“LGBT community is opposing Census exercise where transgenders are being counted as female”

Chennai's LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, which in June 2009 organised the first Pride March to celebrate sexual diversity, has drawn up various programmes over the month to highlight visibility of alternative sexualities and gender identities.

The Chennai Rainbow Alliance, a collective of organisations working on common issues of the LGBT segment, will have debates on homosexuality and family values, poetry reading events, beauty contests and film screenings as a run-up to the Pride March slated for June 27. The events are listed on the site chennaipride.orinam.net

Addressing the media, LGBT representatives said Pride Month in June, when sexual minorities across the world engage in self-assertion of rights, would be a time for celebration and commemoration of those who died for the cause.

Kalki of Sahodari Foundation said though Tamil Nadu had been progressive in recognising the LGBT rights, much more needed to be done. The LGBT community is opposing the 2011 Census exercise where transgenders are being counted as “female”. The demand is that this community be recorded in the category corresponding to the gender of their choice and not limited by the limited binary choices of “male” and “female”. Though the Chennai Rainbow Alliance is affiliated to the India Network for Sexual Minorities, there is as yet no coalition at the national-level to lobby for the Census demand, L. Ramakrishnan, country director (programmes and research), SAATHII said.

Sunil Menon, founder of Sahodaran, said families needed to value sexual orientations of LGBTs as natural and normal and provide for freedom of expression in terms of attire, romance and life partners. Magdalene Jeyarathnam, director, Center for Counselling, condemned unethical attempts to change sexual orientation through drugs and other means. She called for awareness among the family members of LGBTs that sexual orientations should be seen as normal and not deemed to be symptomatic of a mental illness and sought to be changed through therapy or marriage. A support group session will be held on June 13 for family members of LGBTs. The centre also runs counselling helplines on 9884700174/9884700104.