The judgment could not be ignored. The young and the confused, those who would remain in the closet and wrestle with conflict and maybe give up hope altogether
When her bisexual friend called her to say, “Come to the Town Hall at 3.30. And wear black”, her first thought was “Here I go again.” Lawks-a-me, she said to herself, sounding, for no particular reason, like some black mama in an American classic, ain’t I gittin’ too old for dis? She tried out a few mild oaths against her friend for dragging her out in the dry heat of a winter afternoon but her heart wasn’t in it. She was impelled to go. When a clock was turned back, it took every hand available to try and push it forward again.
The clock showed 3.16 as she got off the bus and joined the protestors slowly gathering at the steps of the ancient building. She wasn’t a rally-regular, chose her demonstrations carefully. The last one she could recall was a gathering of her journalist colleagues outside the Police Commissioner’s office when jeans-clad young women were being assaulted by right-wing thugs. And before that? In 2007, near the Gandhi statue on M.G. Road, when a Baroda art student was attacked for his ‘offensive’ paintings. Today, on supposedly auspicious 11/12/13, an inauspicious blow had been struck against the LGBT community. A whole army of her friends had been turned into criminals overnight.
Hardly any of them were dressed in black, though. Colours flashed in the sun that now beat down on her face, and she aimed a mental punch at the friend who made her don this conventional hue of dissent. Her male-to-female transgender friend to whom she’d sent a message of support that morning came up to thank her with a hug. A gay intern in an NGO told her his head was spinning after hearing about the judgment. When she appreciated the subjects he’d chosen to graduate in, he said hopelessly, “I’m thinking of quitting now. It doesn’t matter in the real world.” Oh no, she began to say, you mustn’t — but before she could speak further her female-to-male transgender friend appeared beside her, looking quite woebegone. He mumbled dejectedly, “What is the use?” A consoling hug (she would have to be liberal with her hugs today, it seemed) while she told him firmly, you mustn’t say that, it’s not over yet. And this was the man who had co-authored a study on gender concerns, who had concluded that gender was fluid, and sex, a social construct. Could a single judgment crush him so? While translating their exchange into English for the intern’s benefit she stumbled over her words, referring to him as ‘her’, and quickly corrected herself. Pronouns had to be picked carefully in this intersex minefield!
To every one of the activist friends she met she had only this to say: “It’s time to get political. Offer votes for supporting LGBT rights.” The slogan-shouting began; she picked up a black flag, chose a placard (“We made 35 of them this morning”), and listened to the waves of tearful frustration break around her. A rousing “Supr-eee-me Court-ige” was followed by the lusty chorus “dhikkaara, dhikkaara”. My life, my rights, my body, my rights, and so on, in three languages. The old Shankar Nag movie “Nodi swamy, naavirodu heege”. And her personal favourite, the unique (loosely translated as) “In whose hands is the law? Your father’s.” Nimm-appan-hatra kanoonu sounded vaguely insulting.
She stood there for an hour, thinking, listening, imagining. Imagined telling the policemen standing at the periphery, arrest me under Section 377, I confess I committed a crime with my husband. How absurd could an Act be, laying down positions for lying with your partner? Would her gay friend who taught in college be out of a job? Would the sole ‘third gender’ person employed in the state’s legal department (what irony!) now be sacked? What rubbish! Suddenly she was exasperated with the entire tamasha, with her friends who felt as if they’d been jailed till 2009, let out on parole for four years and then bunged back in the cooler. Society has moved way ahead of the law, she wanted to tell them. You’re going to live exactly as you did before. Easy for her to say, wasn’t it? The judgment could not be ignored. The law could be misused. The young and the confused, that’s who she wept for, those who would remain in the closet and wrestle with conflict and maybe give up hope altogether.
Back at home she watched the loony parade on TV. Homosexuality is a malfunction of the body. Don’t talk about it or you’ll influence others. And the piece de resistance: What will happen to the population if we don’t procreate? She thought, I’s gittin’ too old to lissin to dis tray-sh. She thought, you’ll call me unnatural because I never wanted to have children. She thought, what you call a crime is not what they do but who they are. It’s their very existence you deny.
The next day, two photographs of two protests in a local daily. One called for justice for the Bhopal gas tragedy victims; almost 30 years ago she had tied a black band around her mouth and marched in silent protest against Union Carbide. The other photo was of yesterday’s protest. Would this issue be unresolved 30 years hence? She hoped not. But even if it was, she’d never be too old to help move the clock forward.
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