How Many Of These Things Did You Know About India’s LGBT+ Movement?
Tracing the history of LGBT+ lives in India is a difficult task because a lot of LGBT+ community members historically have been forced to stay in a closet due to the societal norms and the stringent code of ‘sexual morality’. There has been a lack of safe spaces for this community where they can come out and discuss about sexuality because most of the spaces are heteronormatively designed and adopted.
In a world that favors cis-gender and heterosexual ways of living, two things happen. First, people who are queer are put through various phases of self-doubt and discrimination. Second, heterosexual people are unable to examine the role they play in structurally oppressing LGBT+ folks.
Below are some facts about the LGBT+ community in India.
Queerness As Plain As Temple Walls
Temples constructed in Puri and Tanjore between the 6th and 14th centuries had some pretty explicit depictions of queer couples. As mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik writes, “One invariably finds erotic images including those that modern law deems unnatural and society considers obscene.
Sec 377 Comes Ashore
It’s 1862 when Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code came into force. Drafted by Thomas Babington Macaulay, then head of the Law Commission, it is based on Britain’s own former anti-sodomy laws, and archaic 19th century Victorian morality. This section criminalises any form of sexual activity “against the order of nature”, and can be used at any time to harass and incarcerate same-sex couples.
The First Closet Door Swings Open
In 1986, journalist Ashok Row Kavi penned an article about himself for Savvy Magazine, which became the first ‘coming out’ story from India.
Screw The Law, Let’s Get Married
In 1987, Leela and Urmila, two policewomen from Madhya Pradesh, married each other in the first ever documented case of its kind. Sadly, after the ceremony, both women were discharged from duty.
India Gets Its First Gay Magazine
In 1990, a few short years after coming out, he founded India’s first magazine for queer men – BombayDost. And it’s still in circulation, with actor Manoj Bajpayee on the cover of its latest issue!
Just as religious and ethnic minorities or people from certain economic classes are routinely denied accommodation by prejudiced landlords and homeowners, so too were trans and gay Indians. That’s why between 1998 and 1999, G.H.A.R (that’s Gay Housing Assistance Resource) was founded in Bombay by Sachin Jain. It set out to help LGBTQ Indians find safe living spaces, without having to worry about constant discrimination, from landlords and other tenants. Operations moved onto Facebook in 2012 and are still in full swing!
At Long Last, It’s Time For Pride!
Calcutta holds India’s first ever ‘Gay Pride Parade’ in 1999. Called the Calcutta Rainbow Pride, it had only 15 people marching, but still sent a big message to the country – we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re proud of it!
Queer On The Dance Floor
In the late nineties, dance culture slowly began to evolve as a community building and networking activity among LGBTQ people in India’s metropolitans. In 1999, a discotheque named Soul Kitchen in Delhi hosted the first “gay night”, giving members of the community the chance to meet each other in a safe space where they can be themselves.
The Murder Of Pushkin Chandra
In 2004, 38-year-old Pushkin Chandra, the son of a retired IAS officers, along with his partner Kuldeep Singh, were murdered in cold blood. Chandra himself was found with 11 stab wounds. The incident not only brought homophobic violence to the public’s attention, it also brought members of the LGBTQ community together to fight it. It took until 2010 for Chandra’s murderers to be given life sentences.
The Death Of Prof. Siras
In 2010, Ramchandra Siras, a professor of Marathi in Aligarh Muslim University, is suspended from his job, after the college authorities find him guilty of ‘gross misconduct’. While with his male partner, Prof. Siras’s home was invaded by unknown assailants who filmed him and threatened him with blackmail. Though he fought this injustice in court, Prof. Siras died an unexplained death, and six persons suspected of murder were arrested.
And the list goes on….!!