Pride Everyday

For all of us who might be unaware, LGBTQIA+ – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual. The plus allows the term to cover all different subsects like allies, pansexual, androgynous, and polyamorous.

As June and Pride Month is nearing its end, I am sure we all have seen the rainbow light up in logos, advertisements, and social media channels and I must add, they look beautiful and the significance of it is much more powerful which makes me hopeful that a good part of society is celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community. You see, we as humans are most of the time apprehensive about change. We resist change because we are scared of the unknown. Any big change in our history has always met resistance in some form or the other because our minds tell us to stay in the zone we know. This is what happened and is still happening to the LGBTQIA+ community.

A little background about Pride Month, LGBTQIA+ Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. In the United States, the last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as “Gay Pride Day,” but the actual day was flexible. In major cities across the nation, the “day” soon grew to encompass a month-long series of events. Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and LGBTQIA+ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that individuals of the LGBTQIA+ community have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.

My sister asked me one of these days, why do we celebrate Pride Month and why is it that we should be proud only for a month, what about the rest 11? And she gave me food for thought. I am an ally of Pride Month, but to squeeze a celebration of one’s identity should not last for a day or a month, or a year. We should be celebrating our individuality every day. Being gay or lesbian does not diminish any individual. We all are made of atoms at the end of the day, if we really wish to go into the science of it. But we differentiate. Our society has killed, tortured, and bullied people and continues to do so in many parts of the world just because a person decided their sexual preferences would be out of the standards set by society.

Some data to prove how we as a society treat people who wish to be different from the established norms:

  • More than one-third (36 %) of LGBT undergraduate students have experienced harassment within the past year, as have 29 percent of all respondents.
  • Those who experienced harassment reported that derogatory remarks were the most common form (89 %) and that students were most often the source of harassment (79 %).
  • 71% felt that transgender people were likely to suffer harassment, and 61% felt that gay men and lesbians were likely to be harassed.
  • Forty-three percent of the respondents rated the overall campus climate as homophobic.
  • Hate crimes against LGBT+ people increased by 36% in Germany in 2020.
  • 49 people were killed, and 53 injured, in a shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub on June 12, 2016.
  • On February 19, 2017, a 20-year-old university student, Marcos Valdevino, was punched in the face in public in Olinda, Pernambuco, while waiting for his friends to arrive.
  • 2020 has already seen at least 44 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means, the majority of which were Black and Latinx transgender women.
  • Anjana Hareesh came out as a queer person to her family. The admission prompted her parents to forcibly place her in a “de-addiction center”, where she was given a heavy course of medication, she said in a Facebook Live video on March 13. When she tried to resist, the workers there slapped her.

These are some of the horrific experiences people from all over the world go through and this is not even 0.1% of what people from the LGBTQIA+ community go through every day of their lives. Imagine, going to your school, college, workplace, or to the Grocery store for that matter, and get harassed for the way you walk or talk or look, every day. And taking names is not the end of it, brutal torture, surgical operations, and violence that leads to death at certain times is the end of it. Imagine, hiding that you like the same sex or you don’t like any sex from your family and friends for your entire lives and imagine being forced to live with people who cannot understand let alone accept your preferences.

This is where I feel representation is so important. Our minds tend to accept the things we see or hear about in our everyday lives and partly the reason for resistance towards the LGBTQIA+ community is that there is not enough representation in schools, colleges, workplaces, and in serials and movies as well. I would feel proud to tell you that the picture isn’t as gory as painted, but it is. But what I do feel proud in saying that things are changing. I have personally felt them changing. I didn’t know anything about the community that existed beyond boys and girls when we were in school and it is partly my fault because I didn’t educate myself that there are people who do not feel the same way I feel about my sexuality and that is completely normal. But partly, it’s the fault of the education system and the people who were teaching me things including my friends and family. There was no discussion around the fact that there are genders beyond Men and Women, there are sexual preferences beyond the opposite sex. The trans people are not only the ones showed stereotypically in movies dancing in baby showers and weddings. I didn’t know what LGBTQIA+ meant till I was in college.

But, this is not the case now. There is awareness and acceptance in families, adolescents are aware of the community and are openly talking about it. My younger sister asking me that question made me hopeful because she knew what she was asking, she has friends with whom she discusses and sometimes makes them aware. I am proud that a show like Schitt’s Creek, props to Dan & Eugene Levy, was made and loved all over the world. I mean, Schitt’s Creek is the perfect education and representation we all need to see because it doesn’t differentiate, it just understands and accepts. I can write pages about the show but let’s not get carried away. The repealing of Section 377 in India makes me hopeful, seeing pictures of gay men and lesbian women getting married makes me hopeful, seeing so many people at Pride March makes me hopeful, seeing a female Vice President participate in a Pride March makes me hopeful, seeing so many organizations share stories of their employees who have come out proudly makes me hopeful. But it’s a long road that is left walk but something we all can do is, be aware, be understanding, and be accepting. Be an ear to a family, friend, or a complete stranger to listen to their inhibitions, be an ally to the people who have identified their truth, and above all be kind because it might just help someone to accept themselves.

And I would like to conclude this by sharing my 2 cents on CHANGE, Change, a small word for something which means life-altering at times and different if not difficult the other times. The word that can be associated with change is different. We are apprehensive about the change in our lives a lot of the times because we built a comfort zone around us and going out of that becomes difficult, it’s similar to our mindset, we see things, we have been told things and our thoughts and minds shape around that and the moment we see something which is not from our territory, metaphorically speaking, we are quick enough to either reject or diminish it. But, it’s not up to us to reject, diminish or even for that matter interject with anyone else’s choices. We force people to live in the invisible boundaries that the so-called society has made and take the basic right of choice away from them in the name of doing the right thing which might be the absolute worst thing for a particular person. So, the next time you see someone who is different than you in any sense, try not to judge or comment or negate them if you can’t be supportive. The next time you see a man loving a man, a woman loving a woman,  or either of them loving both or none, don’t form an opinion. All I want to say is, the next time you see someone who is not like you, take cognizance of that, and let yourself and them be.

Sources:
Library of Congress

India’s LGBTQ+ community face domestic violence and pressure to ‘convert’

Fatal Violence Against the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community in 2020

Hate crimes against LGBT+ people in Germany rise 36% in 2020

Lesbian gay bisexual transgender center stastistics

That Meghan & Harry Thing!

I am a little late to the party but how could I miss writing about one of the most talked about interviews after the 1995 Princess Diana’s scandalous yet intriguing interview.

But, now that I have your attention (The Office viewers will get this), before getting into the invigorating details about Meghan and Harry, I wanted to discuss a lesser interesting topic that I read a couple of days ago and you might have missed it (maybe you didn’t) as it doesn’t hold much significance in our lives. I am talking about the World Happiness Report 2021.

The World Happiness Report is a publication of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. It contains articles and rankings of national happiness, based on respondent ratings of their own lives, which the report also correlates with various (quality of) life factors. The World Happiness Report 2021 focuses on the effects of COVID-19 and how people all over the world have fared. It’s aim was two-fold, first to focus on the effects of COVID-19 on the structure and quality of people’s lives, and second to describe and evaluate how governments all over the world have dealt with the pandemic. In particular, it tries to explain why some countries have done so much better than others.

A total of 149 countries are ranked by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be according to various parameters.

  • The rankings are based on polling (Gallup World Poll) which looks at six variables:
    • Gross Domestic Product Per Capita (Purchasing Power Parity).
    • Social Support.
    • Healthy life expectancy at birth.
    • Freedom to make life choices.
    • Generosity.
    • Perceptions of corruption.
  • Respondents are asked to rate their own current lives on a 0-10 scale.

Finland has been ranked as the happiest country in the world for the fourth consecutive year and it is followed by Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Norway.

India was ranked at the 139th position in World Happiness Report 2021 and Afghanistan at the 149th place. India ranked 140th in 2019 and 144th in 2020. Let’s talk about this for a minute. I can’t say that we haven’t improved but this improvement is like, I was scoring 32 marks out of 100 and the next year I scored 33 because that was the passing score. The improvement of India, 6.88%, in this context is very slow and I don’t know whether we can afford this slow growth or not. For the fourth year running, Finland has come out on top in the annual list powered by data from the Gallup World Poll. Check here for ranking country wise and continent wise on Human Development Index.

Finland, a Nordic country located in Northern Europe with a current population of 5,546,856. This small country in relativity has been at the top of World’s Happiest countries for 4 years now. But how has Finland been able to sustain at that level for 4 years and the thing to ponder about is whether Finland is making some changes or whether countries like ours are making none in this regard. Talking about Finland, It has extensive welfare benefits, low levels of corruption, a well-functioning democracy, and an instilled sense of freedom and independence, which is a big part of what makes this country the happiest. In addition to that, progressive taxation and wealth distribution has allowed for a flourishing and world-leading universal healthcare system. Though, what strikes me as different and one of the most influencing factors of Finland being the leader of this report is its leadership. Sanna Marin, at 34 years-old, she is the youngest prime minister in the world. The prime minister’s coalition government was formed with all five party leaders being women. Finland’s cabinet features a significant number of women: twelve portfolios are represented by women, seven by men. Almost half (47%) of the country’s parliamentarians, are women. This might come across as different to a lot of us as we are used to seeing our leadership being dominated mostly by one gender. And I am not saying this is the only factor that makes Finland stand on the top of World Happiness Report 2021 but it has to be a major contributing factor.

Now, Lets talk about India.

India is a country in South Asia. India’s 2020 population is currently estimated at 1,380,004,385. The question of the hour is, Why is India or Indians so unhappy that we are in the bottom 10 countries of the Happiness Index?

India is a developing nation with an estimated nominal GDP of $2.8 trillion. It is the world’s sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and the third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). However, the per capita GDP has been comparatively low. Similarly, the distribution of capital has also been unequal to substantial amounts within the country. Thus, spending is lot less than it it should be. Now, GDP is one of the factors of the WHR 2021 which is gradually but constantly improving, but factors like social support and corruption are bringing the overall ranking of India down. Talking about deaths by suicide, India reported an average of 381 deaths by suicide daily in 2019, totaling 1,39,123 fatalities over the year, according to the latest NCRB data. The causes of suicide have been listed as Family problems, Illness, Drug Abuse and Mental Illness among others. Corruption and social unrest has been another major factor in the Happiness Index. Since 2010, there has been 100s of scams amounting equal to or more than INR 100 crore. In 2020, apart from various incidents of mass lynching, two major riots shook the nation resulting in 56 people losing their lives and more than 300 people were left wounded with loss of property, the amount of which is unascertained. I will have to write a separate post for criminal activities and environment damage.

I can’t say that the picture isn’t as gory as its painted out to be, It’s worse. I know, because I live here. But, there are positives, India is one of the fastest growing economies of the world. India has attracted a total FDI inflow of USD 58.37 billion during April to November 2020. It is the highest ever for the first eight months of a financial year (F.Y.) and 22 % higher as compared to the first eight months of 2019-20 (USD 47.67 billion). India has been a leader in handling the pandemic way better than developed nations with resources much lesser than them. India has developed a vaccine in such a short time with great efficiency. India is currently in the process of vaccinating people with 44.6 M vaccines administered and 7.48 M people have been fully vaccinated. Foreign minister, S. Jaishankar, when addressing the Asia Economic Dialogue 2021 said, India has lived up to its talk on a collaborative future by exporting vaccines to more than 70 countries and will be adding 40 countries to this list soon.

As Indians, we all are responsible for the good and the bad. We have a tendency to overshadow the bad with the good and that is perhaps the reason, we are not improving the way we have the potential to. It is not only the job of the government to do everything and we can’t hold them responsible when we are not. A very basic example of how callous and irresponsible we have become is, I see people cleaning their houses and throwing the garbage on the road and if you ask them to not do that, they have the audacity to talk back and start an argument with you. This is a very small and basic example of how we are failing at not being responsible citizens but just failing at being humans. Let’s be better, let’s make this country we call ours actually ours, let’s help in cleaning our country and recycling the garbage not throwing it outside. Let’s raise our kids with morals along with mobile phones and tablets. Before, teaching them coding, let’s tell them what is wrong and right. Let’s talk about depression, let’s not talk about gender equality, let’s start implementing measures to make that happen. Let’s talk about secularity and not believe everything that is on the news like gospel. Let’s be objective instead of judgmental, let’s be kind before being doubtful and let’s be humans before being anything else.

Before I forget, Oprah was a great interviewer and Meghan and Harry were great interviewees. That’s all!

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What is Love?

As I was wandering through the lanes of my mind on a lazy Saturday afternoon with a burger in my hand, I was somewhere lost between pondering about love or burgers or both, but as the sky was beautiful and maybe it was the influence of the songs (Agar tum saath ho and Simply the best) I was listening to, I chose to give my thoughts to love. As I started to think about Love and the complications that come along with it, this is a bit of what went through my mind.

We have so many ideas and expectations of love, as I have written earlier, millennials think love is complicated – Modern Love, but, really

Love is not always dressed in a pretty black dress waiting for you at the end of the hall

Love is at times in jumpers with crooked teeth crossing the road in front of you.

Love is not dinners at restaurants whose name you cannot pronounce,

Love is having cup noodles at 4 a.m. in the winters.

Love is the butterflies you have while holding their hands

Love is looking across the room filled with people and meeting their gaze somewhere in the middle.

Love is not about marriage or societal tags

Love is about seeing through eternity together.

Love is not about being happy all the time,

Love is having the strength to live through the sadness.

Love is dancing in the rain; love is having a bucket of ice cream to ourselves.

Love is in every tiny bit we do. Love is simple, it is us who complicate it by our expectations of love.

And I finally got up to not ponder but dig into the burger, after all love is also in eating a delicious burger.

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Fire – from a simple spark

Times like these, when we’re confined to the walls of our homes, gives us time to ponder, that we need to rethink what we have been doing in the past. Our methods, our ways were not designed to live but just to exist. Now, when we see ducks swarming the canals of Venice or a clear blue sky in Mumbai, or dolphins in Italy’s waterways, we must realize that there is something wrong with what we have done in the past to the environment we live in. We have taken it for granted and not paid enough attention to it. And as we realize that there is no bigger force than nature, we should treat it better. Think about using a plastic bag and throwing that in the ocean, think about using a car to the grocery shop near you, think about your eating habits, and think that you’re not bigger than this planet. Nature is simple, you take care of it and it takes care of you. This planet is our home, and we have to take care of it or else there would be nothing left to take care of.

For any change to take place, a fire has to be ignited in the hearts and minds of people. A fire that inspires, motivates and compels us to be better. Any revolution in history started from a spark that turned into a fire and transformed the world we live in. In the current scenario, I believe a spark wouldn’t be enough, a fire as potent as the sun has to be lit because the time for metamorphosis has arrived and if we still remain oblivious, then like ash, all there will be is remains.

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Modern Love

I am a sunflower, a little funny, if I were a rose, maybe you’d pick me!

My earphones had this on loop when things went left. I couldn’t fathom what really happened. I spent weeks in denial, then months in sadness and eventually accepted that I wasn’t worth the fight.

After months of self-loathing and guilt came a resounding belief that I did everything that could have been done, you did everything that could’ve been done. Yes, I left and you can blame me for that and I can blame you for not fighting enough!

But we weren’t meant to be together, we knew that since the first time we met, right? I was the girl who’d overthink over things that didn’t require thought, the girl who’d prefer long walks instead of sitting in over the top places, the girl who had faith and you were the boy with a fire in the black of your eyes, you were the boy who was overprotective of the people you love, you were the boy who would sing and dance to music that was unbearable for my ears. But we changed, we adapted to each other’s needs and I always said that no matter how many traits you change, your core never really changes. You never really alter your core. And from love, it became something more complicated if there is such a thing. We became the swing that goes forward but equally backward too, our minds became aloof, and even though you and I were together but there were only moments when we really were.

Content provided by Samiksha Singh. Please follow her on Instagram and Linkedin