Migrating To Places With Dignity: For Queer Folks, Why Is Freedom A Dream?

On asking y’all if moving abroad might help in manifesting your identities and live freely as a queer person, 95% said YES. Here’s probably why so many among us look forward to the big move…

Being queer in modern India his not all rainbows and unicorns. In the urban parts, where social media and commercial campaigns have generated a growing consciousness of LGBT rights, the scenario for oppressor-caste queers is relatively better than for the others. Though their voices heard through a variety of online and real-world outlets form an important part of LGBT advocacy, they reveal only a fraction of the diverse issues facing the larger population.

Far from gay pride parades, conventions and heated debates on Twitter, most Indian communities have their own way of dealing with queer individuals. In certain parts, covert honour killings and conversion therapies are organized such that the only way for a young queer to survive is to run away in the cover of the night to a metropolis, many a time with no financial or social support.

The responses our questionnaire received, desperately asserted a need for inclusive, safe community spaces. Many seemed to view studying abroad as an avenue for claiming their identity as unreservedly as they would want to… Many others said that moving abroad had helped their relationships bloom as it allowed them to express affection to their partners publicly; some revealed that they wouldn’t allow themselves to fall in love unless they moved out of India. The need for safe, queer-affirmative spaces is indeed an important factor for queer souls to just be.  However, many highlighted how lack of money deters them from going to study abroad. This, indeed suggests how queers with caste privileges are in a better position to leave India and pursue a life of basic freedom and dignity.

Prejudice against queer expressions of desire and gender identities begins early. In schools, children are conditioned with gender stereotypes and show disdain towards those child who stray from it.

Even among peers who can externally display acceptance and inclusiveness, discontent is masked in jokes and snide remarks. In the lack of physical space and pervasive social stigma, isolation is ingrained. Many queers in their teens, who do not know other queers in small towns and cities, are also subjected to cruel stereotypes.

Suppression begins on sight. So, it might begin as early as one senses resistance for what flows inside as naturally as fish in the river.

Over the last few years, a transgender person was found dead by suicide in Pune. Then two gay men from Assam died of suicide because of their family’s opposition to their relationship. Anjana Harish, a queer woman from Kerala, died of suicide after months of conversion therapy that she was reportedly coerced into after coming out as a bisexual to her family. Avinshu, a 19-year-old from Chennai, died of suicide. In his viral Facebook message, he wrote about what people around him perceived about his sexual identity and how they harassed him.

In 2020, 350 transgender people were killed, a number that has increased to a record of 331 since last year. The annual global list is distributed on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which takes place on 20 November each year. The list reveals that the total age of those killed this year was 31, with the youngest being 15.

Moreover, trans people in India regardless of how privileged or not they are, face threats in every space they choose to inhabit, online or offline. Their freedom to express gender is medicalized and rendered invisible to legal and health records. From people brazenly asking them about their transition and later taking offence when they realize that they’re not owed these answers; to sending them public death threats, their safety is more often than not in jeopardy.

In the face of such stigma, whatever choices a queer person has to make to survive is for the sake of that dream of reclaiming their identity unreservedly. All of the above factors collectively compel young queer folks to consider moving abroad to LGBT-friendly countries. Or at least, far away from their abusive homes.

They wish to outgrow their double life escapades to embrace their queerness as is.

Growing up in a post-colonial country, it’s not hard to see why many among us choose to live a double life. Some get to leave, but the ones who want to but never do, we keep wishing on those escapades, dealing with swelling desires until they spiral into a dizzying frenzy that is never seen through!

Of course, we have burgeoning communities that strive to resuscitate as many dreams as they can, and the more queers join hands to strengthen our diverse and vast community, the less divided and likely to break we are. Volunteering in these communities and participating in Pride, not only has more people celebrating themselves and helping each other, but also takes away from the isolating notion about being the only one sailing these turning tides.

Hotspots in the metropolis, along with events tied to LGBT organizations help in knowing other queers and largely in navigating through the edges of our identity and sexuality. Recently, in Kolkata, the city of joy, which had also gone under the extensive lockdown introduced Gay cruising in Paradise Cinema. The pandemic robbed us from touch. We couldn’t touch our own faces, let alone touch others due to the deadly virus. So, this was a sought-after event for queers to find warmth amidst the dreadful pandemic. The consistent effort put in to manifest inclusivity for Indian queers portrays hope for those who choose to stay or who want to come back.

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