It’s been a long and arduous journey for the people belonging to the LGBTQ+ community and those supporting them. The question of what makes an individual a human being and deserving of the rights vested to the majoritarians has been one that has been discussed time and again around the world. Though conversation has not always been the most enduring characteristic of the Indian subcontinent, discussions on internet forums and social media have forced people or at least their opinions out into the open. The people, now exposed to a barrage of comments in hate and in support of the marginalized, have been forced to acknowledge their existence and consequently their needs. Our policy decisions and lawmaking have always taken a backseat owing to political agendas that usually garner support using religion and caste as the pillars of their manifesto, making changes on this front an ordeal.
The striking down of Section 377 by the Supreme court is the culmination of years of protest and petitions by the marginalized, specifically the transsexual who were forced into poverty and sex work due to discrimination in every aspect of their lives. Why is it so difficult for us to understand and respect every unique person and the different quirks they come with? We seem to disregard the minorities using every facet of discrimination whose plurality rivals even that of India’s cultural diversity. Maybe because we do not see them or maybe we see the world through an illusion that we have constructed solely because our complex and sober brains can’t seem to fathom a world with people that look and behave differently. We resign ourselves and force everybody else to our “pure” and “clean” world by asking questions like “Do they even exist?”, “Aren’t they fairy tales construed by old witches/desi aunties/grandmas to scare children?”.
Centuries of institutionalized homophobia (due to religious attitudes and dated policy making) have reinforced prejudices that condemn people who even ever so slightly swing another way. Public contempt and misunderstanding of the people not so different from us have pushed them even farther from our reality, creating a feedback loop that just keeps growing. Nobody likes being judged, scrutinized and hurt for something he or she has no control over.
So they hide, away from the spotlight, public and even from themselves. Locking away the most elegant side of their identity. If someone says you’re unhygienic, then you can fix it by either showering or at least by wearing deodorant. But homosexuality can’t be fixed, because there simply is nothing wrong with feeling what you feel. With the partial scrapping of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, we can hope to break this feedback loop.
Abolishing institutionalized homophobia is just the beginning; prejudice and discrimination will persist and keep haunting minorities. We must give ourselves a chance to empathize and understand the people once branded criminals working towards social acceptance. All this time they were told that they didn’t deserve it…that their feelings are unnatural and are nothing but a mental illness that needs to be fixed. The law might welcome/include them into the society… but will the public? The fear of being rejected is renewed; tormented by a simple question: “Will they accept me for the person I am?”.
But they don’t need the whole world to see who they are. Just the ones who matter: family, friends and colleagues.
Social liberalism and tolerance, though sought after the world over, seems to slither from our reach only to bite us back for not making an effort to internalize such qualities. The benefits of accepting all people no matter who they are, are boundless over hating, hurting and maiming. Their contribution to culture, economy, arts and science will help transcend humanity to greater heights. Especially now, as it will be one filled with happiness and fulfillment.
So, let’s welcome them with open arms. Treating them not any different than we would… a friend, family and fellow human.