A university student proudly wore his pair of heels in public. An executive shed the skin of Akshay and stepped out into the world as Bruna. A proud mother posed for a beautiful photograph with her transgender daughter. The rainbow was never so colourful over India.
Just over a month ago, the Supreme Court struck down the British-era law, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and decriminalised gay sex in India. It was a momentous occasion for the country’s LGBTQIA+ community members who have been battling social stigma and harassment for decades. The top court verdict restored their dignity and the celebrations were both joyous and poignant as tears mixed with hugs and shouts. Liberated from their shackles, more and more members of the community are coming out across the country.
A lesbian woman in Delhi has come out about her sexuality, and her relationship. A crossdresser in Delhi now wears make-up to work, something he was unsure of doing earlier. Two marketing professionals in Mumbai proposed to each other after the verdict and are now officially engaged. “When you are gay, you get to make two proposals,” says Deb Sanyal, 27. Children are speaking to their parents. And fathers are embracing their queer daughters.
Despite the victory, an even bigger battle awaits—societal acceptance. Gay marriage is still not legal in India. The rights to adopt children or inheritance are yet to be discussed and legalised. A young man in Cuttack, requesting anonymity, said he spoke to his family after the verdict and was accepted by his mother. But she also told him to keep his sexuality a secret until she was dead. There will be parents who will refuse to accept their child’s sexual orientation and take them to doctors and even so-called godmen and yogis who claim to have a cure for “this disease”.
But for many of the LGBTQIA+ community, the court verdict could just be the rainbow they were waiting for at the end of a long, dark night.
By Salik Ahmed and Ritika Dubey in Delhi