After the Government of India revoked Section 377, the LGBTQ community in India is working even harder to get their fair share of rights. Every city in India has had LGBTQ marches, all year round, and these are marches attended by thousands of people who support the cause. Section 377 was first put into place in 1862.What is particularly upsetting in this case is the law was de-criminalised in 2009, but in 2013, the Supreme Court criminalised it again. To many, it seemed like India had taken a step forward, and then two steps back.
In Chennai, the LGBTQ community is quite big, and are making a lot of progress in creating public awareness. We spoke to one such individual based in Chennai who has been supporting the movement for years now. Lavanya Narayan, who is a journalist, writer and actor and now based in Chennai. She moved to India from Dubai, three years ago, so that she could come out of the closet and live a free life. She identifies as pansexual and gender fluid.
“I want the forms I fill out in India to have more than just three genders and I want to be able to legally change my gender to gender fluid.”
Lavanya tells us that she is currently not associated with any organisations instead she wants to connect people through her message, “I prefer being independent when it comes to this and not associate with any one organisation in particular. Each organisation has specific goals within the queer community while I am more about connecting with people who are doing exciting new things within the community and people in the closet who are looking for the strength and courage to come out and meet more queer people.”
Lavanya says that she loves the solidarity around LGBTQ rights in Chennai. While Chennai is now focussing more on transgender women and their rights, she says that the queer community in Chennai is friendly, warm and accepting. Since this community is close to her heart, Lavanya recently took up the very scary challenge of speaking at the LGBT Workplace Symposium held in Chennai. She said that it was an honour to speak amongst known queer activists from all over the country.
“You find that men find it easier to come out as queer. Women who are queer find it more difficult to come out because of social stigma, inability to find a partner once they come out, and even being ostracised in the professional sphere.”
When asked what she spoke about, she said, “I spoke about the situation with queer women and transmen in India. You find that men find it easier to come out as queer. Women who are queer find it more difficult to come out because of social stigma, inability to find a partner once they come out, and even being ostracised in the professional sphere. Why the double standard? I know so many women who live in silence (or only their closest associates know about it) all their lives because they don’t want to be embarrassed. I can actually count the number of queer friends I have who are women.”
Lavanya’s ultimate goal is to raise awareness and acceptance in India. She said, “I want the forms I fill out in India to have more than just three genders and I want to be able to legally change my gender to gender fluid. Same-sex marriage is quite a while away, but we can definitely start with this.”
Pic credits: Jumbo, Parmesh Shahani