In Tamil Nadu, a glossary of hope
Tamil Nadu released an official glossary of terms to be used for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual (LGBTQIA+) communities. This is welcome news
In a heartening step last week, Tamil Nadu released an official glossary of terms to be used for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual (LGBTQIA+) communities. Done under orders of the Madras High Court, which has issued a raft of guidelines and recommendations to the central and state governments since it started hearing a public interest litigation last year, it gives hope that marginalised communities will not be referred to by mocking terms of jeering or insults. In its gazette notification, the State has mandated that all forums, including the media, only use these terms from the glossary published in English and Tamil.
Over the years, the strides made in securing the rights of the queer communities have been largely done through courts, the 2014 affirmation of transgender rights and 2018 decriminalisation of homosexuality by the apex court standing as two moments that catalysed a bouquet of positive verdicts. However, society continues to oppress these communities and build hurdles in their access to employment, health care, and education.
In everyday life, language is important. Derogatory terms can not only affect a community’s self-esteem, but also create negative perceptions about them. In this respect, Tamil Nadu’s decision is welcome. But the government must remain alive to the needs of the community, and demands for the change of certain terms included in the document. It must also ensure that the glossary doesn’t become an ossified relic of governmentality and remain a document that incorporates newer terms that evolve organically within the community. Most importantly, efforts to ensure LGBTQIA+ rights must continue.