When it should be a supportive and holistic intra-national network, the community barely goes beyond a few Prides and Fashion Weeks in this country.
It is tough being gay in India. Gay sex is illegal, the government is not supportive, the police are bullies and the collective mindset of the country is still primitive and, occasionally, insensitive. While web series and films are trying hard to promote a healthier portrayal of sexual fluidity, these attempts are still fringe at best, with homophobia and queer comedy still being comic relief for the mainstream.
But like they say, God helps those who help themselves – and the LGBTIQ community in India is not one that comes to its own rescue. Barring a few NGOs (like the Naz Foundation and Humsafar Trust, which have been relentlessly fighting for the cause of decriminalisation), there are no efforts by anybody to create an environment of support, love and encouragement for people who identify as LGBTIQ in this country. There are no heathcare centres, no counselling, no PFLAGs, no hangouts, no discussions, no meet ups. What we have are Pride marches — or an opportunity for people to dress up outrageously and hook up at the after-party later. These very people will go back to their hetero-normative closets the next morning and act “normal”. We have Fashion Weeks, which are yet more opportunities for men to wear whatever they want to (which generally translates to garish and stupid — I saw a guy walk around in a langot once, with gold costume jewellery). Or else there will be a LGBT film festival — which is more of a mating ground than a celebration of cinema (not to mention that almost any film with a gay theme that is screened is abysmal). “Gay” and “LGBT” still conjure images and connotations of loud, cackling men in gaudy drag costumes in India, partly because that is the only representation LGBT people project.
But how do they value themselves? Given their stifling real lives, queer teenagers and young adults are perpetually attracted to the world of fashion and film like moths to a flame. They want to dress up, put on make up, party, drink and snort, meet fancy people, populate their Instagrams and tell the whole world that “Bitch, I am fabulous.” They become make up and hair stylists, or models, or self-proclaimed fashion stylists, or fashion bloggers and Instagram influencers and forever stew in superficiality and air kisses. I am not demeaning any of these professions, but I have been in the fashion and film space for years now, and I can tell you that being gay is not a qualification. The better job is done by the talented ones – painting your face and putting up selfies is not a resume.
Why does this “community” not want to read? Or become engineers? Or fight crime? Or become sportspeople? Queer people in India want to be like queer people in the West – from the nineties. They want to go to pubs with their posse and drink cosmos and bitch about other people. They are snarky and mean because, supposedly, some fairy dragmother told them that one of the prerequisites of being queer is being obnoxious to other people — to be judgemental and negative. “Fabulous” is the desired descriptor — not “intelligent” or “successful” or “kind”. A lot of gay people don’t aspire to be polite and gentle – the hate and ostracisation that they have been treated to transforms itself into a constant, vitriolic need to be difficult and hateful towards other people. Here’s a piece of advice: yes, you might have gone through hardship, ridicule, bullying and abuse, but that does not mean you have to become like those who put you through misery.
On the other hand, queer people in India barely have anyone to look up to. You don’t want Karan Johar to be a role model for anybody. Harish Iyer, the activist and selfproclaimed poster boy of the Indian gay rights movement is not much more than a narcissistic opportunist who just wants more platforms to, well, talk about himself. Apurva Asrani did come out publicly to promote his film Aligarh, but hasn’t done much else after that. None of the other famous people who we know are queer have come out or wish to. “Gay” is a cool keyword to attract the media and be clickbait, but almost no one does anything beyond that for the cause.
Additionally, have you also noticed that in India, like violence and politics, even the LGBTIQ movement has a gender? Where are the Ls in the LGBT? Where do they meet? Which apps do they use to hook up? Why are there barely any conversations about lesbian women and their problems? Because it isn’t glamourous, fabulous and maybe does not align with the projection of LGBT we are satisfied with and unnecessarily aspire to?