A cross-section of people speak about the Supreme Court’s recent judgment on Section 377
‘I’m proud to say my grandson is gay’ read her placard in a street rally. To her TV audience she had a question: “I fed him, clothed him, educated him and helped him get a job. Why would I allow the court to say how he should live?” Standing by brave hearts like her, in a surprising act of solidarity, is a nation stung by an order that marks a group of peaceful people “undesirable” with a stroke of a pen. The LGBT community is frozen in Section-377’s headlights.
Echoes of anger and frustration are being heard across the globe. NRIs in California held a candle-light vigil. The UN human rights chief Navi Pillay dubbed it as “a significant step backwards and a blow for human rights.” Social media networks went ballistic when it became clear henceforth homosexual acts would invite up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
“I find it absurd that the government tries to govern people’s sexual preferences! It unfortunately puts us high in the ranks of being a backward country!” said actor Priya Anand.
“I was attracted to boys at around age 10,” said Joe Muthu, who works with OneBill. He came to terms with his sexuality, identified himself as gay at 27, came out at 30, but honesty about being gay isn’t easy, he said. Marriage was discussed, and he kept postponing it. Then he reckoned he “didn’t want my family to learn about my orientation from others”. He made his call from the U.S. where he lived. “I was crying with a sense of helplessness, longing for their support.”
It turned out well. His parents said they would always love him; his preference didn’t matter at all.
The country will be doomed by such decisions, said fashion designer Kaushik Velendra, his strained voice giving away his deep distress. He knew about himself in eighth grade, he said, but coming out wasn’t as stressful as he had thought, as his parents were open-minded about it. “I walked up to my mother and told her, it made me feel more confident.” She said it made no difference; her love for him would never change. “Her support was a turning point, made me feel normal.” His orientation didn’t affect his employer Gatsby, or the fashion industry he works in, he said. “I was open about myself right from the start.” “I’m absolutely shocked and miserable just imagining what it would do to our children’s self-esteem,” said his anguished mother Banu Velendra. They would be in constant fear of discrimination, harassment and violence, she said. It has let down the society badly at a time when parents are slowly moving towards accepting their homosexual children. “I’m more determined than ever to fight for his rights,” she has vowed, and asks parents “to let the children voice-out, you don’t want them living the rest of their lives in fear and humiliation for no fault of theirs. It will instigate blackmails, suicides.”
“I had a clear definition of myself at 15,” said Gopakumar, M.Sc. (genetics) student. “I was totally cool about it.” He told his high-school friends and they locked him up in the toilet, he shrugged. “Guess I am the mature type. They needed therapy, not me.” College was dramatically different, he was open from day one and the response was, “ah, we could guess.” No sweat.
Last year when “mom was on the phone, I let it out casually. She made me repeat it and just blinked.” They went for counselling. The therapist made it clear he was “incurable”, it was no disease. “ If I face discrimination at one workplace, I’ll go to another.” What about is the verdict? “I’m 21, I eat, sleep late, hang out with friends, and I’m a criminal because I’m attracted to guys! It’s weird!” He is worried about 14-15-year-old boys who are closet gays. “Their friends may turn them away. This law puts wrong ideas in people’s heads.” He wants 377 thrown out at once. The judgment has brought the country together, he said. “That is the happiest outcome.”
According to Rama Murali, public health specialist: “The Court may have reversed the 2009 judgment, but progressive social change that has occurred cannot be reversed. The response helps me remain hopeful that activism and increased awareness will push the Government to make legislative change, reverse discrimination against LGBT communities in India.”