With the rainbow colours of pride flying high in the sky, the world is celebrating pride month. Post the decriminalization of Section 377 in India in 2018, members of the LGBTQIA+ community in India started gaining their much-deserved spotlights and opportunities to start a dialogue about their struggles. But with the start of dialogue comes a lot of difficult conversations to have and a lot of internalized queerphobia to unlearn. Following are some examples of normalized queerphobia in India that we can call out and grow together from.
Trigger Warning: This article contains descriptions of queerphobia.
F*gg*t, D*ke, Ch**ka- all of these are queerphobic slurs. Slurs are words that have a history of having been used against a particular community in a derogatory way. Every language and dialect has its own set of slurs, and with the class divide in India seeping into language, the list of slurs in India is endless. It is our responsibility to call out the ones using a slur, when we hear one, and educate them on why it is wrong.
“Gay hai kya?”
I must have been 10 or 11 when I heard this phrase for the first time. Stirred by the constant repression of sexuality and romance in India, it is no surprise that the most understanding most early teens have of homosexuality is in these phrases that are used as insults. It does not take a genius to understand that if something is used as an insult, it must be a terrible thing to be. Early teens are a time when we discover our identities and knowing that one’s attraction to the same gender is used as an insult by their friends leads to major trauma and desperate attempts to hide their true selves.
The obsession with gendering products
We have all seen those pink and blue toothbrushes and ‘for him/ her’ pencil cases. What even is a bar of chocolate for girls and a bar of chocolate for boys? Society has this rather absurd obsession with gendering everything- including baby products! This constant cis-normativity is detrimental to the mental health of trans kids who are forced inside boxes based on what their gender is assigned at birth.
In May 2020, a huge controversy surrounding popular YouTuber Carryminati sparked a wave of anger across social media. A wave that screamed after having been silenced for far too long. A wave that threw light on an issue that had been shushed for so long that people stopped seeing it as a real issue. The YouTuber had posted a ‘TikTok roast’ based on the trending debate of TikTok versus YouTube at the time. In the video, he cracked a very normalized set of sexist, homophobic, and transphobic jokes. He wasn’t the first person to have done this. It was what every memer and YouTuber had been doing for years. Except for this time, queer influencers took the matter in their hands and called him out. Then he did what YouTubers do best- made an apology video. YouTube eventually took the original video down but the incident serves as a reminder that we NEED to start calling out queerphobia in casual conversations.
We aren’t even near to where we need to be in terms of queer acceptance in India. What we can do is, fight for it. We can educate people on the community and support content that represents the community well. We can hear the stories of people from the community and fight to give them the platforms to tell their stories. We can correct people when they make mistakes and expect growth out of them. It is a long journey ahead, but we can start.