In June, 1990, a leaflet titled “Queers read this” was distributed by Queers at a pride march in New York. It begins like this;
“How can I tell you. How can I convince you, brother, sister that your life is in danger: That every day you wake up alive, relatively happy, and a functioning human being, you are committing a rebellious act. You as an alive and functioning queer are a revolutionary”.
To be queer, is to be part of a violent existence. It is to live with multiple identities, it is a radical act. It is a struggle at several fronts like that of family, society, work and law. For some, much more than others. When this identity finds intersection with caste, gender, class, indigenous and disabled identities, it finds further repression and struggle. Our idea of a queer identity, therefore, cannot be homogenous. But it can be amalgamated, with space for everyone in the margins who looks for an identity and home to belong to. In India, it is heavily documented that queer love and life was part of society, and historically accepted. And yet, as imperialism does, we have colonial laws and now entrenched cultural beliefs that LGBT+ identities are societal vice. We’re putting it back together, though, one brick at a time
Even after landmark judgements like NALSA v. Union of India, which recognized the rights of transgender persons and Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, which decriminalized homosexual sex; the battle for respect, equality and recognition remains. Research shows that even after these judgements have been rendered by the highest court in the country, it will take much more for the acceptance to trickle down to society. Although, even at the pulpit of law, there is much more to achieve. The regressive Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act continues to haunt as a specter above the community, with the parliament continuously failing to understand the transgender identity. The adjudication of the issues with this Act too, remains pending in the Supreme Court. Queer representation in positions of authority, which would allow greater involvement in law and policy remains a distant dream. Recent allegations of a lawyer not being made a High Court judge due to their sexual orientation only prove this further. Petitions for marriage equality are pending before the courts and the struggle between culture and liberal rights does not show signs of calm.
This issue of the Maya Magazine looks at several issues that permeate despite and after legal recognition. It includes writing on LGBT+ friendly workplaces, queering our language, the violence of legal definitions, issues beyond the gender binary and the continued perpetuation of stereotypes. There are various issues with law as a mechanism for social development, not in the least the issues of corruption, accessibility, power, backward thinking and non-inclusivity that plague the system. But also, in the violence and exclusion of legal language itself. And that in the end it is going to have to come down to each and every person learning and understanding that – it is inherent in our existence that we be allowed to be who we want to be and love who we want to love.
The foreword has been written by Muskan Tibrewala.