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.
Library of Congress