College campuses and educational institutions in India often lack a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community and the students belonging to the spectrum. In order to raise awareness, and address concerns of the community or just to simply create a mutual sense of belongingness, Queer Collectives are being formed in colleges across the country these days.
SheThePeople.TV reached out to various Queer Collectives across Delhi University to know their journeys, struggles, achievements and how they are striving to realise their collective dream of bringing a social change. Read on to know more about what they have got to say:
Hear their voices:
Anuska Roy from the Queer Collective of Miranda House, Delhi University, tells us that the main objective of having queer collectives on college campuses is to provide a safe space to queer individuals who might be lacking access to it in their family or even friend circles. "Coming to terms with one's sexuality or gender identity is not a linear process and it might keep changing because both of those lie in a very vast spectrum. This process is extremely confusing for some people and can cause massive distress if they find themselves in a homophobic situation. Having established queer collectives in campus spaces gives such individuals support that they find extremely helpful.”
Roy further adds that such collectives also work towards building more inclusive infrastructure with the help of the administration. For instance, the collective that she is part of has succeeded in gaining support for a gender-neutral washroom within Miranda House.
“Queer identities are intersectional in nature and have caste, class, region and religious identities intertwined within it; we also want to provide space to all these identities and not make access to community support an elitist luxury," says she.
YoursQueerly, the queer collective of Kamala Nehru College, Delhi University, says that their aim is to bring together queer members and allies in the college who support each other, helping them (and/or closeted members) deal with the trying period in a safe and positive way.
"The whole phase of questioning often proves to be daunting and the rush to put labels on oneself often is overwhelming for most of us. Also, having grown up in a majorly homophobic society, it's particularly difficult to come to terms with one's sexuality. What all of us require most is acceptance. Here at Yours Queerly, we, among other things, plan to create a safe environment where we can talk and discuss all of our closeted fears and coming out anxieties. This is without a doubt our topmost priority.”
“We were looking for inclusion. And we did not find it in any other societies in college. Bunch of misfits, we decided to make this is where we belong and where others can belong too.” - YoursQueerly
Feeling of belongingness:
Such collectives give a sense of belonging and eventually become like a person's second family. “We're young people who have come from all parts of the country, a country which isn't very accepting of anything out of the definition they've created of 'normal'. The collectives try to give a family to these people, a family they never had, a family many might not even have thought they needed. Even among queers there are biases and prejudices we bring along, from our cultures, households and our respective class, strata and community that we come from. A collective's first priority should be and mostly is to talk about all the preconceived notions, and prejudices alike, to dissolve all the misnomers one has been fed with, so as to make the place feel like home for every single person of the group," YoursQueerly adds.
Also Read: The Not-so-Humorous Homophobia
A bare minimum in every educational space:
Deborishi Gogoi of the Queer Collective, Ramanujan College, Delhi University, tells us that a queer collective in each and every educational space is a bare minimum essential, needed for queer individuals - who do not conform to heteronormative notions, to adequately represent themselves and to voice their struggles and concerns. “It not only adds to the formation of a safe space for LGBTQIA+ members in the college/university but also brings forth a vision of bringing about more equity amongst the different segments of the student populace,” says Gogoi.
Educating Allies :
Emphasising on the importance of educating allies, Anuska Roy says, “We also hope to educate allies within our campus about the lives and politics of queer identities. We have events, workshops and fundraisers to bring to the forefront important issues, which otherwise might not get enough attention. We were able to collaborate with an organisation this year for a course on gender and sexuality which went a long way in educating allies."
How supportive are the authorities towards the Queer Collectives?
Gogoi has an answer to this, “Surely we will face some issues and opposition but to what degree we are still uncertain. In general, certain departments and faculty members have been helpful and supportive towards our initiative but still, we cannot say surely about the administration yet.”
On the contrary, in some places, there has also been a lack of support from the administration towards LGBTQIA+ students and their concerns, which also goes simultaneously for most of the college authorities. Says Roy about the collectives' concerns, “Even after gaining formalisation we get very meagre funding which is not enough to hold events or workshops. We previously had to function under the Women's Development Cell and did not have full autonomy. We have gained that now with help from our principal but we still face a lot of discrimination.”
Roys claims that every society in her college gets a soft board for notices, information bulletins and so on. After gaining formalisation their collective too got a board but that was vandalised within a month by individuals who claimed that the board belonged to them. "We had worked extremely hard on decorating the board and had even pinned up a bulletin about the Trans Bill but all of that was torn down by individuals. There are a lot of obstacles that we face while trying to function even as a formal society but we strive to do our best with the limited resources,” she alleges.
What impact Queer Collectives across Delhi University are making?
While talking about bringing change and inclusiveness in college campuses, Gunjan Bisht from White Rose Club, Queer Collective of Gargi College, Delhi University, tells us, “I really think the queer collectives of Delhi are making a great impact already. There are so many of them and it's just wonderful to see so many spaces where you can go and be accepted with open arms. I accepted myself after coming to my college and being a part of the Pride parade organised by the White Rose. It was so surreal and I felt so overwhelmed, she recounts, adding, "In the future, I hope that all the queer collectives reach new heights, get recognized by their respective institutions and continue making a difference."
Pallabi Dutta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.