"Boys like you don't deserve to get a human life, you're such a waste and a cuss to our family" these were the words of a mother of a 17 years old trans woman, living in the rural hilly region of northern India. She is now starting an internship in one the MNCs from delhi after escaping her hometown as the situation after her coming out to her mother escalated into something as ugly as her father sending her to the quacks and calling panchayat for dealing with the "problems" like her.
"I was 14 when I realised I was attracted to boys. I was initially confused. I tried not to think about it. But the feeling kept troubling me, so I decided to talk to a friend about it.
His reaction shocked me. He told me it was disgusting to even think about homosexuality. He started to avoid me and, soon, we barely spoke to each other. For years after that, I never spoke about my sexuality. I was 18 when I moved to a nearby town to go to college. But things didn't change. I was depressed and the world didn't make sense to me. I always felt guilty but I didn't understand why. I wasn't doing anything bad. I eventually mustered enough courage to tell a teacher, who seemed friendly. But that was a mistake. The teacher called my parents and they took me back home. My father was furious. He thought it was a disease that could be cured. He took me to quacks and shamans. They gave me all sorts of concoctions - one of them said I should be locked up in a room for a week. And my father did that. I still live in my village but I have been offered a job in a big city. Hopefully, things will change. I want a partner. I want to love and be loved." says a 28 year old gay man from uttar pradesh
Belonging to LGBT+ community carry enough of stigma in urban India despite having the large population of educated people who consider themselves as liberal. In rural india things escalate quickly as they're comparatively less educated and are so bound to believing in their myths and superstitions that they think a person who belongs to the LGBTQ+ community is not normal and hence, not fit to live within the normal society. They're blindfolded by their age old values and traditional moral standards.
In some villages, secret honour killings are planned. So the only way for a young gay man or lesbian woman to survive is to run away to another place (often the nearest city), with no money or social support. Even today in many parts of India (particularly in the conservative states) lesbian women are subjected to family-sanctioned corrective rapes, which are often perpetrated by their own family members.
Many experts also believe that coming out as gay man in rural area have many social ramifications. They believe that on the basis of heteronormative patriarchial mindset of people from rural area. Villagers perceives that a man, who's gay is less of a man comparatively less acceptable than a lesbian who's more of a man now. Such mindsets are pretty lethal in nature.
Far away from massive parades, community festivals, awareness events, rainbow dipping streets and logos of corporations, and where queer community is visibly spoken about and commemorated, resides another queer community struggling each day, every second just to fit in the daily life of the rural society with no hopes in there eyes as everything seems to be translucent under the shade of toxic heteronormativity and the age old values. They are stuck between the dialogues of "fear god" and "conversion centres". They face physical harassment/assault and sexual violence, because of who they are.
"I didn't know anything about section 377 until Thursday. I didn't even know that being homosexual was criminal. I just knew that in rural Bihar, where I come from, I would never be allowed to live as a lesbian woman. I am happy with the ruling, but it doesn't help me. I can only hope that it starts a conversation that reaches rural India" tells Kiran yadav, 30, a lesbian woman, after SC scrapes the article 377 in september of 2018.
Queer kids in rural India are hopeless which makes it even more difficult to see any rays of hope for a progressive and accepting tomorrow. Except few tho;
Dutee Chand: When India’s fastest sprinter Dutee Chand came out as gay and introduced her partner to the world as her soulmate, her village disowned her. Chaka Gopalpur, a village of weavers in Odisha, thought the gold medallist from their village should not have come out publicly. They felt humiliated. But in 2020, when the lockdown dried up employment opportunities in her native village, she came forward to offer help with food and other essential provisions. She also realised the crisis of menstrual hygiene in the wake of the lockdown provisions and went to each individual house to deliver sanitary napkins. “I wasn’t sure if women would be comfortable coming out to take sanitary pad packets. So, I went to each home,” Dutee said about her relief drive.
Rafiul alom Rahman: Hailing from Dhubri in Assam, he always had to brave through dual layer of discrimination, for being Muslim and for being queer. He founded the Queer Muslim Project in 2017 to shared first-person accounts of what it means to be queer and muslim. It aims to “counter queerphobia and muslim hate one story at a time”.
Like Chand and Rahman there are many other folks hailing from the extreme rural areas of India and not only working for different cause in different sectors but also encouraging alot of other folks like them to get education, be financially and emotionally independent, come out and live life with dignity.
After, few of them, crossing one of the staircase of moving out from the rural areas after years of discrimination, torture and the feeling of being unsafe as they constantly hear homophobic and hateful remarks everyday. Now there's going to be a constant race of "fit in" in the queer communities of urban or suburban areas. The urban queer communities is not as accepting as they pretend to be. On one hand manny face internalised femmphobia, transphobia and xenophobia within the community on the other the competition of being better than each other is always there. Under the shade of being better, the one who have not seen much of city life or are raised in rural area feel left out and mocked by the community themselves.
Though community do feels like home from celebrating the existence of each other to being there for the fight of basic human rights, they stick together. Accepting family also have flaws.
Recently, Indian government referring to same-sex marriage as "urban elitist" concept made headlines. A national body referring to the very basic human rights to marry the person they love irrespective of gender as "urban elitist" shows how as a nation, there's a need of sensitisation in general. As sr adv. Ramachandran said in the supreme court during the hearing on marriage equality under SMA
"My petitioner Kajal is a Dalit woman from a town in Punjab, her partner Bhavna is an OBC woman from a town in Haryana. Bhavna works as an accountant, Kajal works in a bakery. They don't have understanding families. They had to go to the Delhi High Court for protection from their own families. Government's assumption that they are the "Urban Elite" is careless and insensitive. Marriage is not only a gateway to different socio-economic rights but it is a protection from their own parental families & society."
It is an undeniable fact that all these things are new for a society with less knowledge and awareness, but it is obviously not impossible for them to learn. Some representatives of LGBTQ+ community are trying to rectify this problem via short street plays, poems, drama and parades. These attempts play a great role in making people understand that “LGBTQ+ community is not something that’s from out of the world, it is what it is, sexuality is not a choice it is what you are born with and what you are”. It is of utmost importance to “Believe. Support. And Validate.” As we work or radical self-acceptance and self-joy, we must also uplift all other individuals in our community. Strength comes from connection; let’s just stop making a mould and trying to fit everyone into it.