Homosexuality has been decriminalised, and I am not in India
In February 2018, I attended my first Pride Parade. It was at August Kranti Maidan in Mumbai, and my heart felt like it would burst with joy. It really did. In that moment, it didn’t matter that homosexuality was illegal because it didn’t feel like we were outcasts. We felt accepted, loved, together. We had each other and what anyone else thought of us didn’t matter. There was a little fantasizing, of course- what if the whole world was like this Pride march, wouldn’t it be perfect, how can anyone not accept this- but it faded away in front of the happiness. We were happy in the moment, and nothing else seemed to matter.
The case for Section 377 reopened a few months later.
I remember feeling like I was choking, the nervousness and anxiety squeezing my stomach. I felt physically unable to move, but kept up a positive front.
“It’s all going to work out,” I kept telling my friends, “We’ve gone through so much for so long that it has to be okay.”
I only half believed it.
Really, I had no idea what was going to happen, and it was killing me. I barely know how courts work, and I was trying my best to not get my hopes up.
“I don’t want to get my hopes up,” one of my friends insisted, and I opened my mouth to argue, “It’s all going to end in shit, anyway.”
On the days that the case was going on, my friends and I would crowd together after lectures in college to read updates on the proceedings. Following multiple LGBTQ+ accounts, we’d usually find them on someone’s Instagram story, and read them out loud, as everyone else listened attentively, not making another sound. My sister, who had her holidays, would keep texting me updates of the proceedings, and I’d come out of class to multiple text messages, and squeal with excitement.
Despite not wanting to get my hopes up, I suddenly set all my hopes on the decriminalisation of homosexuality, without even realizing it.
“What if I’m not in India when it happens?” I said. It was a fleeting thought- I knew I was going to Mexico for a year on an exchange program- but it wasn’t something I thought about for too long.
From what I could tell, the case seemed to be going pretty well. The judges were more than tolerant- they were accepting and the decision seemed to be made, almost.
I remember my grandparents switching news channels because every channel was talking about the Section 377 proceedings. Silent, I waited to see if they would say something.
“It doesn’t matter anyway,” my grandmother said, “They always make the wrong decision. Hopefully, this time, they’ll make the right one.”
I felt my heart swell with hope and happiness.
The day the proceedings ended, I felt lightheaded, practically dizzy with happiness.
I couldn’t process it, it was so, so big.
“It may actually happen, you know?” I said to my friends, eyes wide, “Like. For real. It’ll all be okay. We won’t be illegal anymore.”
The last sentence was light, said jokingly.
I felt like the wind as I walked- just a few weeks ago, it had all seemed so unattainable, so far away.
“To not being illegal,” my friends grinned, and I smiled with them, awestruck.
My fantasy at Pride could be turning into reality.
Things begin to happen rather quickly, after that. Before I knew it, I was flying to Mexico. Somehow, the Section 377 verdict was the last thing on my mind, then- it still seemed too far away, too impossible, too unreal.
The verdict wouldn’t come while I was away, right?
But it did. Of course, it did.
Practically everyone I know in India knows I’m not straight. It’s not the whole of my identity and it never will be, but I talk about it enough, argue about it enough that it’s quite an important part of me. I gathered all my friends to go to Pride, made a Whatsapp group, tried to convince the people who couldn’t come. I talk about the LGBTQ+ Community in college, wrote LGBTQ+ stories, shared my thoughts on social media, with people I’d only just met, and of course, I made jokes about being gay constantly- so it was, undoubtedly, a huge part of my identity.
In a way, I felt left out, betrayed that the verdict was coming out while I wasn’t in India. It hurt a little, bothered me that I wasn’t there to hear it for myself: to despair or celebrate. But the sorrow was overshadowed by nervous anticipation, and a ray of hope.
Tomorrow is the day we’re going to be told we’ve lost, and it’s going to be the saddest day of our life, read a text from my friend before she went to sleep.
It’s tomorrow?! I texted back, It can’t be!!
But it was, of course.
I went to sleep on the night of fifth September, knowing that I would wake up to the decision that would make or break the future of my entire country.
I’d never hated time zones so much.
I woke up to tons of messages, mostly just messages that screamed SECTION 377 TODAY in full caps, a few keyboard smashes hear and there. My heart had either stopped beating, or was beating too fast- my breath held as I scrolled through the messages, looking for the verdict anywhere.
My hands, of course, were trembling uncontrollably, and I was barely able to hold my phone.
The updates came from my sister, of course. It was only right.
IT’S GONE, she had texted, SECTION 377 IS GONE.
I let out the breath I’d been holding for too long.
I wish you’d been in India when it happened, I missed you so much.
I had several messages on my phone along these lines, and I didn’t know if I should cry or laugh. The fact that the verdict had come out (pun intended) tore me apart but then put me back together.
I was happy, of course, more than anything.
But I couldn’t help being sad because I was missing out on the celebrations, all the hugs that I would’ve received.
I videocalled my father the next day, and the smile on his face when I said, So, Section 377 made me feel happy and sad and everything at the same time.
Wish it’d happened while I was there, I sighed, but the ecstasy in my chest remained, a warm glow.