Posted by Nimisha Agarwal
On the afternoon of the sixth of September, I was sitting in my office, a new job that I had just started. I was very groggy this morning, some conversation last night with my new flatmates had reminded me of the everyday discrimination that I had faced growing up. I had told him the story of my coming out. My mother had come for my PhD colloquium and I came out to her right after that.
As the only woman in my entire family to reach this level of education had earned my mother a social capital in her middle class Savarna circles – her kids had made it and it was her ‘good’ parenting that made it possible. My mother had taken my coming out with a mix of denial and acceptance – that is a story for another time. It is a long road that I would need to travel with her before we reach acceptance.
Nonetheless, I was sitting in my office, groggy even after a few cups of coffee. Bored with work, I sneakily checked my phone. I saw the news that the Supreme Court of India had taken down Section 377. I could not believe it, somewhere the cynic in me had been prepared for the unfavourable outcome with this right-wing government.
In the number of debates that had happened around Section 377 in the past two decades, there was a desire and understanding that Indian queer movement needs to channelise its energy beyond the scope of just Section 377. I was among the few who really believed in that. But as I was reading about 377, the inner-self did not want to believe that the judges were also capable of seeing that it was not about the number of people prosecuted under the section, but more about what it represents. Phrases like ‘right to sexual identity’ and ‘historic injustice against the LGBT community’ found in the verdict were feeling surreal to me.
While I was reading about it, I got a call from my colleague and ex-partner, asking if I read about the verdict. She told me how people were going to gather at Town Hall to celebrate the moment. I was still groggy and asked her “But what about our stand that queer movements need to be beyond just 377?”. She told me “Be a good gay and come to celebrate this moment”. I looked around my office to see if anyone heard me say, “I am a good gay”. Everyone was busy with their laptops.
Phrases like right to sexual identity and historic injustice against the LGBT community found in the verdict were feeling surreal to me.
I wanted to leave my cynicism for a moment and actually celebrate. I knew two other queer people who worked in the same place. One of them has been a voice for queer rights, while the other is a closeted gay man. I saw neither of them around. There was no one to share this feeling of what ending Section 377 actually meant. At that moment, I sneaked out to go to Town Hall. Perhaps I needed some queer energy around.
In Town Hall, I saw a few familiar faces. we all shouted, hugged, congratulated each other. I could hear, “no more a criminal”, all around me. I was still groggy from lack of sleep last night and now also hungry, my body was failing me when everyone around me was celebrating. I just stood there, saw the happy faces and tried to gain some energy. When the dhols came, my numbed senses and failing body just took a break and danced with other fellow queers. Following that, I knew I should return to my new job before anyone notices I took a much longer lunch break than expected to. I returned to my seat and everyone was still on their laptops.
I came back to my desk and tried reading up upon what the judgement actually said. I did not want to believe that the same Supreme Court which extended the house arrest on a political activist in the same day would give what can be termed as a ‘historical judgement’ for the LGBT rights in India. My numbed body was trying to make sense of what is actually happening. On one hand, there are conversations about love, dignity, identity and on the other, there is a brutal crackdown on a number of dissenting voices in the country.
Queerness for this moment seemed only about sexuality. This was a moment of celebration. I could not help my own desire to celebrate. But I want to be critical of everything that has happened to reach this point. I want people to think of the other queer love, like the one that of Hadiya. I want people to not forget that fight is far from over.
On one hand, there are conversations about love, dignity, identity and on the other, there is a brutal crackdown on a number of dissenting voices in the country.
I want everyone to be mindful of how the Indian queer movement has been fought by numerous Dalit trans folks on the streets, but the ones recognised are only the upper caste educated elite. What about the everyday struggles of numerous Hijras, sex workers, MSMs who have and perhaps would continue to face the violence even after repealing of the law? Private sex activity has been decriminalised, but what of the ones who cannot afford the comforts of privacy in the first place? While the lawyers have argued and reflected positively on the judgement as well as the decriminalisation of homosexuality, it may merely be about certain caste and class aspirations of the middle class heterosexual normativity.
I want to again say, perhaps 377 was only about the cis-gay men being able to have sex in the private spheres of their lives. But then, I choose to simply celebrate with my fellow queers for a night, hug every person who feels that they can maybe now ask for some rights. I am going to share this moment of happiness, before I go back to being discriminated every day based on my different identities as a queer, a woman and a feminist. I will be a good gay and celebrate, just for a day!
Featured Image Source: Hindustan Times