Knowing you are queer is important. Realizing that being queer in public, and declaring your true self to the world around you is powerful. It changes your narrative, and the narratives of the many people around you. And why is that necessary? Because, humans are afraid of change. Anything and everything that is different from the norm that we are surrounded with scares the living crap out of us and- it is fine. It is a normal reaction. It is a primal instinct. What is not fine? Having the ability to understand the difference, and to adapt to change but not doing so.
The presence of someone queer has always been powerful. This is not just because the individual is or was powerful, but also because the difference that they bring to the standard ways of life. It shakes things up. We do not have to go back into the tunnels of history to understand this phenomenon. Just step back into your classrooms. Remember that boy who was a bit too effeminate? The point here is not about speculating his sexuality or gender identity, but the fact that there was an individual who was more than just a heterosexual male. Similarly, just go back a bit more and remember that one girl and all those rumors about her being a lesbian? It might have been just a rumor, but the idea that putting a label of lesbian on a girl would isolate her from the heterosexual females, gives us the component that we are focusing on here; queerness. Its power is so intense and can be felt metaphorically from miles away as a person who does not conform to the general idea of society walks back home, minding their own business.
It is of utter importance to realize and claim the power that queerness brings along with it, now more than ever. The LGBTQIA+ community has never seen such acceptance and love all around the world. Though sparsely throughout history, families did accept and friends were more than just bros. Today along with a million challenges that a queer person may face on a day to day basis, they will also come across pure-pure love from the most unprecedented corners.
We have the torture and killings of gay men in Chechnya, Russia. An archaic section 377 that has been hanging like a sword over our necks in India. The many ‘civilised’ sections of society who think queerness can be and should be cured. We have personal stories of people, forcefully and painfully going through conversion therapies. There is a whole Wikipedia page about the ‘Violence against LGBT people’.
At the same time, we have the radiance that still shines from the Stonewall riots, the civil rights movement. Whenever the LGBTQIA+ community smashes records in any area, it shines bright in these high profile functions. Every time same- sex marriage was legalised in a country and queer film fests and the pride parades were organized, we were reminded that love exists, and will survive all the politics, the hate and crime. It is that hope on which the power grows, the power to voice, and bring change.
Queer identities have been present forever. In contemporary India, though many queer people come forward from urban and rural areas, the support that comes is mostly from urban areas. There are various support groups that provide discourse and dialogue, forming an easier path or most of us to function in society.
In 1997 the comedian and actor, Ellen DeGeneres came out during the Oprah Winfrey Show and when Oprah asked her why she felt like she should, Ellen replied saying, “…because it’s okay.” The okayness of being who you are is realizing the power in the situation and saying it out loud on national television. The okayness of one’s queerness is powerful as one is ready to celebrate it. This is a very important part of the pride parades that are conducted annually. Though in India these are not just focused on celebrating but, more importantly – protesting. The aim is to celebrate and bring attention to the great number of people being affected by the section 377, the decriminalization of alternate sexual orientation and gender identities and providing right to protection from discrimination.
I realized ‘Queer is Power’ while I was in a church, kneeling before the holy trinity and witnessing the consecration of Eucharist. The whole article formed in front of my eyes and I came up with the words ‘Queer is Power’. That it happened in a church was ironic and funny, but most importantly I could see that I wasn’t scared. I looked around, still kneeling and I did not feel fear anymore. I thought of how it would look if and when I come out to my relatives who are staunch conservative Christians. I could see their faces. They were red with shame, disgust and would not want to have any associations with me. The same with the church, the society, and my parents.
But coming out to them, I would be bringing my story to them. They would know a person who is queer and it will be in my hands how it will play out. I will be in charge of the queer narrative they are part of and I have the power to make them understand and accept.
People will talk about me and that is the point. Through me many future queer lives will be accepted and not be just the boy who is pointed at and laughed at because of his mannerisms or just the girl about whom everyone goes with the same old rumor. They will be raised with power. They will be taught to smile with pride at queerness and to love themselves the way they will be.
In that church, being queer was okay, as Ellen said and that was powerful, and all that mattered were those few minutes where I felt; that the importance of being queer is that I have the responsibility to tell all those who do not understand queer that there is no reason to be scared.