​In the St. Joseph’s Imbroglio, I have Received Little Support from the LGBT Community

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In the whole St. Joseph’s imbroglio, I have received little to no support from the LGBT community. I was not expecting any. In 2010, when the IIT Hyderabad sacked me, I received little to no support either.

Indeed, at that time, I received several attacks on me with slanderous, wild accusations from the likes of Ashok Row Kavi and Aditya Bandopadhya, gay men I have never met or spoken to in my life. These emails are available on the LGBT Yahoo group for everyone to see. Nobody said anything about those vicious posts. Row Kavi’s was predictably communal, nasty, slanderous, low on facts and personalised (based on completely wrong information about my family). Nobody on that email group, which has the who’s who of the LGBT community in India, even called him out on the anti-Christian communalism.

Nobody did a fact-finding. Nobody bothered to find out whether it was indeed because of my gayness that I was fired in the first place. Nobody is doing a fact-finding now. Nobody is bothering to find out whether this firing had anything to do with my gayness and what the accusations against me are. My one gay friend in Chennai, Moulee, a tireless gay activist against the casteism and classism in the LGBT community, informs me that rightwing gays online are justifying the college’s firing of me.

Such is the nature of the LGBT community in India. I am a well-known, prominent LGBT activist. Imagine the lack of support for someone ordinary. Of course, I am hated because of my criticisms of the ‘queer movement,’ such as it is. I have been and will be a relentless critic of the elitism, classism, casteism and gender-privilege (of upper class, upper caste Hindu gay men) in it. I did not expect anything from the movement. I am well-aware of the fact that ‘queers’ are a neoliberal mafia who will bare their fangs if their caste and class interests are threatened. I am aware that the queer movement is a rightwing movement in India.

I am aware that I have been and am and will be targeted by individuals like the ones I mentioned above, based on no knowledge of me or facts of my cases and life. Harrish Iyer has apparently been running a long-standing vilifying smear campaign against me alleging that I am a paedophile. He has not read my articles, not read the debates around the issue in TNIE, not engaged with any of my positions. He’s made up his mind.

I can file individual cases against all these people for defamation, slander and abuse. But I choose not to because they are part of my community. I believe in community. However, it is sobering to know that given a chance, it will be people from my community who will kill me first, not goons from the Sanghi-Maulana-Jesuit nexus. It is sobering to know that there are members of this combine in the community to which I belong.

It is amazing that in a country where Hindus, Muslims and Christians (and every other religion) is joint in their hatred of us, we are busy spending our time hating each other. It is amazing that in a country where we have to focus on fighting the battle against institutionalised homophobia and vicious hatred for us, we spend our energies pulling each other down.

I count my blessings. I thank my gay best friend in the whole wide world who asked me to continue teaching the guest classes in his college he had called me for, even though that is also a Christian college and he was jeopardising his own status there and even though we hardly agree on anything. I thank my only queer colleague who has been a solid rock of support to me, giving me crucial information. I thank my new trans friend who called me, took me out for a walk in Cubbon Park and spoke to me of healing and offered me novel methods of how to deal with the pain of our lives. I thank my lesbian friend who called me for a cup of tea in Airlines Hotel and discussed the state of sexual harassment in this country with me. I thank my other new trans friend who celebrated her birthday in Koshy’s with me and other LGBT friends and we all had a good laugh about caste and Tamil cinema and trans politics, even though we do not agree with each other on most things. I thank my beautiful, beautiful gay friend who met me in Koshy’s and said he should take my autograph before I got too famous and he would not be able to get it then. We laughed heartily together.

I thank Sukhdeep Singh, Gaylaxy’s Editor-In-Chief, whom I have never met, and whom I do not agree on most things, and whose website I do not like at all, but who sought me out to write a column for him for over a year now, created the space for my opinions (most of which I am sure he hates and must be getting serious hatred from the neoliberal queer mafia from for) and who fosters, through that, the kind of community I believe in, one in which we may differ but we stand together against the heteronormative hegemon. He sought me out at this time of crisis too and for that I am thankful.

 I thank all the students, my own and not my own (and mostly straight) who came out in support of me, sent me hundreds of friends requests on facebook and private messages of support and solidarity (there goes my resolution of never having more than 300 friends on facebook at any given time!) and sent me crucial information from inside the college after I was kicked out. I thank the many straight people in my life who wrote to me offering support, telling me to let them know if I need anything, who supported me on social media platforms and everywhere else. I thank the many straight people I did not know at all who have and are continuing to offer me so much support online and elsewhere. I thank all the straight journalists who called me, met me, listened to me, offered a platform.

My only hope is one of these days I’ll wake up and discover that I am straight! I feel safer with them. With them, I will not be stabbed in the back.

Ashley Tellis

Ashley Tellis is an LGBT rights activist and an academic