QUEEN’S ROAD: In a country where the imagery of romance in cinema, television programming and advertising is created for heterosexual sensibilities, where does a gay couple look for a nod of recognition? Where are the spaces that allow them to hold hands and stroll freely while feeling safe and inviolate? You see gay couples mostly in pride parades, waving placards, seeking a country that belongs to them too, asking for work environments and educational institutions that do not ostracise them and a legal system that does not criminalise their life choices.
And yet, in such a bleak scenario, filmmaker and activist Sridhar Rangayan’s film Purple Skies shows a lesbian protagonist dreaming of a marriage straight out of a Yashraj cliche fest. Sridhar was in Bengaluru a few days ago and screened Purple Skies at the IBM office and at Atta Galatta.
This was, he says, another attempt to mainstream an invisible minority that routinely faces gender and sexual bias, restrictive family and social diktats and a law that criminalises homosexuality.
Sridhar also screened Breaking Free, a feature length documentary at Alliance Française. This film delved deep into the lives of gay and transgender people who have been victimised by the colonial, anti-sodomy law, Section 377.
As we celebrated the recent triumph of gay rights in America, there was perhaps also the niggling realisation that dignity and selfhood are still distant dreams for the LGBTQ community in India.
In a chat, Sridhar Rangayan shares his views on what happened in America, what he would like to change in India and the pointlessness of either excessive hope or inordinate cynicism.
A great step forward
America’s judicial ruling in favour of same sex marriages is fantastic news. That the development triggered mass support on social media is also significant.
Even if it just entailed people changing their profile pictures, it signified mainstream support for a marginalised issue. So we should carp a little less and maybe do a bit more to ensure that equality and dignity are accorded to sexual minorities. We should not just stop at showing our support at the cyber level. The support should be longer lasting so change can come faster. This ruling could trigger positive changes in India too. At the same time, we need to acknowledge that India has a long way to go. Here we seem to confuse homosexuality with sexual rights when it is a human right to selfhood. About claiming the right to just 'be’ who you are without the fear of dehumanisation.
What are we waiting for?
It took a Nirbhaya to galvanise the nation to protest against rape. We should not have needed that to happen to want safer cities for women. And we should not wait for a similar tragedy to spark off mass support for gay rights. The criminalisation of homosexuality has already opened the door to great exploitation at the hands of the police and the judiciary. We can just feel marginally grateful that sexual minorities are not as brutally targeted and subjected to violence as they were once in certain parts of America. But we do have divisive politics and one can only hope that things will get better and not worse. People should not have to use terms like, ‘in the closet’ in an equitable society. They should not be asked to cut themselves in half to fit in a society that does not see them as whole.
Marriage is not all
To young people who want to marry their partners, the American ruling brings hope but marriage is just an institution that is failing everywhere and there are other rights I would like to have for me and my partner. Property rights and right to inheritance to start with. Equal access to work opportunities and much more.
Not just about romance
The latest advertisement featuring a lesbian couple paints a very idealised and romanticised image of homosexuality, when in reality, a couple like that would face far harsher situations. But it is a step forward. Changing perceptions is the beginning of real change.