September 6th 2018 – As an undergrad chemical engineering student I was busy in the lab trying my best to focus on my work in between periods of indulgent daydreaming where my mind would drift off to the pitfalls, backlash and over all negative implications of the section 377 verdict irrespective of the judgement. The whole week had been of binging over debates on news channels, forming and articulating arguments in my head and getting riled up over the lack of nuance and abundance of misinformation. I wanted a chance to speak my truth, give my side of the story since bombarding the opponent with facts in an argument never convinced anyone. Only a few close friends knew about my sexuality and I did not want people to find out. My parents knew about it, people I care about knew about it, it had changed nothing. What more could I ask for? Then came the supreme court judgement which was obviously historic. I was overjoyed, every ounce of support felt like the biggest and warmest hug. It did not take long for me to get over the celebrations though. It was back to being normal. I still had a boyfriend. His parents were still homophobic. I had gone back to being cautious about my walk. I had to make efforts to blend in to repay the favour for accepting me. I could not be “too gay”. But I was told the judgement was monumental, I was told how much it had meant to people and how hard people had fought for it. This is what made me look outside my bubble, the reading down of section 377 was a reality check.
It was around this time I became very active on queer dating platforms. I met people, talked to them. It came as a shock to me to see how comfortable they were in their own skin. It was my glance into this community of people, people who despite all their collective battles, identified with this community. People knew each other. People were there for each other. I heard about struggles I had just read. I saw victims, fighters and leaders. I was taught empathy. Society ensures you believe that your individual identity is a privilege and standing out is a sin. These quarrelling and kissing bunch of queers unwittingly so ensured that I had my own semblance of a family despite often having been denied one themselves. Delhi November 2019 was my first pride and indeed was it an assault on my senses. I knew pride was a protest but in being happy and celebrating so openly and unapologetically made me want to believe that it was a protest to reclaim our spaces. Afterall violence does not have to be the face of protests.
I had read about many a stalwart, but it was only in the smiles, only in the voices I saw their victories. With this joy came gratitude and an understanding of privilege. Where were folx from the hijra community at the pride? Why is the trans act problematic? Why are queer transgender, Dalit, Bahujan, northeaster, Muslim, nonbinary people being subjected to continuous violence that goes unreported? Why is there a continuous attempt to pink wash an agenda and pass it off as queer-friendly? Why is there a lack of representation of queer people in politics? How do you know who is going to champion your rights? I wanted to not be just outraged by it but rather put a consistent effort into contributing for change. 2020 has been a tough year for everybody but more so for the marginalized. Along with exploring my identity in the way I dress and expressing myself, I have ensured that I contribute back to the community in ways I probably wouldn’t have done 2 years ago. On the 2nd anniversary of Navtej Singh Johar vs Union of India I look back and find a sense of assurance that we are ready for the long road ahead.