CHENNAI: On Sunday, the month-long September Fest at Phoenix Market City concluded with a riveting discussion titled ‘Over the Rainbow’. Members from the LGBTQ community had gathered to attend the session at Club Crest.
The panelists featured Apsara Reddy, transgender woman politician, and journalist; L Ramakrishnan, public health professional, and NGO worker with Saathi; Sridhar Rangayan, founder and festival director of Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, and social and equal rights activist Padma Iyer.
It has been a year since the decriminalisation of homosexuality was lifted under section 377 by the Supreme Court. Where do we stand? What is being done by the powerful lawmakers and by the people at large? Uncertainities still loom large. “Issues concerning gays and transgender persons are ignored even within the community. Sensitising people is crucial. Instead of rehabilitation, individual skills have to be identified. Job opportunity in the workforce is the way forward. Don’t single them out for their sexuality. They deserve recognition and not sympathy,” said Apsara.
Culture and society are not in pace with the LGBTQ movements, despite the change in the law. Apsara emphasised that there is not enough importance given to mental health as a critical component. She also spoke about the current stand of the government and her journey thus far as a social activist, crusader for human rights and being the voice of a community that needs to be heard.
The acceptance of community members needs to begin at home. Padma Iyer, mother of gay rights activist Harish Iyer, said “If you don’t accept or listen to your child’s feelings, who else will? I saw my child bloom after I supported his decision. It did take some time to tell the relatives but they eventually got to know. Now I take part in his campaigns and rallies. There are hardly any parents from south India who are open to respecting their child’s sexuality. In Mumbai, I do see the trend changing. More fathers are also understanding these days.”
The other panelists, Ramakrishnan and Sridhar, shared their opinions on how films, as a huge medium of influence, dictate the way adolescents and youngsters absorb ideas of sexual orientation and develop a mindset of acceptance. The focus, the panelists said in unison, needs to shift to the conversations we have with our peer group, mentors, and parents that help us welcome and include all genders and communities at large.