Snapshots & Personal Hues
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi
How’s life after Section 377?
In 2018, many nations made landmark decisions to change discriminatory laws and bills. The same year, the Supreme Court struck down Section 377, which criminalized same-sex relations. This was a long struggle of rights, The ruling revised its earlier decisions, reading down Section 377 to exclude sexual intercourse between consenting adults. The chief justice observed how its existence perpetuated discrimination, led to stigmatization, criminalized transgender persons, and denied them dignity, personhood, and basic human rights. Justice Chandrachud noted that “[g]ays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders have been relegated to the anguish of closeted identities”. The law was flawed because it disproportionately impacted the community, and the criminalization was based on stereotypes of socially determined gender roles. This ruling is not a complete removal, but it is still a landmark one.
How have things changed for better?
Human rights violations happen all over the world. Post-judgment, it provided a legal and somewhat social space to recall the equal dignity and worth of every person, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
What needs to change?
Understanding the judgment, its implications and ensuring implementation need to be worked on. The increased violence after it needs to be addressed. Recognizing, responding to and addressing crises and violence hold the key.
I would suggest several actions by state and non-state actors:
Work with police to inform them
Work with state governments to inform them
Work on social acceptance to ensure implementation
Protection under the law should be a priority; anti-discrimination laws need to be worked on
Cyber-safety needs to be addressed as there were numerous homophobic posts and jokes on social media
Work with religious groups to address homophobia
Work on making laws gender-neutral and inclusive
Work on political advocacy
Narrate a few social challenges faced by you.
Like most transgender persons, I have dealt with stigma, harassment, violence and sexual assault.
How did you overcome them?
Since the judgment, there is progress. LGBTQ persons and allies continue to work toward a future without discrimination in business and beyond. The work culture at KPMG encourages me to be visible, bring my whole self to work, and stand up for the rights of all. The allies reassure me that they are standing up with me.
In July 2009, Delhi High Court decriminalized section 377 and said it was violative of Articles 21, 14, and 15 of the Constitution. This not only secured the right to existence, but existence with dignity, liberty and life. In the same year, Simmi, a transgender beautician took the bold step to start a beauty parlour for trans-person and gay men in Faridabad. The Pahal Beauty Parlour is unique as it not only caters to the needs of the community in free and non-stigmatized environment, but uses it to spread awareness on human rights, health and life free of discrimination.
Simmi says, “I never thought that this dream of mine will become a reality. I want to convey that no matter what your gender identity is, if you are determined, no one can stop you. Today, my parlour employs 10 transgender persons, and we have started to get appointments from the mainstream society. Before 2009, I was scared to reveal my identity. But now I am empowered to be what I am.”
In February 2019, Lucknow witnessed its first ‘Awadh Queer Literature Festival’ – an exclusive event for LGBTIQ+. The city had earlier seen the worst form of homophobia, which led to the PIL against 377. The festival became a turning point in the queer movement. It encouraged the members from smaller towns to come forward, participate, and make their voices heard. They came from Gonda, Faizabad, Allahabad, Varanasi, Barabanki, and Sitapur. The festival witnessed book launches, exploring identities such as being Dalit and queer, issues related to lesbians and bisexual women in rural India, and life of a transgender person in smaller towns. Film screening, performances and poetry were also included. It established the fact that if the movement has to succeed, it needs to go beyond Delhi and Mumbai.
How would you define ‘happily ever after’?
The ‘happily ever after’ concept is flawed. Relationships, gay or straight, are complex, and both partners have to work to keep the fire alive. The biggest realization for Sid and me was that we have to define it for ourselves. There are hardly any role models for gay couples. The closest inspiration we have is our parents and family, and they are in heterosexual relationships. But when a man and a man come together, the same rules and instincts don’t apply. We have no contract for marriage, and most of us will not have children, so it is important to define why we want to wake up with each other. We are individuals with unique identities. We are not here to merge into a singular identity. We wish to support each other to grow, and find what it is that we want. I think the keyword is friendship. It is more powerful than romance or marriage.
Do you make time for celebrations with extended family?
Yes. Our parents are part of our relationship. We celebrate birthdays together. We travel together. We bought our first home with their blessings. Sid’s parents took us shopping when we set up our first rented home, and explained things like how a five-kg packet of rice is more valuable than five times the 1-kg one. Sid’s mother is spiritual, like I am, and we have conversations about life and karma. My father is a karaoke enthusiast, and encourages Sid to sing old Hindi songs. But it’s not easy. The parents grew up with the belief that homosexuality is a sickness, I think they hope that we will turn straight one day. There are times when we fought and things looked bleak. This kind of support takes time.
Is there a message that you would like to share?
These rose-tinted notions of eternal romance work in Bollywood movies. In life, we need to integrate with society. We need to be there for parents when they are old, and still fulfill our needs of companionship and love. Most parents feel hurt when they know their child is gay, but that doesn’t mean we hide it and stifle our own breathing. We must understand that this is the problem with older generations. When they see that that their child has, or could have, a supportive partner, they will eventually accept. One piece of advice to gay couples is to be honest. Bare your soul, weaknesses and flaws. If you find someone attractive, tell your partner. If something happened with someone else, share it. Forge a deep friendship.
Can you share any milestone that strengthened your bond?
It was raising a dog together. Doobie was like a child. We got him in 2007. He was well mannered, and slept in our bed. As bachelors, societies denied us homes, or threw us out unceremoniously, and we had to move from house to house. Doobie adjusted. He passed away last April. Our neighbors came for the condolence. Irony is that when we own our home, Doobie is not with us. But we have two kittens.
What are each one’s likes and dislikes?
We are foodies, travel enthusiasts, and movie and music buffs. So, there’s an aroma of good food in the kitchen, even as Mallikarjun Mansur’s raag Nand plays in the background. When you run a home, share finances, and raise pets, there are bound to be disagreements. It’s a give-and-take. Also, every few years, we as the individuals, want new things. We are learning to let the other pursue them. The mantra is to let the other fly, and yet be satisfied with one’s individual pursuits. We are with each other because we want to share what we have as two individuals.
Courtesy : Outlook