LGBTQ Will Keep Pushing The Envelope

‘SC Order on Same Sex Marriage is Sad, But We’ll Keep Pushing The Envelope’

Pamheiba Rajkumar, a member of the LGBTQ community, says that for him the SC order is a mix of disappointment and determination to keep fighting for the cause. His views

The Supreme Court has let us down by placing the fate of the same sex marriage in the legislative court. There was a glimpse of light this time and we were hopeful about some affirmative action. What the Supreme Court has done was “we recognize, we see you, but we can’t do anything about it.”

The complexity and challenges turn thousand-fold as now we must allow the legislative decide whether we are allowed to marry the person we love with all the due rights of being a partner/spouse being acknowledged. Nevertheless, we aren’t going to stay disheartened by the court decision, we are going to keep going forward and fight for the equal rights, that we deserve as a citizen of India.

Now, the battleground isn’t in the courtroom; it’s in the legislative arena. This decision has handed over the destiny of same-sex marriage into the hands of lawmakers. It’s a bit like navigating uncharted territory, with the potential for both positive and challenging outcomes.

The impact on LGBTQ rights is a tricky thing to pin down. On one hand, having the legislative process involved could mean a more democratic and representative approach to change. On the flip side, it introduces uncertainties and possible delays that we didn’t have to deal with in a direct Supreme Court ruling. I feel there is not much of an impact as of now because we must wait for the legislature to decide the future of queer couples and individuals. Since the decriminalization of Section 377, people had started talking about queers’ life. More representation is visible now. We need more allies if we want to win this fight, just as you have come up to me for my views.

ALSO READ: ‘SC Stand On Same Sex Union A Lost Opportunity’

We tried to get the recognition with the help of the existing Special Marriage Act, 1954 which was declined by the SC. Our hard-earned legal framework for same-sex marriage now faces the challenge of navigating the legislative maze, and that’s a bit nerve-wrecking.

In response to this curveball, LGBTQ rights activists and organizations are regrouping. We’re talking grassroots mobilization, community education, and building alliances like never before. The idea is not just to convince lawmakers but to build a groundswell of public support that can’t be ignored. Sharing personal stories and experiences becomes vital in putting a human face on the issue and breaking down barriers of misunderstanding.

Legal experts and constitutional scholars are now in the spotlight, helping us make sense of this new chapter. They’re digging into the potential outcomes of tackling same-sex marriage through the legislative process. While it might lack the immediate impact of a Supreme Court decision, it could offer a more enduring and widely accepted resolution. Constitutional scholars are dissecting the pros and cons, trying to figure out what this shift means for us in terms of impact and timelines.

The disappointment from the Supreme Court’s decision is real. But so is the realization that we’re entering a new phase in our fight for same-sex marriage. As an LGBTQ member, I’m not backing down. Yes, the legislative journey might be challenging, but it’s also a chance for our community to actively engage in a democratic process. It’s about making our voices heard and pushing for a resolution that reflects the diversity of our nation. Together, we’ll navigate this legislative landscape, drawing strength from our shared commitment to love, equality, and justice.

As told to Deepti Sharma

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SC Stand on Same Sex Marriage A Lost Opportunity

Supreme Court Stand On Same Sex Marriage Is A Lost Opportunity

Ankit Agarwal, a development economist currently working with a research center in New Delhi, says a practice which goes against the current order takes years to normalize. His views

The recent judgment by the Supreme Court defeated the motion of homosexual civil unions and adoption of children by gay and lesbian couples 3:2. Many, including myself, were hopeful that the Supreme Court would pave the path for civil unions as it would provide homosexual people many provisions such as including each other as nominees in insurance plans, becoming a signatory for medical treatments, or giving them property rights. Above all, it would have provided more legitimacy to homosexual relationships.

Since Independence, members of the homosexual community have struggled to find acceptance from their family, neighbours or from the society at large. A ray of hope was provided by the Supreme Court in 2018 when homosexuality was decriminalized in India but still the everyday struggle continued as the stigma attached to being a homosexual persisted.

While people could live together without the fear of being reported or jailed after the judgment, they could not sanctify their relationship under any law. Many didn’t see any hope in homosexual relationships as there were no laws guiding the couple, no societal acceptance and no steps around adoption or making a family. Closeted men continued to marry women under pressure but continued to seek love outside marriage — a phenomenon termed as lavender marriage.

Many still quoted homosexuality as an urban phenomenon, which thankfully the Chief Justice clarified saying that homosexuality is not an urban elitist concept. However, it is also true that more people feel confident coming out in urban areas. This might be because of the availability of safer spaces, precedents and more independent lifestyles.

ALSO READ: ‘SC Gave LGBT Legal Protection; Acceptance Is Yet To Come’

A favorable ruling would have multiplied such precedents and made them accessible to remote areas (thanks to social media and internet accessibility). Gradually, it would have normalized the concept of building a home with homosexual parents and children.

Any societal practice which goes against the current order takes years to normalize and not all push has come from the legislature — an example being the Vishakha guidelines where the court took upon itself the issue of safeguarding women at workplace. However, this time the Supreme Court has left it to the legislature to make a committee which will look after the civil rights of homosexual partners. Without any definite timelines this might not see the light of the day.

I feel it is definitely a lost opportunity which could have helped people at multiple stages: it could have legitimized relationships of people who have been living with each other for years now, it could have provided both parents to a child who still is still enrolled as a single parent child in school, it could have inspired people to come out of the closet as people would have seen hope in such relationships, it could have reduced instances of lavender marriages, and lastly it could have educated parents, families, and society at large.

If the judgment would have been in favor of the community, it would have helped set a precedent by allowing homosexual people to marry, thereby setting examples that homosexual people aspire to live a life built on love like any hetro-sexual couples. It is a long arduous task ahead in the journey of normalizing homosexual relationships, but then nothing has been easy for the community so far.

(The narrator is a graduate from the University of Chicago and the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee)

As told to Deepa Gupta

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Hope To See Legal Stamp On Rainbow Marriages Of Our Children: Parents Of LGBTQIA+ Children

In a letter to the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, the parents of Indian LGBTQIA+ children appealed to consider the plea for Marriage Equality and added that “we hope to see the legal stamp on rainbow marriages of our children in our lifetime.”

The letter written by the parents of Indian LGBTQIA+ children from a group named Sweekar – The Rainbow Parents, stated, “We desire to see our children and our children-in-law find legal acceptance for their relationship under the Special Marriages Act in our country. We are certain that a nation as big as ours, which respects its diversity and stands for the value of inclusion, will open its legal gates of Marriage Equality to our children too. We are growing old. Some of us will touch 80 soon. We hope that we get to see the legal stamp on the rainbow marriages of our children in our lifetime.”
Sweekar – The Rainbow Parents is a support group for parents of LGBTQIA+ by parents of LGBTQIA+ to help navigate their journey towards acceptance. There are more than 400+ parents from the length and breadth of the nation.

The letter further stated, “We are appealing to you to consider the plea for Marriage Equality.”

“From knowing about gender and sexuality to understanding the lives of our children, to finally accepting their sexuality and their loved one – we have gone through the whole gamut of emotions. We empathise with those who are opposing Marriage Equality because some of us were there too. It took us education, debate, and patience with our LGBTQIA+ children to realize that their lives, feelings, and desires are valid,” the parents said.

“Similarly, we hope that those who oppose Marriage Equality will come around too. We have faith in the people of India, the constitution and the democracy of our nation,” said the parents of Indian LGBTQIA+ children.

On September 6, 2018, the Supreme Court of India read down section 377 to decriminalize consensual sexual relationships. In doing so, with its statements, it ascertained that their children should be treated with dignity and acceptance, The Rainbow Parents said.

The letter further said that Gender and Sexuality made to election manifestos and corporate India has also begun opening up gradually to the idea of queer lives.

“Society is a changing and evolving phenomenon. Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, the judgment by the honourable Supreme Court created a ripple effect on society and has helped move the needle from hate to tolerance to acceptance,” the rainbow parents said. (ANI)

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LGBTQ Petitioner In SC

LGBTQ Members Should Not Be Stigamatised: Petitioner In SC

A petitioner on Tuesday argued before the Supreme Court that LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) community should not be stigmatised but assimilated with society by allowing marriage equality.

During the hearing, the court remarked that the present matter shall be restricted to the Special Marriage Act and not interfere with personal laws.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for one of the petitioners said that the members of the LGBTQ+ shall not be stigmatised and should be assimilated within the society. The assimilation of members of the LGBTQ+ will only happen after state accepts the same-sex marriage, the lawyer argued.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud and comprising justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Ravindra Bhat, Hima Kohli and P.S. Narasimha was hearing a batch of petitions pertaining to ‘marriage equality rights for LGBTQAI+ community’.

Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta submitted that Hindus and Muslims will be affected and stressed that states should be heard while deciding the issue.

SG Mehta said that the legislative intent throughout has been that marriage is between a biological man and a biological woman.

CJI DY Chandrachud remarked that the very notion of a biological man is absolute which is inherent. SG Mehta responded that biological man means biological man and there is no notion. But CJI remarked that there is no such thing as an absolute concept of biological man and woman.

SG Mehta’s submission was made while he was stressing SC to hear the first Centre application which raised preliminary issues to the present petitions and said that question pending before the top court Bench is to deal with the creation of a socio-legal relationship of marriage. SG Mehta said that this is in the domain of the legislature.

SG Mehta also submitted that there is no legal lacuna in the transgender act and apprised that there is a clarification that none will discriminate against transgender persons. SG Tushar Mehta said that there are provisions of reservation for transgender

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for one of the petitioners, submitted that the top court in various judgements such as Navtej Singh Johar vs Union of India and KS Puttaswamy vs Union of India have already recognised the rights of the members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The petitioner’s lawyer urged the top court that the Supreme Court should now provide positive rights by granting the declaration of marriage equality rights to all people including to same-sex couples.

The members of the LGBTQ+ shall not be stigmatised and should be assimilated within society. The assimilation of members of the LGBTQ+ will only happen after state accepts the same-sex marriage, the lawyer argued.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the intervening applicants, raised the question that what will happen to the adopted child or other various things if the marriage breaks down between the same-sex couple. Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal said these issues cannot be done in piecemeal. He pointed out that it is a very complex issue which will have ramifications.

Senior advocate Rohatgi argued about the Roman emperor Nero who married twice, two men, at that time. He also apprised the court about widow remarriage which was earlier not accepted by society.

Countering the Centre’s submission, senior advocate Rohatgi said that the choice of an individual is not an “elitist concept” but it is innate and people are born with it like Nero.

Senior Advocate Rohatgi said it can not be criminalized but same-sex couples are being stigmatized.

Advocate Rohtagi made further submissions that the rights of people of the LGBTQAI+ community are already envisaged in the Constitution of India as well as by the top Court over time. He submitted that the top Court is not expected to reinvent the wheel, and rather only seeks an affirmative declaration of rights which are already held to be enshrined within the conspectus of the Constitution in a catena of decisions.

Rohatgi urged the Court that it is the conscience keeper of the Constitution of India and it cannot be a defence for the State to contend that the Petitioners should await appropriate legislation by the Parliament on the issue.

The matter, which is being heard day-to-day, will continue hearing the matter on Wednesday. (ANI)

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Govt Recognise Same-Sex Marriage

Govt Opposes Plea To Recognise Same-Sex Marriage

Centre, in its affidavit, has opposed the plea seeking legal recognition of same-sex marriage, saying that living together as partners by same-sex individuals, which is decriminalised now, is not comparable with the Indian family unit and they are clearly distinct classes which cannot be treated identically.

The Centre has filed the affidavit countering the demand made by various petitioners seeking legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
In the affidavit, Centre has opposed the plea and said that pleas seeking legal recognition of same-sex ought to be dismissed as there exists no merit in these petitions.

Same-sex relationships and heterosexual relationships are clearly distinct classes which cannot be treated identically, the government said as its stand against the petition seeking legal recognition of LGBTQ marriage.

It is for the legislature to judge and enforce such societal morality and public acceptance based upon Indian ethos, the Centre said in its affidavit and added that western decisions sans any basis in Indian constitutional law jurisprudence, cannot be imported in this context.

In the affidavit, Centre apprised the Supreme Court living together as partners by same sex individuals, which is decriminalised now, is not comparable with the Indian family unit concept of a husband, a wife and children.

Centre submitted that the principles of legitimate state interest as an exception to life and liberty under Article 21 would apply to the present case. Centre submitted that the statutory recognition of marriage as a union between a “man” and a “woman” is intrinsically linked to the recognition of the heterogeneous institution of marriage and the acceptance of the Indian society based upon its own cultural and societal values which are recognized by the competent legislature.

“There is an intelligible differentia (normative basis) which distinguishes those within the classification (heterosexual couples) from those left out (same-sex couples). This classification has a rational relation with the object sought to be achieved (ensuring social stability via recognition of marriages),” the government said.

Centre submitted before Supreme Court that statutory recognition of marriage as a union between a “man” and a “woman” is intrinsically linked to the recognition of the heterogeneous institution of marriage and the acceptance of the Indian society based upon its own cultural and societal values which are recognized by the competent legislature.

Centre submits that the fundamental right under Article 21 is subject to the procedure established by law and the same cannot be expanded to extend to include the fundamental right for a same-sex marriage to be recognized under the laws of the country which in fact mandate the contrary.

Despite the decriminalization of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, the Petitioners cannot claim a fundamental right for same-sex marriage to be recognized under the laws of the country, Centre made it clear in its affidavit.

“Recognition of marriage necessarily brings with it the right to adopt and other ancillary rights. It is, therefore, necessary that such issues are left for being decided by the competent Legislature where social, psychological and other impacts on society, children etc., can be debated. This will ensure that wide-ranging ramifications of recognizing such sacred relationships are debated from every angle and legitimate state interest can be considered by the Legislature,” Centre said.

Adding further, the government said that marriage between a biological man and a biological woman takes place either under personal laws or codified laws and the parties entering into marriage create an institution having its own public significance as it is a social institution from which several rights and liabilities flow.

“Seeking declaration for solemnisation/registration of marriage has more ramifications than simple legal recognition. Family issues are far beyond mere recognition and registration of marriage between persons belonging to the same gender. Living together as partners and having a sexual relationship with same-sex individuals [which is decriminalised now] is not comparable with the Indian family unit concept of a husband, a wife and children which necessarily presuppose a biological man as a ‘husband’, a biological woman as a ‘wife’ and the children born out of the union between the two – who are reared by the biological man as a father and the biological woman as mother,” the affidavit said.

Countering the petitioner’s submission, the government submitted that registration of marriage of same-sex persons also results in violation of existing personal as well as codified law provisions -such as ‘degrees of prohibited relationship’; ‘conditions of marriage’; ‘ceremonial and ritual requirements’ under personal laws governing the individuals.

If marriage is to be solemnised and registered under any personal law; ‘requirements for registration’, if marriage is to be registered under the Special Marriage Act; ‘restitution of conjugal rights’; ‘judicial separation’, ‘divorce’; ‘conditions of divorce’; ‘alimony and maintenance pendente lite’, ‘permanent alimony and maintenance’; ‘expenses of marriage proceedings’; ‘disposal of property’, ‘adoption’, ‘guardianship’, etc will be affected, which is the exclusive domain of the Legislature, the government said.

The government submitted that the Parliament has designed and framed the marriage laws in the country, which are governed by the personal laws/codified laws relatable to customs of various religious communities, to recognise only the union of a man and a woman to be capable of legal sanction and thereby claim legal and statutory rights and consequences.

Any interference with the same would cause complete havoc with the delicate balance of personal laws in the country and in accepted societal values, Centre submitted.

Various petitions are being dealt by Supreme Court seeking legal recognition of same-sex marriage under Foreign Marriage Act, Special Marriage Act and other laws.

One of the petitions earlier has raised the absence of a legal framework which allowed members of the LGBTQ+ community to marry any person of their choice. According to the earlier petition, the couple sought to enforce the fundamental rights of LGBTQ+ individuals to marry any person of their choice and said that, “the exercise of which ought to be insulated from the disdain of legislative and popular majorities.” The petitioners, further, asserted their fundamental right to marry each other and prayed for appropriate directions from this Court allowing and enabling them to do so. (ANI)

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‘LGBTQ Pride Continues To Grapple With Prejudice’

Harpreet Singh, 46, a literary editor from Mumbai, says LGBTQIA+ relationships continue to be judged by same old yardstick, in spite of getting legal sanction three years back

The word ‘pride’ is often associated with the LGBTQIA+ community. Perhaps we should also add ‘prejudice’ to the mix. The LGBTQIA+ community finds itself constantly moving between ‘Pride & Prejudice’ (of feeling pride one moment and fighting prejudice the next) and not really feeling settled. One must have thought that the 2018 verdict decriminalising homosexuality (annulment of Section 377) might have given the LGBTQIA+ community wings and the sky, but people are still prejudiced against us more than three years later, even though the judiciary tells us that there is no rhyme or reason for doing so.

Until and unless we become part of mainstream, until the legal judgement seeps into the social ethos, we cannot truly say that change has arrived. We continue to be othered and bothered, misunderstood and silenced by the majority of people. There is no sense of belongingness and we feel secluded, kept away and marginalised.

LGBTQIA+ people rarely feel completely safe and free to love. Barack Obama brought in the legislation for same-sex marriage in the most progressive country in the world and Trump weakened its provisions. At home, in 2009, a Delhi High Court bench gave a verdict in our favour, which was overturned in 2013. So you never know which way the wind would blow the next moment as far as one’s sexuality and thus one’s life is concerned.

Many moods of Harpreet Singh

There is no solid ground on which we can stand and examine our identity, our feelings and emotions even 3 years later. The power is always in someone else’s hands. In case of same-sex couples, it is still the next of kin rather than the partner who can make important decisions when it comes to matters of life and death (say someone wanting to be taken off life support as a last wish).

Love can never be unnatural, and while we are on the topic of nature, I would say climate change issues are a reflection of our othering of nature. We take her for granted, much like we take people with different sexual orientations, identities and interests for granted. Sex education and conversations around sex have still not been given due importance, while our population proliferates. Dialogue is necessary between different sections of society if we want to go further than token change.

I am an optimist and love celebrating small changes, which might become big over time. At least those aware of their rights in big cities can no longer be mistreated by cops. The social media explosion in the past 3-4 years has meant that many people from the LGBTQIA+ community have found a voice, a social support structure (even if only virtual) and a small scope for discussion in a civil manner.

Around a decade ago, one had Dostana, a neither here nor there film on homosexuality, but now we have Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan which knows what it is talking about and doesn’t do so in hushed tones. That, to me, is change. To me Axis Bank introducing joint account for same-sex couples is also a win.

Whenever new people come in contact with us, they see our sexual orientation first and our hearts and values later. Shouldn’t it be the other way round? Or maybe it should not even matter. How we express our love to our beloved in private is our personal matter.

My family is one of the most liberal families you will come across. It is full of inter-cultural marriages. My dad, a Sikh, married my mother who is a Parsi, and yet he couldn’t not understand my idea of love. I came out at 16 to my mom and at 19 to my family. I was beaten every day by my father since I was 13 and till I turned 17. Our relationship remained fractured till his death in 2018. I was lucky however that my mother stood rock solid behind me and even took part in many a pride marches.

Love for your partner, family, society, country and world at large needs a series of adaptive actions and compromises from everyone. I am a man of love and I can see beyond gender, skin colour, caste, religion, nationality etc. and straight to the heart of a person. Hope someday the community will also be seen for their hearts rather than just their bodies. My best friend is a woman named Poonam who loves me unconditionally and truly sees me for who I am. Soon there will be more and more Poonams… I continue to hope.

As Told To Yog Maya Singh

‘SC Gave LGBT Legal Protection; Safety, Acceptance Yet To Come’

Raga Olga D’silva, an LGBT advocate, author and entrepreneur, says the Supreme Court helped pave the way. Now, society has to take it forward

September 6 is a very special day for all of us in the LGBTQ community, whether out or in the closet. Three years ago on this day, the Supreme Court upturned Section 377 which criminalised consensual private sexual conduct between adults of the same sex. The penal provision said: “whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Imagine if we had such laws in a heteronormative world!

The sense of freedom one felt cannot be expressed in words. I no longer had to legally hide my sexual preference. I no longer had to pretend around authorities about my same sex relationship. Legally, I became finally protected. But does that make me feel safe?

Protection and safety are two separate concepts. One provides you the option of lawfully living your life with no fear. The latter is based on society, their mindsets and how evolved they are to accept us. Thus, I am yet to feel safe. I still walk around waiting for someone to throw a slur at me, judge me, shame me, abuse me and ridicule me. I still get hateful trolls.

Has making the Section 377 unconstitutional allowed me the rights I would take for granted if I lived a heterosexual life? I still do not enjoy all the privileges that come with such freedom. Banks are just about beginning to value the ‘pink’ rupee and the ‘value’ the LGBTQ community contributes to the economy. Insurance companies, schools, universities, hospitals, are still catching up.

Raga with her partner Nicola (right)

The corporate world is just about joining the bandwagon and have started looking at equality, diversity, and inclusion as part of what they offer their employees. This is extremely important as many of us come from homophobic backgrounds, due to lack of understanding and awareness. We do spend a lot of time at our workplace and any sensitisation towards the community will only create ally-ship and help bring in inclusion and equity.

Schools and universities are inviting more voices from the community to help raise awareness and acceptance. Some of the stories we hear from the community are heart-breaking; particularly as we hear about homophobic teachers and administration. This needs to change, as our schools and universities need to ensure we teach people about equality, love and human rights. It must start with our teachers.

ALSO READ: ‘Parental Acceptance Can Heal LGBTQ Kids Trauma’

The next step is to introduce laws around discrimination. I hope we create laws that will ensure our safety at all levels. That marriage rights are given to us. Adoption rights are given to us. And all those rights that a heterosexual couple enjoy are given to us. We make excellent parents, and research indicates that. My children have been brought up by two mothers and they live a life of non-judgement. We need such stories and narratives so we can together create a world that is inclusive and does not judge people on their own prejudices.

However, life hasn’t really changed much for me. I live in the UK, with regular travel into India. I live two lives. I am an openly gay woman in the UK but when I cross into Indian borders, I go back into my shell.

The fear lives in me. The mindsets are still far from reaching its maturity. There is a large populace who believe my same sex relationship is illegal, shameful, an illness and abnormal. Until that changes, I will be forever in hiding.

My partner and I started ‘coming out stories from India’ as a series on my YouTube Channel to bring real lived experiences and role models to those who need such awareness. A story I wrote loosely based on my life is being made into a film by the critically acclaimed filmmaker Onir. I am writing my memoirs of my struggle of internalised homophobia and the challenges.

The narrative will change, I truly believe, but one story, one ally, one voice, one narrative at a time. The Supreme Court has helped pave the way. Now, let’s take it forward. Together.

As Told To Mamta Sharma

A Trans-Inclusive and Gender Affirmative Healthcare in India

‘Our Healthcare Is Woefully Insensitive To Trans People’

Dr Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju, Karnataka’s first transwoman doctor, rues lack of a trans-inclusive and gender affirmative healthcare in India, which reflects in vaccination drive too

When I was ten years old, my parents took me to a psychiatrist hoping for answers as why my behaviour was gender non-conforming. Instead of being accurately counselled, we were told that I lacked a masculine influence in my life, and that my mother was performing roles that were stereotypically masculine (such as going to work, living a financially independent life and not performing house chores). And that was confusing my sense of gender. The advice was outdated, misogynistic and queerphobic. I stepped out of the clinic thinking I was “crazy”.

In my MBBS years, I found little mention of the healthcare that trans-people require in either my syllabus or in training. The group did find mention in the context of sexual perversions, psychiatric disorders and high-risk groups for HIV/AIDS – all of which are misleading, inaccurate and obsolete perspectives. It is almost as if the medical fraternity doesn’t see trans-people as deserving of access to healthcare.

As has become clear with the case of trans-activist, radio-jockey Anannyah Kumari Alex, there is a significant lacuna with regards to trans-inclusive and gender affirming healthcare in the country.

Transgender people are one of the most marginalised sections of society, an invisible minority. A recent study conducted for the NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) showed that only about 2 per cent of all trans-persons surveyed lived with their natal family; the majority faced social and familial rejection and; 23% were forced into sex work, a profession with exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Dr Haldar says Indian healthcare is queerphobic and outdated both in curriculum and training

Given the pandemic, the risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 for Trans sex workers has been enormous. The pandemic added to financial and health-related burdens. Yet, hospitals across the country remain trans-exclusionary, right from the lack of sensitisation and training of medical and para-medical staff, to the lack of infrastructure such as inclusive wards and restrooms. Vaccine outreach has been particularly difficult for this reason.

Any form of healthcare right from the most basic healthcare, such as a sore throat, to specialised healthcare like endocrinology or urology remain blatantly inaccessible and unaffordable. Indian healthcare has a long way to go in creating safe, accessible, affordable healthcare models across the country for queer and trans-persons.

ALSO READ: ‘Police Job Gives Me Life Beyond Badhai, Begging’

I always found surgery a very noble and artistic pursuit, one that required finesse, dedication and compassion. Upon witnessing surgery in high school thanks to family friends who were doctors, I was drawn to medicine, and knew I had to pursue it as a career.

The change needs to occur at several levels. First, the medical councils at national and state level need to remove all pathological models of transgender identity from the syllabi. This means that transgender identity must not be seen as an abnormality, but as a variation, which needs support and not correction. This is the model adopted by the World Health Organisation and the American Psychiatric Association. This information and sensitivity thereof must be conveyed to medical and para medical students and staff at an early stage of their careers.

Next, hospitals and colleges must allot wards and washrooms to trans-persons, and train supportive staff in handling trans-patients with sensitivity. All forms of conversion therapy to “correct” LGBTQIA+ persons must be outlawed and made punishable as recently directed by the Madras High Court.

Research and training in gender-affirming healthcare must be encouraged at all levels. Hospitals across the world have created training programs that India may draw inspiration from, and recalibrate learning for its doctors and staff.

Most important, a cultural shift is necessary in making society in general safe for trans-people – starting from conversation at the dinner table, inclusive sex education at schools, representation in the media and all professions, especially in healthcare. “Nothing about us, without us” is a slogan often used in disability activism, and the very same applies to transgender persons in our fight for equality.

As Told To Mamta Sharma


'I Support, Guide Parents of LGBTQ Kids'

about a gay son coming out to his mother and the challenges she faces in accepting him.  

I am a member of the LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & Queer) community and have worked on gay rights for almost 20 years now. In all these years, I realised, how the parents of LGBTQ community members need support to bring up their children. We all know by now that it is hard for members of LGBTQ community to come out of the closet. But have you ever thought how it feels for the parents who first realise that their child is a homosexual or a bisexual! In a society that is largely homophobic, the trauma, and the stigma faced by them has largely been ignored.

When I was directing my film ‘Evening Shadows’ about a gay son coming out to his mother and the challenges she faces in accepting him, I came up with the idea of forming a support group for parents of LGBTQ community members. When parents first come to know of their child’s sexual orientation, which does not conform to the society’s accepted norms, they are shocked. They tend to go into a shell and start blaming themselves. ‘Where did I go wrong?’ they would ask themselves.

Loneliness follows. They stop connecting with their children. My film portrays these issues and has been doing well in the film festival circuit. But my real audience were the Rainbow parents. I wanted them to see the film and know that they are not alone and that it is not their fault. So, in 2016, a portion of the money that was raised for funding my film, by my company, Solaris Pictures, was donated to kickstart a parent-support group called, Sweekar-The Rainbow Parents. Some parents, who were actively speaking up at public platforms became the founding members of the group. Now the group has over 40 parents from cities, such as, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune. We found that women are more accepting of their child’s sexual orientation in comparison to men.

For them, their child is more important. This is reflected quite clearly in our support group as it majorly comprises mothers and has about five fathers. One grandmother too needs a special mention too. Sweekar conducts it meetings once in every three months in Mumbai. Parents share their experiences and anxiety with each other and extend emotional support. Several myths and misconceptions about the community are busted at these meetings.

We plan to start a helpline for LGBTQ members and connect parents from all walks of the society. The focus would be to train the members of the group so that they can sensitise their relatives and friends about LGBTQ people. Some of the parents have become very vocal on LGBTQ rights and readily participate in public meetings, discussions and workshops.

They also participate in Pride marches across the country. Recently, a parent participated in a Pride march with me in Vietnam. Parents themselves have been promoting and managing the group. Harish Iyer and I support and help the group. The LGBTQ community rejoiced when the Supreme Court has decriminalised Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, but this is just the beginning.

There is a mountain of challenges that lie ahead. There are several parents in smaller towns in India, who need help. Even in big cities, parents have had a tough time in accepting their child’s sexual orientation. We have had parents, who left the support group. Some said that they have already accepted their child. But some were just not convinced.

Even after a lot of discussion, they perceive it as a ‘disease’ which can be ‘cured’. It is difficult to take some parents on board but not completely impossible. We are getting there slowly. They will be proud one day.