Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love and love is not bound by gender. However, today it has come down to mainstreaming the love between a man and a woman. While there is a whole gay community that is trying to make a space for itself in modern India, the struggle is real. In a bid to signify all kinds of voices, ShethePeople.TV spoke to people from the queer community to find out how they express love and if there is a space for them to do so in the society?
“Love is love so there is no difference between queer love and non-queer love. But Valentine’s Day is not a gender-neutral day to celebrate love and not gender specific as the society has unfortunately made it to be. Today, it is only about boy-girl love and that is completely unacceptable,” said Queer professor R Raj Rao. Rao recently wrote a book on Queer people’s expression and intricacies of love called—Criminal Love?
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He added, “In all the publicity in every medium of communication that surrounds Valentine’s Day, it is only about boy-girl love and that’s wrong on so many levels because if there is a group of people that do not relate to it then where do they go or they have to do it quietly? They have to go to places where straight people go where they feel awkward so there is no public space in India for queer people to express their love for each other, not to speak of the fact there is a law that criminalizes us. Today, Valentine’s Day is an extremely heterosexual and hetero-sexist day.”
Rao compares this day and age with a few years ago and says that in fact, we have regressed in our mindset towards queer people’s expression of love. In his opinion, earlier metropolitan cities like Mumbai and Delhi and even Pune, where he lives, used to have gay bars and private gay parties but all that has come down to a bare minimum today in the fear of raids.
Today, there aren’t gay-friendly parties anymore because everybody is afraid of a raid or that people might call it a rave party. Nothing obscene happens in these parties. These parties have like-minded people who meet and relish each other’s company.
However, gay right’s activist Harrish Iyer is optimistic about the Gay community in Mumbai. “I personally believe that there are places in Mumbai whereas when it comes to other cities, there is a lack of public space where the gay community can show and express love towards each other. And this is why organisations like Gaysi family, Umang, Humsafar Trust and Gay Bombay which offers spaces for people with alternate sexualities are very important because once you give people the space to walk on, they thrive on.”
Even Delhi recently celebrated Gaylentine’s day—an interactive session that the women’s cell of the IP College for Women of the Delhi University organized in collaboration with a pro-gay organisation called Nazariya. It showcased the celebration of the lives of queer people and people from different walks of life joined the celebration to tell their stories of success and struggle.
Other events surrounding the queer community going to happen in Delhi for greater awareness are—Queer Holi, LGBTQ public library, Gaysi meetup etc. These are apart from the usual pride walks that happen in various parts of the country. Although, what is really required is going to tier two and three of the country and normalising queer communities there.
But a major part of these events in order to educate and while that is important, events for the gay community to meet up are still few and far in between.
“Today, there aren’t gay-friendly parties anymore because everybody is afraid of a raid or that people might call it a rave party. Nothing obscene happens in these parties. These parties have like-minded people who meet and relish each other’s company but it is very easy to misinterpret what happens in these parties,” expressed Rao.