The Pride month of June saw a worldwide celebration of homosexuality and the LGBTQ community with people participating in marches and walks in large numbers. But in a corner of the world, there is a growth of homophobia. Some people are becoming extremely vocal about their hatred and this small group has grown to influence others that passively push it forward.
More and more people are coming out of the closet owing to the growth in acceptance. Many come out in front of their friends and it's only after being comfortable around their friends, do they tell their parents.
Despite this, there are some who continue to find every opportunity to humiliate anyone who is not heterosexual. Demeaning comments are passed, pranks are targeted at them and rumours are passed around.
“The internet has blown this new trend of being cool, way out of proportion, and like all internet fads, this will die out soon. I’m just making everyone aware of its falsity. I am doing my duty, it’s not my fault that people are joining in,” claims Kanan Sharma a third-year student from Delhi University.
Kanan went on to say that he does not oppose the LGBTQ members directly, but only when the topic comes up. If and when it does, he argues its unnaturalness and directs them to end this ‘drama’ which according to him has a very bad influence on others. “If any gay or lesbian persons walk past me, I ensure to subtly show my disapproval. I get very uncomfortable around them because they all are too weird and freaky. No one wants unusual people around them,” says Natasha Goyal*, a friend of Kanan Sharma.
“Cool jokes which reek of homophobia are too often used to normalise the everyday violence which manifests itself on Queer bodies and lives. Too often these jokes and pranks are based on the ideas and lived realities of structural oppression and one can't just simply 'chill' about them. The act of calling them out and forming a collective resistance to such liberal coolness becomes a part of claiming our Queer lives and selves from boring, mundane heteronormativity,” says Devika Shekhawat, an active LGBT rights supporter.
Even though many of the college students are trying to fight this, homophobia is becoming stronger. People like Kanan and Natasha are talking to more and more students to ensure that everyone boycotts anyone whose sexual orientation is not straight. Gender Studies Groups from different colleges are carrying out sensitising workshops to establish healthier environments for everyone to discuss this matter.
We need respect the most vulnerable person in the group. Because only then can we achieve a judgement-free environment. - Harish Iyer
Harish Iyer, an activist for the LGBT community talks about fighting the stereotype of being ‘normal’ and how not behaving in a certain way is reinforcing the normal. “The society works both ways - you need to have enough space for humour to prosper and take things lightly. We can’t be obsessed with everything ‘anti.’ But if someone feels offended, one must stop right there. If you follow this in the private sphere where conversations take place amongst known people, then it is okay to crack jokes as long as it is taken in the right spirit.” According to him, we need respect the most vulnerable person in the group. Because only then can we achieve a judgement-free environment.
A 19-year-old person who wishes to remain anonymous complaints of the harassment he goes through “‘You don’t walk like gays, move your waist and cross your legs. You’re such a fake,’ is what I hate to hear from my friends too. Even though they don’t mean it, it has been growing to a point that it now hurts me.”
Drishti Chopra* tells about she is unable to walk the hallway with her girlfriend without hearing at least 5 homophobic remarks, “I’ve become deaf to all of them. But not everyone is like me and I am worried for them. College is relatively more protected than the real world. Once these people graduate, they will have more power to influence others and that is a bad sign.”
An accepting environment in colleges is now becoming an illusion, and the growing homophobia is resulting in more and more reported cases of harassment and humiliation. Unless we stand up against this and consciously avoid being a part of the homophobic acts, we will continue to create a falser illusion of an accepting environment and changing times.
* names have been changed on request
Jagriti is an intern with SheThePeople.TV