Trigger warning: Homophobia, Familial Violence, Trauma.
"I just got back after meeting a survivor of domestic violence. It was so bad that I could not let the victim stay at the place," says Harish Iyer, a queer rights activist.
In the queer community, violence by family members is common and could be triggered by anything. Raj (name changed to hide the identity), a 19-year-old gay boy living in a family of five in the Mumbai suburbs, says, "The other day my father just hit me without any reason." Showing his swollen thumb, he said, "I am unable to move it. I hope it isn't anything major or else I will have to rush to the hospital all by myself." Later over messages, he shared that the thumb was fractured. Raj shares the roof with his brother and sister, both in their mid-20s. Despite being educated in the elite schools of Mumbai, they do not accept Raj. He shared, "Most of the violence is triggered by my sister. Anything goes wrong with her; I am the victim. A few weeks back, her wedding dress had fitting issues. I tried to offer suggestions, and I got verbally abused. I am called and told to walk straight." Raj hopes his sister's marriage will bring more peace to his life. Currently, Raj works at an Event Management firm, and within two years, he plans to move out of the country.
All of these cases need police intervention, but the police rarely support LGBTQ+ individuals. They end up supporting their family. Similar is the story of Sam, a 20-year-old non-binary raised by conservative and authoritative parents. Their mother got to know about their identity, and the situation turned hostile. So they ran away from home. They immediately filed a statement with police that they are above 18 years of age and have decided to live by themselves. Yet, the police supported the family to uphold the institution of the family. Fortunately, Sam was supported by queer activists, who took their care for four months and found a lawyer to help them pro-bono. The support Sam received led them and their friend, Pranav, a 21-year-old male pursuing M.A. in Economics, to start SaveTheGaybies (STG), a non-profit organization to help queer people get out of toxic homes. STG helps queer people with fundraisers, mental health support, and legal help to leave abusive homes.
Shikhar, a young non-binary individual, needed Rs 30,000/- to move out of their parental home. Their parents are emotionally abusive and exercise control over their finances, thus making it impossible to save up and escape. Shikhar's elder brother even tried to out them several times, making the home environment very difficult for them to live in. Shikhar's fundraiser was STG's first. The amount was raised in a week, helping Shekhar move to Delhi and rent a room. Finally, Shikhar sleeps well. STG has collected over three lakhs through online fundraisers and helped more than 12 people find homes.
For queer people, homes are mostly not the safest places. Usually, home is a place where a bruised and battered individual returns after doing battle with the world. But when the home is the battleground, where does one feel at home? Everything else seems transitory. While calming the young assaulted gay boy in his lap, Harish says, "I wonder what is home? How is home? And where is home for those who have been rendered homeless by the heartless? I wonder why people have children if they can't bear them as independent creatures with a beating heart and a thinking mind of their own? Why do we obsessively celebrate parents when we know that just by giving birth, one doesn't become a parent! Children are independent beings with thoughts and actions of their own. They are not a part of your flesh, that literally. If you can't accept that, well, don't make children."