I was probably five or six years old the summer my dad decided to fix my crooked little fingers. He tied wooden splints to their sides, attempting to coax the congenital ‘defect’ of my intractable, inward bending distal phalanges into conformity. It didn’t work. My fingers remain crooked to this day and are as normal as my other eight digits, only with a bit of swag. Once, while at college at LSR, I caught another student grimacing at the sight of my right pinky as it rested on the cafeteria’s granite counter. Cringing on observing the innocuous visual of the abrupt sixty-degree bend in my finger, she reminded me of how obdurate we can be in accepting difference.
My aim here is not to reduce India’s LGBT community’s legitimate rage at the upholding of the IPC’s section 377 by the country’s Supreme Court to the trials and tribulations of malformed digits, but to question the ease with which we bracket phenomena as normal and abnormal, natural and unnatural. That a number of us can count more heterosexuals amongst our network of friends, family and acquaintances, than we can homosexuals, does not make the latter’s sexual orientation an abnormality, it just demonstrates that homosexuality or alternative sexuality is normal without being the norm.
The Delhi High court’s landmark 2009 judgment that determined that section 377 was unconstitutional changed the conversation surrounding non-heterosexuality in India, and accorded a long sought dignity to a group of individuals asking simply to be recognized as equal members of our society. It also succeeded in providing a sense of legitimacy to these individuals in the way they conducted their everyday lives, permitting them to be open about their identities and providing them a sense of security in pursuing careers, relationships and dreams like anyone else. The judgment also nudged a complacent mainstream into reconsidering their prejudices and re-evaluating their understanding of phenomena outside that of what they had considered ‘normal’ so far.
When I say this, I speak from personal experience. Although no member of my immediate family has ever expressed homophobic notions, homosexuality never became part of our everyday conversations. The 2009 judgment changed this, but not as much as the regressive Supreme Court judgment of last week. The upholding of section 377 has angered my family, prompting my largely straight-laced parents into questioning the constitutionality of the law, my semi-haphephobic sister into pouting cheek to cheek with me in order to participate in Tanmay Sahay’s #gayforaday Facebook campaign, and encouraging me to write this piece in support of India’s LGBT community.
The Supreme Court’s decision has lobbed the ball back into the lethargic corridors of our parliament, placing our hopes for constitutional reform in limbo for the foreseeable future. However, the galvanizing of urban sentiment in support of LGBT rights demonstrated through viral Facebook campaigns, poignant advertising, outspoken activists and ordinary supporters alike, has been heartwarming. The fact that the voices amplifying the demand for decriminalizing gay sex in our country are not limited to homosexual, bisexual and transgender individuals alone, demonstrates how far we have come in the past four years. That social change may overtake judicial and constitutional reform is perhaps the proverbial silver lining on this ominous dark cloud.
© Ayesha Sindhu 2013