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If you an LGBT small town India or a rural area person, and if you are overwhelmed by what life is throwing at you, there are others like you. No one is alone.
The stigma attached to any identity that does not align with our cis-heteronormative society is suffocating and oppressive. From a cultural gap with metropolitan cities to religious dogmas and draconian prejudices, there are an array of reasons why coming out as queer is a daunting prospect.
There are probably hundreds and thousands of queer people all over India, who might be at various stages of self-acceptance, who might be subject to rejection, humiliation, or even violence. Queer people have found that acceptance doesn’t always come easy, but has that stopped us from existing, and loving and inspiring each other since time immemorial?
Here are eight inspiring stories about queer people and lives in small-towns.
When Vasudhendra published his collection of short-stories about a gay man, Mohanaswamy, in 2013, small-town gay men started resonating with the lead character. As the author and his fictional character embraced their truth, many followed suit after finally finding a reflection of their lives in their vernacular literature.
Talking about the impact of his book, the author shared, “Writing the stories was a healing process for me and for many of my readers, it was a book they understood.”
Touted to be the first openly lesbian couple in Gujarat’s state police department, the constables were threatened by family members for their relationship. They had signed a ‘maitri karar’ to get legal sanction for their relationship. When the police did not take their complaints into consideration, they approached the High court.
In the court order from 23rd June, 2020, they were promised police protection, if they so required. They did not shy away from demanding that their rights be respected and won the fight for their relationship, and for other women in love, too.
Grace Banu is a Dalit and transgender activist from Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu. She is the first transgender person to be admitted at an engineering college in Tamil Nadu.
Fighting through various layers of oppression throughout her life, Grace Banu is dedicated to her politics and activism and is a very important voice of the community. Throughout the pandemic imposed lockdown, she rallied in support of the trans community from her home district, when all of their sources of income were curbed by the lockdown guidelines. She raised funds and provided trans people with all the basic provisions they needed. “We have helped almost 300 people and are still helping more,” she said to Vogue.
Koushik Hore knew from his childhood that he stood out from his friends and cousins. That made him want to support other people who, too, felt different. To that end he started an initiative called QueerIUs, that connected queer people all over Bengal. It started a dialogue about sexuality, gender and sexual health.
“(QueerIUs) has helped create queer friendly spaces in 5 colleges in and around Kolkata and it has built a queer friendly network of professionals like doctors, advocates and mediapersons. It might seem a small deal but for my community, not being able to reveal our identity stops us from seeking treatment. It is a caged life,” he shared. He has also worked under the unManifesto campaign supported by UNFPA. In 2018, he started Sathrangi, a trans-feminine, Indian livelihood venture.
Hailing from Dhubri in Assam, he always had to brave through dual layer of discrimination, for being Muslim and for being queer.
He founded the Queer Muslim Project in 2017 to shared first-person accounts of what it means to be queer and muslim. It aims to “counter queerphobia and muslim hate one story at a time”.
When India’s fastest sprinter Dutee Chand came out as gay and introduced her partner to the world as her soulmate, her village disowned her. Chaka Gopalpur, a village of weavers in Odisha, thought the gold medallist from their village should not have come out publicly. They felt humiliated.
But in 2020, when the lockdown dried up employment opportunities in her native village, she came forward to offer help with food and other essential provisions. She also realised the crisis of menstrual hygiene in the wake of the lockdown provisions and went to each individual house to deliver sanitary napkins. “I wasn’t sure if women would be comfortable coming out to take sanitary pad packets. So, I went to each home,” Dutee said about her relief drive.
Born and brought up in small town Naihati, Dr Manabi Bandopadhyay became the first transwoman in West Bengal to get a PhD and went on to become India’s first transgender college principal in 2015. She had to brave through a difficult childhood, a father who taunted her, and a world that did not acknowledge her gender identity.
Dr Manabi has also talked about all the violence and sexual abuse she was subjected to. Her autobiography A Gift of Goddess Lakshmi captures her journey through life as a trans woman, the hurdles she overcame and her achievements which inspires trans women across the nation. She is also the vice-chairperson of the West Bengal Trangender Development Board.
After Section 377 of the IPC was written down, a lesbian couple from rural Uttar Pradesh, two women got married before the media.
For years their families tried to separate them and get them married to men but their love had stood the test of time and violence. Their families could not separate them. “We keep laughing at each other. What choice do we have?,” said one of the women to Huffpost. “We can either laugh or cry, live or die. We chose to laugh and live.”
It might be hard for a queer person surronded by hostile people who reject them to believe that they might be able to have a better life someday.
The systemic and systematic oppression and violence that queer people, particularly in rural areas, face, and the trauma of rejection from friends and families can overwhelm. But one has to soldier on.
There are wonderful queer people in every walk of life who has left a track for the rest to follow. There are chosen families who would support, love and accept. If you are a queer person from a small town or a rural area, and if you are overwhelmed by what life is throwing at you, there are others like you. No one is alone. The struggle for queer liberation is here.
Images source: Twitter & Instagram
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An undergraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. Describes herself as an intersectional
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