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Can we deny the existence of LGBTQ+ students? And the bullying they have to encounter? Can we deny the dropout rates that keep rising amongst the community?
Do you remember standing up for the boy, who was being bullied for being gay? Or speaking up when the teacher bad mouthed fads promoted by the LGBTQ+ community, as they ‘threatened our culture’? Do you remember defending the girl who told you about her first crush, when your friends laughed at demeaning jokes directed at lesbians?
You don’t, because it never happened! Every time you had wanted to speak up, the words remained stuck in a net, fearing ridicule, embarrassment and strange looks.
In a survey of almost 400 LGBT+ youth in Tamil Nadu by UNESCO, more than half skipped classes to avoid bullying. And a third dropped out of school altogether. That is exactly why we direly need Gay-Straight Alliances and LGBTQ+ sensitisation in high schools across India.
One of the most heart-breaking realities we live in is that, the teachers, and counsellors who ought to be working to create a security blanket, are often the ones threatening to tear it apart. Can we even begin to comprehend the fear of always having to watch out for insensitive fools? The ones who seem to take pleasure out of tormenting others on the basis of their sexual orientation? Or even a gender that they identify with?
We live in a country where schools don’t even incorporate comprehensive sex education, discussing sex and gender. And in such a place, non-conforming to the traditional notions of femininity and masculinity seems like a huge leap.
We are a country that educates youth on a foundation of how biological processes are taboo and against Indian traditions, that natural issues may corrupt our traditions. In such cases, reform is a giant leap. Sometimes I wonder if our flawed to the core system, is strong enough to handle even reforms.
Something I’ve never been able to grasp in my 13 years of educations is, does living in denial closet problems that are so clearly in front of us? Can we deny the existence of LGBTQ+ students? And the bullying they have to encounter?
Can we deny the dropout rates that keep rising amongst the community? Or is our education system so wrapped in the pride of our Indian culture that it chooses to exist in the utopia of its concocted perfection?
How can we even begin to assume that the interconnected society we live in today, issues relating to the LGBTQ+ don’t reach the technology enthusiasts youth. But the way it reaches the through varied means can have a large and mostly adverse impact.
Many of them grow up to be bigoted, steeped in the orthodoxy that seems to have in its clutches most people today. And many others turn to become the abusers when really, we should be speaking up for solidarity, standing up for equality and defending dignity.
Creating a GSA in the school but punishing all those who stand up for their LGBTQ+ counterparts isn’t going to support the solution. The need isn’t for simple creation of GSA’s, but actually give them enough freedom and flexibility so the students have the faith to speak out against prejudice without any fear.
Currently, the need is to create a generation by educating them on these important issues. And to provide them with a fresh perspective, a clear outlook which is not clouded by years of judgement and homophobia.
By promoting the creation of GSA’s in schools, and initiating conversations and conducting sensitisation workshops, we take a step towards creating safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ youth. We take a step toward empowering students to fight against biases and start diminishing the sexual orientation discrimination against them.
A version of this was earlier published here
Picture credits: Still from Telugu movie Paathshala
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Antara is currently a high school senior who intends to study law and international relations
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