Peeking out of a window, as the snow slowly melts after a dreary blizzard, it’s hard not to be hopeful – optimistic, even. Especially when news floats by of how, thousands of miles away, the grand Supreme Court of India will finally be holding an open court hearing to decide upon a curative petition against the dreaded Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
Yet, that initial flutter of euphoria has died down rather quickly. Memories flash by: the striking down of the Delhi High Court’s judgement, the protests on the streets, the Satyamev Jayate episode, the beautiful colours at Bombay’s Pride. Charged emotions, of hope encountered and hope denied, that characterised responses to the various pleas and court dates and legalese of the re-criminalisation of “unnatural sexual offences”.
When I came halfway across the world to New York to pursue my education, I had hoped that the politics of sexuality and its legality would cease to weigh upon my conscience. Naively, I wished the problems of my sexuality away, yearning to find my “true” identity without ever realising that the experiences of suppression and of struggle were, in fact, essential pieces of that very identity.
A year into my degree, I learned that time and space are weak walls to protect oneself against one’s emotions.
Bombay taught me how to dream; now, New York has shown me how dreams are crushed with apparent ease. As I stroll through the black tar streets, the systemic racism and cultural oppression of peoples reflects eerily in the dark shadows of monolithic skyscrapers. The nexus of money, power, and indifference – and their pinkwashing of the LGBT movement – traps the outsider in a tiring cycle of frustration and eventual exhaustion. And in these shadows lurks the constant reminder of the darkness at home, and the need to eventually return to fight that abandoned battle.
There are moments that bring joy within this gloom: smirks when I heard 6 Pack Band and their happiness, giggles when I saw the trailer to “Loev”, pride when I got news of “Saathi” at IIT Bombay. Yet, these emotions fizzle away when my Facebook timeline comes alive with stories of queer bashings, homophobic statements, and homosexual extortions. Fighting back, emotionally and politically, is exhausting.
The worst experiences are those of expectations: Shashi Tharoor’s recent movement to amend Section 377 brought a similar lurch within my stomach as the review petition did two years ago. Tears, aspirations, tiny strands of hope wisping through all the pessimism: only to be dashed once again when the bill was defeated with vehement homophobic opposition. In Parliament. While the world watched the proceedings on Lok Sabha TV.
A couple of furious tweets, Facebook posts, and rants later, I was fine. But I knew the futility of investing myself into structures that were not made to work for the marginalised: resistance was hard work, but I was done with pleading for change rather than demanding it as my right.
I wasn’t about to suck up to (no pun intended) homophobic Parliamentarians to ask for a slice of gay rights with a cherry on top.
I will fight. Against Section 377. Against homophobia and queer exclusion. Against societal prejudice and discrimination. Against our own obsession with white twinks, quickies, and sexual masochism. We will fight to be true to ourselves, our identities, and our lived experiences.
So today, as I wait to hear the Supreme Court’s ruling on accepting the curative petition, I have not hope in my heart but determination. Gritty, distasteful, unpleasant determination to fight for rights that should’ve never been snatched away to begin with. And with faith in the knowledge that, when I do return, a silly law won’t take away the joy of dancing in the rain in Bombay.