel homosexuals to take active charge of how they view their sexuality and their sexual identity,” she says.

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