Posted By: Mann B
Art By: Lerath
Being queer in school’s hard.
Being queer in an Indian school’s even harder.
Thanks for coming to my TED talk.
School was never easy for me. What did I expect? Adolescence is a time when a human is – considering the appropriate medical terminology – a hot mess. Growing up, I was repeatedly singled out in school, and it gradually became clear as to why. I was objectified: my only purpose was to compliment other people’s narratives, be it for comic relief or to satisfy their curiosity. My identity was as irrelevant to them as its validity. No one asked who I was; they just knew that there existed only one effeminate kid in school who they could easily project their insecurities and sexist ignorance on.
I was once followed to the washroom by a group of boys and till this date, I have always been afraid of non-empty washrooms. They didn’t hit me or anything, but watching their reflections push each other and jeer at me, was equally harrowing, if not more. This incident rendered me physically incapable of entering occupied washrooms and it’s something so paralyzing and unalterable that anytime I hear or sense anyone entering, it’s almost an immediate, reflexive response to run outside before they enter.
I think instances like these have caused and continue to reinforce the feeling that, “I am being watched.” I can’t walk in the school hallways without speeding up or fidgeting with my hands, eyes darting in all directions to adjust my movement according to the people nearby. In public settings, this response is amplified. My mind plays the constant loop of “Everyone’s looking at you and the way you’re standing-talking-walking-breathing-being”. I have had to live with the consequences of other people’s actions which are driven by their ignorance and aggression my entire life. Sadly, as I said in the beginning, almost all queer people do too.
I do believe that my socio-economic conditions also need to be considered. I belong to an financially stable, upper-caste Hindu household attending a private school in Delhi NCR. To put it simply, I haven’t been through shit. Queer people are beaten up in school, unjustly rusticated by the school authorities, face discrimination even at the hands of the teachers and this is just one facet of their experience. Queer people – trans people in particular- have to bear the brunt of a legal, educational and societal system designed to belittle and disregard their very existence. Within the Indian context, wherein they are severely ostracized, oppressed and poorly represented, this results in minimal to no scope of integration in mainstream society.
What’s saddening is that the so-called ‘adults’ in these situation have done nothing but stoked the blazing fire of ignorance. It is not uncommon to find them rigidly spewing conservative, regressive beliefs, and being completely unwilling to change. The tendency of Indian schools to treat teen sexuality, let alone queerness, as such a taboo and the outright condemnation of expression of the same in any way, shape or form which leaves the students with no avenue within the environment of a school to explore or educate themselves about their identities, regardless of sexual orientation.
However, we must remember that no one’s inherently prejudiced against queer people; they have been conditioned to believe that our existence is worthy of maltreatment and/or correction. It’s a product of what they have seen and learned, what they have been taught to reflect in their disposition and demeanor.
We, not as straight or gay, but as people need to acknowledge and utilize our agency. Acknowledge that ignorance about sexuality thrives within traditionally conservative settings like those of schools; acknowledge the interconnection between ignorance and misinformation and the harm that can bring to both the self and the society; acknowledge that change starts at the grassroots and utilize our agency to bring about that change; utilize our agency to educate ourselves and those around us about issues surrounded by irrationality so as to counter the influence of hate and spread the message of love, empathy and solidarity.