This online campaign is bringing to the fore, stories of DU’s pride
The DUQC (Delhi University Queer Collective) is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Delhi Queer Pride on November 12 by consolidating students from the LGBTQI+ community. What’s new is that the students have shared their journeys and experiences on online platforms in a campaign called The Pride Writeathon, jointly organised by the collective and Youth Ki Awaaz, an online content publishing platform, and what’s interesting is that the majority have shared their stories under their real names — a striking departure from what has, so far, been the norm.
“We all talk of queer pride but no one knows the struggle behind it. The campaign is an effort to bring out these stories and what goes on behind them, whether they are tales of love, hate, desire or anything else,” says Rafiul Alom Rahman, the founding member of DUQC and an LGBTQ activist.
The campaign that started recently, featured thirteen stories at the time of going into print, and is a part of the run-up to the annual Pride March to be held in the Capital. “What is amazing here is that students are sharing their experiences online under their own names. For other queer students who haven’t come out yet, this will be great encouragement and will also help them get a sense of belonging,” Rafiul adds.
Realizing the need to bring people out of anonymity becomes imperative, since the subject is still taboo among circles queer individuals inhabit, including their homes.
“A movement of this sort is necessary to normalise people about the queer community,” says Srestha Bhattacharya, a third year Sociology student from Miranda House, Delhi University (DU), who identifies as a bisexual. “Even though my family have accepted my orientation, they aren’t comfortable with it. My mother tells me that she has accepted it, but says ‘agar koi puchega, toh I won’t be able to talk about it’,” she says.
For some others, like Keshav Kumar (name changed), a second-year gay student from Ramjas College, the situation was much bleaker – both at home and educational institutions. “My mannerisms were very feminine and that did not sit well with my father at all. I was 10 years old when he beat me up for dressing like a girl,” he says, adding, “Things outside of home weren’t very different either. I was always bullied. People told me I looked girly, and some went as far as calling me a chhakka and a hijra,” Keshav recalls.
Grave misconceptions and inaccurate knowledge is one of the reasons behind the victimisation and segregation of the community.
Harish Iyer, an activist and a visiting faculty in a Mumbai college, feels that such movements should also include teachers. “It is not just about students; universities and colleges should make it conducive for the faculty to come out. There should be no fear of prosecution. What’s most needed is to create peer groups in colleges as that’s where most discrimination comes from. Having experts and counsellors in colleges is only one side to it; a peer structure that is positive, needs to be built,” he explains.
Ashok Row Kavi, LGBTQ activist and founder of Humsafar Trust, agrees for the need of a support system, but says that such activism lacks a solid foundation. “Children get bullied and become victims of predatory sex. Coming out is fraught with a lot of dangers as there can be violence on the campus. These things need to be taken into consideration before coming out. Build allies and friends of LGBT by involving parents and peers. How do you know that if someone says ‘I am gay’, he won’t be beaten up? It’s like throwing them to the wolves. I think it’s thoughtless activism,” he says.
A message that Iyer wants to convey to youngsters who want to come out to their parents is to allow them time to adjust. “They need to understand that it took them years to understand their sexuality, but when they come out to their parents, they expect an instant reaction. Parents would have to unlearn years of conditioning to learn and accept it,” opines Iyer.
Rituj Sahu, a 26-year-old student of Young India Fellowship program, who hasn’t yet come out to his parents, feels that one’s dignity should not be compromised, no matter what. “When you come out, don’t put yourself at the mercy of anyone’s approval,” says Sahu.