TW : Mentions of transphobia, self-harm, s*icide The title may sound a little redundant. However, I’m going to compare the different forms of the word ‘gay’ – one as an adjective and another, as a verb. In these harsh times where unpredictability is the norm, people need to go about their lives and retrospect regarding […]
TW : Mentions of transphobia, self-harm, s*icide
The title may sound a little redundant. However, I’m going to compare the different forms of the word ‘gay’ – one as an adjective and another, as a verb. In these harsh times where unpredictability is the norm, people need to go about their lives and retrospect regarding the small things and feelings one may encounter on a daily basis.
2020 was undoubtedly one of the turbulent years for North America. The history of the country bears 400 years of systemic racism against a specific group of people who were different, solely due to the colour of their skin. However, 2020 did the job of uniting a vast group of people against what was perceived as the common enemy – society.
When LGBTQIA+ issues are brought up, there arises a need to learn from history and to acknowledge their struggles. The past showcases those who were oppressed for issues as arbitrary as the color of skin or religious beliefs.
As I was going through issues surrounding systemic racism, I stumbled upon two speeches. One was titled “Racism in America”, made by an anti-racism activist and educator, Jane Elliot, and the other was by the popular South African comedian, Trevor Noah. Jane Elliot, in her speech, talks about how no one is born a bigot or a racist. One is only taught such hateful behaviour owing to their experiences growing up and/or their environment – this plays a major role as they are they taught to be racist or bigoted. However, she says that what was learnt can always be unlearnt – this applies in situations where the habit or the information learnt is harmful in the long run.
This struck a chord in me, as I realised the impact of this sentence for the Indian and Asian community. While this applies for a wide range of issues, I would specifically like to bring the LGBTQIA+ issue forward. I grew up in Chennai, a city that is considered to be quite accepting towards the Queer community (in comparison with the rest of the country, Chennai is the only state apart from Mumbai that is considered so.) When I was younger, the term ‘homosexuality’ was admittedly quite confusing, but I knew of transpeople. When I look back, the occasions on which my classmates and I were transphobic towards fellow boy classmates by calling them slurs such as ‘9’ or ‘Aravani’ when they behaved in an effeminate way come to mind. These slurs voiced our disgust against these so-called ‘atypical behaviour’. When I grew up and started understanding what being gay meant, people around me started using that term as a verb. It would be considered as an action word aimed at a boy if his behavior in terms of acting or speaking was anything out of traditional expressions of masculinity – that was where the ruthless labelling of ‘Gay!’ started.
I was unaware of the plethora of things I have come to be aware of now, and back then, I thought that being gay was wrong. I felt disgusted when someone labelled me that and would vociferously argue and try to defend myself against that term. At that time, the word was used as an ultimate insult. I had dismissed it back then, but as I look back, this resonates in similarity to those who were oppressed due to the color of their skin. In India, we still have the pre-supposition that looking dark indicates a dirty, ugly or inferior aura. However, being gay is considered a lot worse – a friend of mine still feels repulsed to utter the word.
Entering college opened up a whole new, open-minded world for me, which resulted in me deeply condemning my previous actions with regard to these issues. I was not born a bigot or a homophobe, but I was conditioned to be one due to society and the environment around me. These very conditions had led me to believe that the word ‘gay’ was used to describe something abnormal and that it should be met with a disgusted look. This society had taught me that it should neither be tolerated nor be accepted.
The realization hit me hard after Jane Elliot’s speech. There is a growing need for people to unlearn their assumptions about certain things that society taught them was wrong. It is not considered gay when a boy talks in a higher pitch, likes pink and BTS, walks in a way that is perceived as abnormal, is shy about his looks or is conscious of his body in any way. A girl is not a lesbian if she says no to your advances, dresses in a way that is considered masculine, does not wear make up, plays a sport better than you, pays the bill or does any work that the society deems ‘masculine’. A person is not a transperson when they do the things listed above, but as the opposite gender.
People need to unlearn, stop confining themselves and open up to the diverse view of the world. While saying ‘I support The LGBTQIA+ community’ is a step in the right direction, one must ensure that a safe space is created for people to be comfortable about who they are. They deserve to experience life as they please, and not as outcasts of society. The majority of society needs to learn how not to be homophobic, transphobic, bigotic, and racist. If someone brings across the “God created us this way” argument, make sure that they know that God created us as humans. We humans created this discrimination amongst ourselves and have the audacity to blame God for the same.
The above paragraph is aimed particularly at those who claim to be allies of the LGBTQIA+ community. Owing to the society you were raised in, you might have remnant traits of bigotry in you. It may go unnoticed as most Queer persons try to ignore these micro-aggressions and move on – however, members of the LGBTQIA+ community do feel uncomfortable. Your behavior may be excused as subtle, but it makes us question our body posture, the way we talk or how we dress to fit better into what you consider to be the norm. The uncomfortable adherence to societal demands needs to stop. People are different from each other in more ways than one; no two people are the same. We should acknowledge the difference instead of ignoring it, and behave accordingly keeping those differences in mind.
The second speech was by Trevor Noah, where he portrays racial issues in America and the society in general. He defines society as a contract among a group of people, whether in written law or unspoken mannerism. Society comes up with rules and ideals that govern a set of people, and those differ across the world. He further elaborates that when the contract is formed and the majority are upholding it, it is still a situation that resonates unfairness. It restricts specific groups from enjoying the same freedom and rules agreed upon by the others, so that the majority can continue to enjoy the benefits. Society also expects the group that isn’t subjected to the same freedom to conform to the majority’s definition of the rules. The irony lies in the fact that the members of the society tasked with uploading those rules are the ones who break it most often. When history shows us repeated accounts of these situations, the entire point of society is viewed as a sham. Collectively maintaining a contract that is unfair to some of members of the society undoubtedly seems to be a futile exercise.
This might be a lot to process but the way I see it, society is a contract that humans construct when they yearn for an identity. The identity may span around groups, nationalities or communities. This sounds fair until they realise that some people who sign the contract are not the same as the ones who made the contract. These set of people may have different opinions but are grouped along with you, owing to common characteristics such as country, religion or area of residence. However, this grouping does not permit one to dictate another’s views, ideas or mannerisms forcefully onto the other person. One must respect the difference in opinions and mannerisms rather than forcing society’s one-size-fits-all rulebook onto others.
This happens to be the case with the Queer community. They form the people whose ideas differ and the majority is occupied by heterosexual individuals who believe that their ideals and morals should be upheld first. They also dictate that people who don’t conform to the same do not deserve freedom to love or exist however they please. In some cases, they are either taught to behave in a certain way favoured by society, or face the consequences. These are the reasons that contribute to self harm, increasing number of suicides, drug overdose and mental health breakdowns among the LGBTQIA+ community. This also applies to adults who may be steadily discovering things about themselves as well.
Society has rules and ideals for the whole population, but it seems to favour the majority. While it is supposed to represent the entire population, the freedom and ideals do not extend or favour those in the LGBTQIA+ community. They do not deserve to be told to adhere to the ‘normal’ or behave the way the rest of the society does. It is wrong to expect them to lean away from their identity instead of embracing it. An important factor to be noted is that when someone is treated without prejudice in the eyes of the law, this does not give them the authority to change the contract. Their comfort does not justify manipulation of other ideals as their own. The contract must advocate the coexistence of all people in the same, impartial manner.
The rules dictated by society must be equitable and not conform to a specific group’s view or ideals. These rules must be fairly upheld and enforced on the entire population without an exception. Proper enforcement with an open mindset amongst people can assure that people have their liberty towards living life as they please, at the least.
To conclude, being ‘gay’ or ‘gay’ is not wrong. People need not be disgusted or feel the need to change it, for it is their identity. The rest of us need to embrace the difference and unlearn the presuppositions that society has enforced us to learn – this enables those who are suffering, oppressed or not being heard to embark on a healing process. It would involve the shift from a society that showed disrespect, to a society that gives them the same morals and respect as anybody else. The latter would be an atmosphere where their concerns would be heard, without prejudice or malice, allowing coexistence as one human race. Acknowledging differences while all members enjoy the same liberties and rules indicates the presence of a better society.
It may be tough to expect the majority to understand your opinions or point of view. However, this must not act as a barrier for living your life as everyone else. We need to understand and embrace the issues that they struggle with, and make sure we do not hurt others. Unlearn and learn, listen to their struggles, express yourself freely while enabling others to do so. Find your ambition, love, voice, your own experiences and ultimately, live your own life, liberally.
-Jonadab Theodore, just another gay person trying to live my own experience.