People from LGBTQ community have their own challenges and struggles. First, they struggle with their own selves to understand and accept, then they struggle to find acceptance among family, friends and society. However, things started to get better when homosexuality was decriminalized in 2018. But it seems like the law has impacted only bigger cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, and Hyderabad.
There are a plethora of LGBTIQ+ individuals from villages in India who are harassed physically and mentally, taken to babas and quacks to cure them as if they have some disease, when their sexual orientation comes to the knowledge of family and villagers. This struggle not only ruins their life, but many of them commit suicide when they fail to withstand the torture anymore.
Saumya, 23, was raised by a single mother. Her parents would fight every single day ever since they got married. When things got worse, her mother began staying with her parents more than at her husband’s house. Her parents house is in Kanpur and husband’s house is in Unnao. Her mother would go back to her husband’s place when her husband convinced her emotionally. She was controlled emotionally by her husband.
Saumya was born in 2001 as a boy and began her education in Kanpur as her mother would take care of her at her maternal grandparents house. She felt different from a young age. “I liked pink colour and dolls. I liked to play with girls instead of boys in my childhood. My choices were different from other boys. These I realized a few years back when I got to know myself better. But during my childhood these things did not make much sense to me,” she told.
When Saumya was in 9th grade, something happened that gave her a signal that she is different. “I had a crush in my class. I would like him so much that I always wanted to be with him. On my birthday, I wanted to propose to him. However, I could not.”
Unlike other boys, her attraction was not towards girls. “I was not romantically attracted towards girls in my school. I would see other boys talking about their girl crushes and their fantasies, but I would not feel the same way as they did,” she recalled.
These experiences made her realize that she was different, but she did not know what that was. It was when she was 20-years-old that she began exploring about homosexuality on the internet. “The more I came to know about the community, the more I became sure that I am a ‘woman trapped in a man’s body’,” said Saumya.
When she was sure that she was a transwoman, she could not resist and came out to her mother. The coming out turned out to be a disaster in her life. “I was beaten by every single person in my mother’s family. My maternal uncle came from Delhi ‘to treat me’,” she told.
She was taken to babas and given medicines to ‘cure her disease’. “They tried everything to cure my queerness. They were so ashamed of my identity that they even poured hot oil on me. I managed to escape. It was horrible. My maternal uncle took me to Delhi and trapped me in the house. My phone was snatched,” she narrated.
But, one day finding a golden opportunity, Saumya ran away. “I found my phone and ran away. I went to Kanpur and stayed at my friend’s place who was living alone. I began finding a job thinking the ordeal is over. However, I was wrong. It did not end there,” she told.
Saumya’s parents got together after 22 years and forced her to come to them in Unnao. “Now for seven months I am trapped in my parents’ home. They blackmailed me emotionally and made me stay with them. Now they torture me everyday. They don’t even let me go anywhere for work. They are neither accepting me, nor letting me go away to live my own life,” said Saumya.
Saumya tried to seek help from the police, but it did not work out. “I was a victim of prolonged physical and mental harassment. Instead of protecting me, the police asked me to behave like a straight man and not trouble my family and villagers. Law might have changed in big cities, but not for us living in villages,” told Satyam.
She wants to earn a lot of money and go for sex reassignment surgery. “When I meet the LGBTQ community people, I use Saumya as my name,” she added. Saumya, who is a 12th passout, is a makeup artist, cook and has some experience in hotel management.
Saumya is not the only one in such a dire situation and struggling, says Darvesh Singh Yadavendra,
who is an activist and runs an informal group called Awadh Queer Pride in Lucknow. The organization conducts sensitisation workshops in Lucknow and some rural parts of Uttar Pradesh. He says that he comes across many such stories more often.
“In big cities there is a law and awareness to protect the community individuals, but in villages awareness is nil. Although, law is the same in villages as in cities, but it lacks implementation. Moreover, villagers’ perception towards the community is bad. This puts life of the community people in danger in villages,” said Darvesh.
Another individual from the queer community shared his struggle. Ankit hails from a village in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. He knew he was different but did not reveal it to anyone. He found his life partner when he was in Delhi for some time. Everything was going pretty well, but then somehow, Ankit’s villagers got to know that he is gay and in a relationship with a man. The villagers told his parents.
“I began receiving threats from my father and villagers over the call. They said that they will kill me when I go back to the village. It was not once in a while threats, but a constant one. It was not one, but many people from my village who were threatening me,” told Ankit.
This intolerance against the LGBTQ community was so intense in Ankit’s villagers and father, that they set up a trap for Ankit. “My dad called me and convinced me to go back to my native. I thought the situation might have settled down. But my partner sensed something wrong. He asked me not to go. Thank god, I did not go. Because they had planned to kill me,” Ankit informed.
This lasted for six months and it affected their mental health badly. “The threats lasted for 4-5 months. In this period we were super anxious and suicidal. We would think that if we can’t live together we would die together. However, we never doubted ourselves and our sexuality at all,” told Ankit who is staying with his partner. They recently moved out of India.
Ankit’s father is no more now, “but the villagers still bully my mother for me being a gay,” he said.
Talking about why the situation is worse in villages of India when it comes to acceptance of the LGBTQ community, Darvesh said, “In villages, it is really tough to explain to the older generation about the community and convince them that it is not a disease but it is who we are. Because, they value their traditions more than anything else. They live by the rule – what people think and say about them.”
“There is no specific solution for this, but I know a few who when they come to know who they are, they managed to get out of their villages and moved to big cities in the name of education and work. We as an organization are conducting sensitisation programmes in villages for better awareness, the individuals (from LGBTQ community) should figure out a way out soon, rather than coming out to family and making the situation worse,” added Darvesh. He also said that the acceptance struggle affects mental health badly.
Psychologist Akash Pal, who has been working for the betterment of the LGBTQ community in and around Lucknow for years, said that for queer individuals, staying amongst those who fail to accept them is dangerous.
“Because, you will be emotionally controlled and get married in heterosexual marriages. There are many who are doing this. You are not emotionally and romantically connected to your married partner. Hence, this affects those who are born out of these marriages. For children in such marriages, the father or mother figure is missing,” said Akash.
He further said, “Many men in such marriages become sexually violent and abuse their women. Because, they don’t live and express the way they are, but the way society expects them to be. Mental health of such men is at risk. They become alcoholic and addicted to smoking and other negative elements. Their professional life suffers badly too.”
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