The subject was bold and so were the conversations. Yet another fierce, free and feminist episode of Feminist Rani concluded at Deepak Talkies focussed on LGBT Rights with Activist Anuja Parikh and Queer Rights activist and advocate Sonia Giani came together to break silences of the ‘Queer Question.’ Sonia is actively involved with Humsafar Trust, one that works in the area of advocacy and counselling for distress amongst the queer community.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual community has faced a lot of resistance from what we call the ‘mainstream’ society. It takes a certain amount of privilege to reach a point where one can come to terms with her/his sexuality, let alone it being accepted. Anuja and Sonia are both out-of-closet queers and at Feminist Rani, they spoke about their journey of coming out and what all are the everyday challenges they face due to their orientation. Their struggle were both within and with the society. The role of a supportive family played a great role, although the also acknowledged that conflict engagement and negotiation becomes most difficult when opposition comes from the domestic sphere.
On banning, unbanning and re-banning of Section 377 Act, which criminalizes any intercourse that is ‘non vagino-penal’. The law calls them ‘unnatural offences’. However, there is no definition to what determines the course of nature. Host of Feminist Rani, Meghna Pant also threw some light on how the culture of subverted gender identity has existed historically, though with the colonial invasion of the British and introduction of English Laws and regulation, that made masculinity a big thing and belittled femininity further. A feminine man would garner more homophobia that a masculine woman, pointed out Anuja.
The conversation also covered the idea of women’s sexuality, and how the society presumes that women have none. Every woman in this country would relate to the experience of being constantly pestered by the family to get married, and wait for love to happen after. Sonal and Anuja also agreed to the idea that this pressure is marginally higher for women than it is for men. We have had a long history of struggle where slowly through generations, we have been able to reach a point where women are now able to access spaces like Feminist Rani that allows them to articulate their thoughts and question existing, regressive norms.
Talking about privilege, three common themes emerged from the audiences. People were of the opinion that one’s Education, the kind of Literature one is exposed to, and the family support that s/he has are the three main privilege points; and all three come from their class hailing. Sonal translated this into the queer question saying that Language is true privilege and if we have enough access to it, we would be able to articulate our thoughts and feelings so much better.
The idea that love is a spiritual concept and has nothing to do with one’s body or gender, resonated with everyone present for the crowd.
Addressing the taboo against people from the queer community, Sonia established an apt analogy. She said, “Being gay is like being left handed. If you try, you might end up being ambi-dextrous, but you can never stop being left-handed. That’s the way you were born!” I am reminded of a line (which some might find offensive) of the popular TV Series Game of Thrones where Oberyn Martell says, “Anyone who is having sex with just a man or women is completely missing out on the other half!!”
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