Alternative sexuality: Delhi students sheds inhibition, takes the debate deeper

New Delhi: It is no more a wink-wink, nudge-nudge affair. The discussion over sexual identity and orientation is going deeper. This should be a welcome step forward in tackling overt and covert prejudices inherent in our approach to expression of sexuality that is not considered ‘conventional’. In a first of sorts for a women’s college, students of Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) of Delhi University have launched a forum for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. The forum – Queerosity – will scrutinise topics such as sexual orientation, ‘queerness’ and alternate sexuality. It also aims at making students aware of prejudice against people who do not identify as heterosexual.

"Queerosity is a platform to explore the true meaning of queerness, to discuss the same and to help all amongst us who are marginalized for who they are. It comes out as a platform for you to question and challenge all that you've ever been told and to know that you’re not alone. No more hushed tones or knowing half-smiles about sex. Gay isn't a best friend or pink. And cross-dressing isn't just the stuff of Comedy Nights," says its official Facebook page.

Alternative sexuality: Delhi students sheds inhibition, takes the debate deeper

Opening up. AFP

The group asks following question: Is it ‘natural’ for two men to hold hands? Is lesbianism a girls’ college phase? Is bisexuality nothing but indecision? Are saris only meant for breasts?

“Anybody who does not subscribe to society's rigid notions of what it means to be a man or a woman, anybody who questions patriarchy and oppression, is queer,” explains the new forum.

Interestingly, the members of the LSR queer collective are not just from the gay community. The group, which is yet to be registered by the college, came into existence in August this year despite a December 2013 Supreme Court verdict that turned down a 2009 Delhi High Court ruling, which had decriminalised gay sex and declared Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code "unconstitutional". Terming homosexuality "against the order of the nature", the apex court made homosexuality a criminal offense.

After coming into the open a couple of days ago through the media, the members of the group have suddenly gone silent. One among them, who did not want to be named, said they feared vindictive action by the college authorities.

Their initiative is part of a trend that has been unleashed by the Supreme Court’s verdict. Since then there are regular seminars and discussions focussing on the rights of the LGBT population in different colleges of Delhi University and premier institutes like JNU, IIT Bombay among others have been discussing the issue.

"One has to realise that queer groups in campuses function in different ways. If they are outrightly political at one level, they also serve as deeply personal spaces at another level. This is important as it allows a lot of young LGBT folks in college and university campuses to meet other people and engage with issues surrounding queerness - without necessarily having to be 'out'. This also helps them come to terms with their own struggles, conflicts and dilemmas around sexual identity and politics," Rafiul Alom Rahman, a student of MA in English at the DU, told Firstpost.

Requesting the media to extend support in challenging "popular perceptions and prejudices about queer people and their lives", he added, "many people still find it difficult to 'come out'".

Another student, who did not want to be named, said, "I think the objective of forming such a forum is to create an environment which is queer friendly and one where people are not discriminated on the basis of their sexual and gender identifications. These fora are aimed at questioning the norm of heterosexuality. It is also aimed at remove the stigma and oppression associated with anything that opposes that norm. For us, Queerosity means this kind of forum.”

When asked why all educational institutions do not allow such platforms to come into existence or let them grow, he said, "By not allowing such fora to flourish, the university/college administrations are in a way ridiculing and suppressing us. They are giving a clear message to people belonging to various non-normative sexual or gender identities like us that we don’t have right to be, or form collectives. It is violence and repression from all structures in society, including the university which promises to be liberal and inclusive."

Danish Sheikh, LGBT activist and researcher at the Alternative Law Forum in Bangalore, says, "Gay is a word of rights; it is a word of liberty. But the Supreme Court took our right to decide our sexuality. If someone accepts that he is a gay, he must be admired for his honesty. Instead, it chose to mask its homophobia with crimes of unreason. But LSR students have shown us that there is a life beyond the law and text. Changes are coming in our society."

A member of Dhanak, a similar group from JNU, said, "We created this group to uphold cause of gender sensitisation and queer politics. Although it has been created by JNU students, it is not limited to the varsity campus only. Dhanak works against phobias within and outside the queer community. It is aimed at discussing, promoting and encouraging queer concerns, politics and life in general."

Asked whether such platforms are being created in liberal spaces, Sheikh said, "For a long time this was the case. Earlier, the language was taught in isolated pockets like JNU, law schools, Lucknow University, etc that considered to be liberal institutions. But formation of gay societies in engineering colleges like IITs indicates that the patriarchal stereotype is breaking. It is becoming easier for people to openly accept their orientation."

Asked if it is illegal what the LSR students are doing by setting up a forum for homosexuals after the SC verdict, Amrita Nand Chakarborty from lawyers’ collective, says, "No, not at all. Being a gay is not a crime in India despite the apex court ruling. The top court only overturned the Delhi High Court verdict and recriminalized adult consensual sex. It has criminalised the sexual acts, not the sexual identity.”

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Updated Date: Oct 16, 2014 11:59:36 IST

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