Personal Stories

What’s Pride Got To Do With It? Everything, And Then Some.

CW: mention of suicide, queerphobia, transphobia, incarceration

On this day, a year ago, we lost Sara Hegazi, a queer feminist from Egypt. She was brutally persecuted by the country’s authorities after she raised the rainbow flag at a Mashrou Leila concert. Despite receiving asylum in Canada, the experience of being tortured during incarceration eventually pushed her into a state of deep trauma that led to her suicide.

In May last year, we also lost Anjana, a young bisexual student who was forced into conversion therapy by her family, albeit ill-advised. An engulfing sense of hopelessness to live life without being tormented likely led her to kill herself. These incidents show us how queerphobia is so deeply rooted into the systems we rely on to run the world today. The systems of governance, parenthood, education, and public health, among others, leave us with a feeling of deep despair and doom.

When our ancestors weren’t ravaged by the vastly-ignored AIDS pandemic or persecuted by political and religious institutions alike, we were abandoned by all systems of care (families, friends, you name it). Even the process of making therapy queer-affirming has only just begun and it still leaves a vast chunk of the population out, in terms of accessibility. We have been fighting to be seen, heard, acknowledged and represented despite our disabilities, performative ‘politically correct’ allies, and a looming threat to our very lives – if not at the hands of our debilitating mental illnesses or police brutality, then by self-proclaimed vigilantes claiming to protect their children from us.

That trope of the joyfully wild, childless aunt/uncle who rides in on a motorcycle (or atop skateboard or with crutches tucked beneath their armpits, ’cause why not!), of the pixie-dust sprinkling godparent who would understand our desires and finally turned our pumpkins into chariots of freedom – those were the foreparents we had to imagine for ourselves, the ones we deserved but were denied by generational queerphobia.

The living don’t have it easy either.

Rishikesh Raut (they/them), a 23yo Bahujan person from Pune recently started a fundraiser that would support them in accessing gender-affirming surgery and treatment. They shared the request on their Instagram on June 8, and as it started to garner attention, it also began to draw in the transphobes. Some of the more horrid comments asked them to ‘stop begging and get a job’, thereby completely ignoring the plight of countless trans people living in this country, who are actively alienated by and from mainstream society for simply choosing to live life on their own terms, without causing any harm to others.

R (they/them), a 24yo singer and musician had worked hard to create a public profile for themself on Instagram, drawing in several followers (>2350 at its peak). They started it in November 2020 and were forced to deactivate it a few days ago in June 2020 (how’s that for all that pinkwashed Pride?).

When asked about it, R said: “Being a queer person who is visible on social media can be very disturbing when it comes to the harassment in terms of trolling, intrusive questions, threats and bullying. Also, random unsolicited nudes and video calls from people are traumatising especially for me who has been a survivor of assault in the past.” They said that enduring these events has wreaked havoc on their mental health and that they now fear for their life even when in the safety of their own room.

Instagram can help cis-hets become mega-influencers with several thousand followers, while serving as a major income stream, but R was forced to take this difficult decision after the platform’s team repeatedly told them that their complaints had no merit and that the bullying did not violate IG community guidelines.

[Deleting my public profile] is going to impact a lot of things in terms of work and career. Mostly, the work I got was from Instagram as people contacted me freely for work and collaborations. Now that my work won’t be reaching out to people here, it will be tough to sustain for a few months, especially when I have to constantly work on my makeshift music studio which is difficult to manage without a steady income.

So the next time some internet (or real-life) troll asks you, pleading ignorance, “#whysoproud”; tell them that it’s because you have done the shadow work and will no longer live in shame. Tell them you are doing the labour of integrating the parts of yourself that were once banished to the darkest recesses of your soul, and that you are now ready to walk out into the world, head held high.

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Tejaswi is journalist and researcher whose attention is captured by post-colonial human relationships at a time of the Internet of Things. She can't wait to become a full-time potter soon, though!

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