Experiencing, Thinking And Writing Gender And Sexuality
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By Omnl Chow:
Metro train journeys are always interesting and harassing in new ways. From cold gazes and warm sweaty hands wanting to grab my skin, to inquisitive minds and fingers that pull on my hair, my entire body, for most of the eyes in the compartment is a fascinating biological and social question; one that is wrong and disgusting, one that is worth exploring, one that is different and creepy and undefined, one that doesn’t fit their normative traditions and cultures, but at the same time, appears bold and shameless. And somehow, this shamelessness seems to mean that bodies like, but not limited to, mine are overtly sexual bodies. This relationship between shame and sexuality translates into misinformation, stereotypes and skewed attitudes towards people that are queer or LGBTQIA+. It’s funny how when it comes to queerness, there is both misinformation and a simultaneous complete lack of information! There is no room for conversation around identities that do not fit the “normative”, and through this silence, the oppression is deepened and often times leads to depression, I feel.
Across histories and pasts, people have made arguments about how we are all equally human, and these arguments have paved some way for better representation, and maybe accommodation of different ideas and opinions and expressions. But, it is not all that simple. The stigma associated with being LGBTQIA+ is deep rooted. Our identities challenge the fundamental unit of society, the family. The box of heteronormativity is something we all as a society keep intact, as acceptable gender norms provide us with some privileges that help us manoeuvre our everyday lives.
We need to realize how individuals are different or same and still equal. We need to respect people's personal choices that don't generate any kind of violence. We need to talk about the kind of discrimination LGBTQIA+ individuals face on an everyday basis and what effects it has on them.We need to create open and if possible, safe spaces where such individuals can come together and talk about personal struggles and the need for support groups. We need to stand up against this right-wing hyper masculine brigade that wants to suppress the already suppressed and make criminals of consenting adults of the same sex who love each other, we need people to not care about random people and their opinions, we need to be more inclusive as a society and as a community to accommodate as many people and identities and ideas as we can, we need to talk, we need to question!
The current scenario is bad; people are being killed, raped, and discriminated in the name of political agendas, religious beliefs and ‘culture’. More visible LGBTQIA+ people, especially trans identifying people, experience discrimination that’s so serious that they are denied employment, denied accommodation, denied entry to public places and more. The constitutional recognition of the third gender sounds progressive only on paper – such legislations and amendments have no effect on how people choose to or do think.
Another related and an important yet the most neglected issue is mental health. We never know what to do or what to say or whether to say anything at all, when personally confronted with situations of such nature. We don’t talk about it, we don’t learn about it. I think we can learn from such experiences by putting ourselves in their position, trying to feel what the situation could have made them feel. Sometimes, it’s better not to try at all, because certain situations might be beyond our imaginations. But dealing with mental health in a sensitive and a comforting way is very essential.
Even as we lack good information, gender, sexuality, and mental health are now ‘hip’ issues in popular media. Everybody wants to write about them and often times without reading and knowing about them. These representations perpetuate outdated attitudes and misconceptions – and all the time, corporates mint profits by superficially appearing to support a cause, while oppressing a different community to do so! This is their hypocrisy, this is our hypocrisy.
Popular representations of queer identities seem to give people the license to assume people’s sexual orientation/identity/interests by reading their gender expression, which is absolutely bizarre. Even as I type this, I’m busy scrolling through Facebook, looking at the profiles of people I know, and people I knew in school. All their faces remind me of is the bullying and commenting I faced in school and the hurt i felt. All of this leads me to think that we have to start talking about queer identities, about mental well-being and empathy in school itself.
All we need to do is initiate thinking and questioning on what society has to offer, and create open and sensitive environment for the marginalized and oppressed to voice themselves.
The author is a TYPF Peer Educator and Youth Advocate.