Among Allies

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A young engineering graduate has been shooting videos, Tanika Godblole finds out more

Tushar M, an engineering student had a great opportunity waiting for him in Germany. But instead, he chose to stay in India and work for the rights of LGBT youth, because that is what he believed in. His campaign, I, Ally encourages and educates friends and families of LGBT individuals. “One of the major factors that inspired me to start the I, Ally campaign was the fact that my biggest source of support while I was coming out in college was my friend circle, which mostly comprised straight people. Being in an engineering college, most of the people around were boys. Far from being bullied for coming out, I got an enormous amount of support. It was an eye opening journey for me. It really helped me come to terms with my own sexuality in a comfortable, receptive environment.” He firmly believes that every youngster who wishes to come out deserves this kind of acceptance. “The majority of population is heterosexual and hetero-normative, and it is important that all those individuals who are in the closet and afraid to come out see this support.”

Apart from messages of love and acceptance, the campaign has also had people with stereotypical ideas of homosexual people that persist in the society. Even though some believe in equal rights for the LGBT, they are bound to impose their preconceived notions instead of letting the individual be. “I, for instance, have received many videos from girls saying how much they appreciate their gay friends because they are fun and have a great fashion sense. There are two parts to that. One is acceptance of LGBTQ individuals. The other is accepting that they are different. Humans are always averse to change, especially when it is visibly different. I’ve known people who say they are okay with LGBTQ people who ‘blend in’! What a ridiculous notion!” he says.

Tushar had always been active in campus outreach programs, and his campaign I, Ally carries messages from straight allies who are photo_2accepting, if not completely open minded. “My effort is to educate, raise awareness, and get such messages. Even the tiniest bit of support is of great value. But that’s not all I do. I engage, I talk, I clear out stereotypes. The video might be 5 seconds long, but the talk that goes behind it is much more. One-to-one interaction is very useful in raising awareness. The key is to rationally question the fear of homophobes. Talking freely and discussing these feelings is how we could some day, reach a state where there is complete social acceptance.” He has gone across Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata and is soon going to take the campaign to Delhi. Even though it is a small initiative, more people are joining in by making contributions with videos and messages. “One of the things I’ve made sure with I, Ally is to show videos from parents, relatives and the general public who also have young children. Their attitudes and voices matter, since not only can kids identify with what they are saying, but their parents too, see a reflection of themselves in these people who’ve given great messages of support. It’s not just a youth led campaign; it’s also about acceptance from all generations in society, from all corners of India,” he says.

Such an initiative has great potential for reaching out to the youth and their families across the nation. “It’s a great resource, I can say that! For kids everywhere – we have videos in all languages, from all kinds of people of all ages, backgrounds, cultures, ideologies, all saying that everyone deserves the right to love and be loved! Out of the 300 videos I’ve managed to collect by now, I am sure there’s one that will inspire every questioning youth out there to become a little more confident .It will make their parents think about their preconceived notions and biases.”

You can join the I Ally Facebook Page or follow the I Ally Youtube Channel or follow I Ally on Twitter

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Tanika Godbole

Tanika Godbole is a writer and photographer based in Mumbai. She is interested in writing about human rights and social issues, and has a Masters in International Journalism. Find her on Twitter: @godbolet
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