Somebody once described the nature of our representative democracy to me as an exercise in choosing the least of all evils. This may seem like wry humour, but in these progressively dreadful times, it implies that evil is part of the fabric of governance in our land; that the see-saw between power and responsibility attributed to the government is ever-so-often tipped towards the former. So much so that when we are given the slightest bit of attention or shown the smallest of soothing gestures, we hype it up. In Youtube dating guru lingo, this is called ‘breadcrumbing’. Like Hansel & Grethel, we seem to get led away from our community values by a path laden with crumbs. Morsels of food that will possibly never satisfy us, and will always leave us wanting for more. When we turn away from them, we are confronted with a dark path with no signage, so we continue to chase the crumbs.
Recently, there was a much-celebrated post about how the newly-elected State government in Tamil Nadu had responded to a call of accountability by allowing transgender people to travel for free, akin to the existing allowance extended to women in the state. For some reason, the celebration hugely upset me. Amidst this pandemic wherein people seem to be dropping dead around us, wherein the vaccine is rationed out based on your access to state-sanctioned identity and smartphone apps, this simply was too little too late, and quite out of place.
We simply cannot afford for affirmative action to be rolled out at such a snail’s pace. To expect sweeping reforms in gender mainstreaming policies is not asking for too much, but is merely a timely response to an urgent need of the hour. In the increasingly visible and publicized public discourse of recent past, several fundamental asks have been put forth:
- for trans-women to be legally acknowledged as women and for trans-men to be recognized as men;
- for non-binary genders to be included in socio-legal classifications;
- for the socio-economic plight of genderqueer persons to be taken into account while creating policies, accommodating our frequent alienation from familial and social institutions, which increase our vulnerability to various forms of systemic violence that affect our physiological as well as psychosocial states of well-being;
- for support in our quest for redistributive material justice, which will help us build care systems and communities suited for our self-identified needs;
- for gender sensitization to be woven into existing healthcare and educational systems;
Such basic affordances will perhaps clear the way for intersectionally-aware care work to begin in policy, along with the community of marginalized genders (as opposed for the community).
When we have worked through eons of intergenerational trauma to clearly articulate our needs and come forth with well-defined asks, why are we still being politically breadcrumbed?
In addition to this situation of lazy policy formulation, it seems to have become common media practice to fall back on identifying allies among cis-het-people with caste privilege like Shashi Tharoor, Shatrughan Sinha, Prakash Raj, Gautam Gambhir, Atishi, Sonia Gandhi, and others as those deserving of our political attention. Time and again, the queer justice movement has advocated for the narrative to be centered (only) around our own lives and being. The role of allies is on the fringes, and we don’t owe them our allegiance when they stand to gain personally from it.
For as long as we see our democratic machinery as choosing among a bevy of evils, we will never be able to talk about the systemic barriers to queer agency in our daily lives.
Bottomline: We have got to stop talking about allies! The lives, morals, moves, quests, and wins of our allies cannot be celebrated as our own. Not while our bodies are being ravaged by a progressively virulent pandemic; our well-being is violently ploughed over and over in the face of an unfolding climate crisis, deep caste-based discrimination, and system-enabled practices of bullying & slavery such as incarceration.