“History owes an apology to the members of this community and their families,” said Justice Indu Malhotra, while decriminalising section 377 last year.
6 September 2018 was a historic day for members of the LGBTQI+ community in India. For the first time, they could walk freely without the fear of spending up to ten years in prison.
For people like 29-year-old Kaushik, a materials engineer employed in a Swiss-based company, this judgment has been a beacon of hope.
Kaushik was 12 when he first realised that he was attracted to men. At first, he assumed it was a phase, and that he would be ‘normal’ with age. But as he grew older, his attraction to men only grew stronger.
Luckily for him, chat rooms on the internet connected him with others all over the world. “For that split second, in a crowded internet cafe (we did not have a computer at home till late), you felt a little less alone,” he recounted.
He pursued engineering at IIT-Madras, and grew more confident in the exposure he received there. Although he tried to face the bullies head-on and made friends, he could not overcome all his barriers until he moved to Switzerland for his PhD.
Switzerland’s society, more open than India’s, allowed him to explore his sexuality more freely. He met Glenn, a human rights advocate in Geneva, and is now married to him. Perhaps Glenn’s liking for Bengaluru’s Masala Dosas, Puliyogare and Rava Kesari played a part in this.
“He wore his sexual orientation with so much ease and confidence that I started seeing myself as capable of having the same kind of confidence. With time, this confidence grew, and like most other gay folks, the first person I came out to was myself. The moment I could tell myself that I was gay without hesitation was a moment of relief. It felt so right, and there was suddenly so much more hope. I had come around to accept my identity fully, and it just fed into the self-confidence. Once that set in, coming out to friends was much easier,” Kaushik told us.
The same year, in 2012, he came out to his parents.
Unlike others, they were loving, compassionate, and most importantly, accepting. They did not exclude or ostracise him—rather, they wanted to understand him.
“They were courageous enough to ask me all sorts of personal questions. This kind of openness in their generation, and in India in general, is extremely rare and I was fortunate enough to have it,” he says.
Although they were afraid that he would have to live alone, Kaushik silenced their fears in a few months by telling them about Glenn. The couple was soon accepted by the family, and in December 2015, they got married in France.
Kaushik feels that homophobia is the real problem, as he continues to receive slurs. The conversations about different sexual identities have begun more vociferously in the aftermath of the 377 verdict. Families like his show that our society can be accepting of different identities, proving that queer is normal.
This story is part of The Stereotypeface Project, an initiative by The Better India that challenges 26 stereotypes, which continue to exist even today. We are showcasing these stereotypes through all the letters of the English language alphabet.
Stereotypes exist everywhere — they are passed down over generations. Instead of embracing and celebrating what makes us unique, we stand divided because of them!
We’ve unconsciously learned to stereotype, now let’s consciously #EndTheStereotype.
Visit www.stereotypes.in to know more about the campaign and support the effort!
How can you support this campaign?
1. Follow this thread on Twitter or Facebook
2. Re-Tweet / Re-share the stereotypeface that you would like to put an end to
3. Use #EndTheStereotype and tag @TheBetterIndia
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)