SC verdict on Section 377: LGBTQ community won't be liberated until conversation shifts to legal protection, empowerment

Editor's note: Firstpost reached out to several members of the LGBTQ community for their reaction to the Supreme Court verdict on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Chandra Moulee is the founder of Queer Chennai Chronicles, which collects and publishes individual and collective narratives from queer people who associate with Chennai.

Once again today—after four years, eight months and 26 days—Indians who go down on their partner or Indians who flip their partner or those who flaunt their imported sex toys won’t be criminals: thanks to the lengthy legal battle in the name of gay sex and LGBTQ rights.

 SC verdict on Section 377: LGBTQ community wont be liberated until conversation shifts to legal protection, empowerment

Representational image. AFP

I am a 35-year-old gay man who reluctantly calls himself an LGBTQ activist. Mainly because my involvement in the Indian queer movement was more of a personal journey. I sort of came to terms with my desire towards men even before I stumbled upon the term gay. It was only in early 2000s that I became aware of Section 377.

I don't remember the context or how I learnt about Section 377. When the Delhi High Court verdict came out in 2009, I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure how it would change my life. But being made to believe that there would be queer liberation if Section 377 was scrapped made me feel more confident.

I vividly remember the next four-and-a-half years after the verdict. As a middle class, English speaking, corporate employed cis-gay man, my days remained the same. Although my then employer had LGBTQ ‘inclusive’ policies, I was not encouraged to be 'out' at work.

The general homophobia made me anxious about losing my job and there was a fear of being kicked out of my accommodations. There was a general illusion of liberation, but when I look back now, we stagnated. The conversation and the next step was not public discourse.

Section 377 took a lot of our time and energy with regard to LGBTQ rights. Every time a discussion relating to LGBTQ rights was put forth, we had to start from Section 377. It was easy for those who are against LGBTQ rights to deflect the conversation by using Section 377. Even in the most refined corporate spaces, it was easy to push away LGBTQ inclusive policies by citing Section 377. The fear of persecution for gay men has been reduced. And I hope those in the LGBTQ community—who aren't as privileged—share my experience. We stand in solidarity with each other as we acknowledge that all our experiences are not the same.

I know a lot of my friends truly believe that amending Section 377 will liberate us. I hope so too. But the truth is far from it. This lengthy legal battle by the community, especially keeping the working class trans women and gender non-confirming persons in the forefront, should not be forgotten. Educational institutions are still hostile towards queer children. We need more of a change in the attitude of society towards the LGBTQ community and our rights.

While it is ‘natural’ for the flow of the discussion to move towards same-sex marriage and other issues, the conversation on legal protection and empowerment of queer individuals in all spaces should not be ignored. Especially in progressive spaces that claim to be inclusive of LGBTQ individuals. Maybe it is time for every progressive movement to look into its own space to see how many LGBTQ individuals are in decision-making positions. We still haven’t moved beyond urban spaces and cis-gay men. Let us make use of this momentum to change the conversation in every sphere of life. And to those who think that our fight is over: Congratulations, and please give way to others.

Today, is a day of happiness for me. I thank all those who fought against this archaic law for so long. This has given a sense of renewed hope to a lot of young, queer individuals. I hope we have fair representation, discussion and disagreement within the queer community to talk about issues without prioritising one over the other. From what is coming out of the courtroom, I am also hopeful that the jurisprudence will do justice for all the time lost and our future discourse of the queer movement.

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Updated Date: Sep 06, 2018 18:33:23 IST