6th September 2018; a remarkable date in the history of India. On this day, the Supreme Court of India ruled unanimously in Navtej Singh Johar versus Union of India that the colonial-era law, Section 377, which stated, “so far as it criminalizes consensual sexual conduct between adults of same-sex” was unconstitutional.
Thousands of citizens earned their right to live and love without any bounds or tags. Among the many was Mumbai based youth Arnab Nandy whose Facebook post with his parents, celebrating the scrapping of Article 377 went viral and for all the right reasons. Thenceforth Arnab’s journey to spread awareness and enlighten people about LGBTQIA has not stopped.
Arnab’s awakening, as he calls it, happened when he was in school. When he came out to his friends, they were very welcoming and aware as well as those who weren’t were willing to learn. His parents were apprehensive originally because of the law. They did accept him out of the love they had for their son but the social angle was only fulfilled the day the law was decriminalised.
“Nobody wants to suffer and fight because of their identity,” says Arnab while talking about how the LGBTQ community fights against homophobia and the heteronormative society every day. He talks about ‘Internalised Homophobia’ and how people inside the community are living in denial. This often leads to hatred and them trying to change themselves in ways the society wants. However, in the last one and a half years, Arnab thinks, change has occurred.
Since the law is gone, talking about homophobia and the struggle has become easier on various platforms. Some conversations have helped bring out some homophobes who are very rigid which included the society Arnab’s parents live in. “Our society is very toxic in terms of these things and that is the toxicity we have to fight” states Arnab. Opposing these ideas can only happen when one is aware but most people fail because they still are not sure about what is the right thing to do and are still caught up in the whirlwind of stereotypes. This is why he thinks more people are required to give people the right understanding and tell them that they are free to express themselves as they are.
There are issues which are ingrained in our social fabric. A set of norms are laid for everyone. “They’ll just assume you to be straight and a straight guy who maybe has feminine features or is skinny is also ridiculed.” The society has these standards for everyone- an eligible bachelor guy is supposed to be muscular, fair-skinned, has a job and is well settled. These ideas are more glorified in our Indian society. Anything different than this becomes the stem of a stereotype, which is, Labelling. From labelling genders to associating them with gender roles, that is where it all starts. When heterosexual people propagated such beliefs, “the oppressor is oppressing the oppressed.”
Arnab also stressed on the fact of self-love and being confident about who you are. When talking about bullying and problems faced by the LGBTQ community, Arnab says that it is crucial to understand that some people cannot be changed but what is under our control is how we conduct ourselves. He wants everyone to be productive and not compare their journey or decisions of coming out with somebody else. Everyone has different shoes to fill in. Emphasis was laid on how kids should be taught about such topics so that their learning starts at home and they do not turn out to be bullies or being bullied. Another advice he gives is to save your mental energy and gracefully accept what someone is saying about you. Be it a bully or someone with a narrow mindset, not indulging in a fight is also an answer.
Arnab has always wanted to speak up and tell his story on a public forum so that he can sensitize maximum crowd. He has also been successful in his vision so far as people are learning and being more aware. Earlier Arnab did not like the idea of being loud and voicing his point of view but that can only be the case when one is living in an ideal world and this world of ours is not one. “History owes an apology” and the only way that can happen is when we start talking about these things and generalize it. Arnab is an example of someone who is here to break the stereotype of the society and he is being heard loud and clear by many.
“We have been taught all these things from the heteronormative eyes of the society and that is why we have to unlearn few things and learn it the right way” is what he believes in.
Words play a significant role and we need to be informed of it. To make our society and our world an inclusive place everyone needs to participate in it. The young activist ends with a message for all Manipalites and says “each one of you is unique and Equality is how equally you treat different people.”