• Project Saathi

Role of Education in Endorsing Discrimination against LGBTQ+ Persons

-Ruchika Bhuyan*

When you hear the word “gender”, are the first terms you associate with it “male” and “female”? Do you flinch or feel uncomfortable at the thought of homosexual people? I know there are many of you who bear flags of support towards the LGBTQ+ community on your fabricated Instagram stories and tweets but still aren’t fully comfortable with the notion of a society where girls kissing girls or boys marrying boys or girls who were born as boys is normalised.

I won’t accuse you for it, for the thoughts or discomfort you hold against what seems or has been told to be abnormal. We were all taught that attraction can exist only between men and women because that’s necessary for procreation, and we must all strive to continue our race.

Although the LGBTQ+ community has risen from enforced invisibility in recent years, it still remains vulnerable. The irony is that they’ve had to form a community to find love and support for being themselves as if that isn’t already a human right. There has been a pervasive pattern of prejudice, injustice, intolerance and disrimination hurled at LGBTQ+ persons in the society for as long as we can recall. These are consequences of a broader social climate engendered by some hollow ideals created by holy scriptures and sacred texts of history, which we best know to have been composed by people themselves. How can making someone feel inferior merely because who he/she chooses to love be regarded holy? How can inflicting intolerance and inferiority upon someone pass under the excuse of being sacred? If there exists a God, he would never be biased. For on what basis would he discriminate? On the basis of love: the purest and most beautiful emotion in the world?

To track down why prejudices against LGBTQ+ persons prevail in all parts of the world, we must dig into the roots of propagation of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. The term “phobia” is generally used to describe a fear; something we are afraid of. Are we afraid of LGBTQ+ persons? No. Do we make them feel scared about being themselves? Yes. Are we scared of change? Yes.

Who we are as individuals is an amalgamation of our thoughts, perspectives and outlooks. Do we mould these out of thin air? No. We are taught to think in the way we do. The various causes of prejudice against LGBTQ+ persons branches from the root of illiteracy. Through the social reform movements that have emerged in Indian history and the history of the world, we learn the importance of change. We learn that dynamism is an essential and instrumental tool for us to progress as humans. But what about those who aren’t taught about them? They have imprinted on their minds antiquated, orthodox and conventional ideals with such nails of permanence that cannot be dug out. For some, it’s too late to attempt to change their perspectives. They are stubborn and repel against dynamism. For others, they lack access to learning.

However, there is a large group of educated youths that constitute a mammoth share of those prejudiced against LGBTQ+ persons. They are not illiterate. They’ve been taught wrongly. No one can debate the fact that most schools in India, if not all, endorse orthodox rules and regulations. Rules such as forbidding girls for wearing skirts an inch above their knees or compelling them to braid their hair or scolding them if a strap of their bras show, just because it would “distract” the boys not only encourage the rape culture which has only shown an upsurge in recent years, but also suggest that boys can be sexually attracted, or rather, “distracted”, by girls only. Students are insulted or mocked for not being masculine or feminine enough or for not fitting into stereotypical gender roles. These actions in the education system not only forward the evil of gender inequality but also narrow the concept of gender and sexuality to male and female and attraction existing only between the aforesaid two.

While our minds remain tainted and corrupted with prejudices against LGBTQ+ persons, violence against them have only culminated. According to a UN study, reported cases of torture and ill-treatment of LGBTQ+ persons in detention by or with the acquiescence of State officials include the arrest, beating and ill-treatment by police in Zimbabwe of 44 members of an LGBTQ+ organization. Sixteen gay and transgender individuals in the United States were allegedly subjected to solitary confinement, torture and ill-treatment, including sexual assault, while in detention in immigration facilities. A woman was reportedly arrested in Bangladesh for being a lesbian, and subsequently beaten and raped by police while in custody. In Egypt, four people arrested on the basis of their alleged sexual orientation and/or gender identity reportedly faced sexual assault by other inmates while in detention. The same study expresses its concern for non-lethal violence directed at individuals on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Examples include cases of gay men who have been kidnapped, beaten and humiliated, with film clips of their abuse shared on social media, and of lesbians assaulted and raped because of their sexual orientation. In the Syrian Arab Republic, there have been reports of rape and torture of men assumed to be gay perpetrated by security agents and by non-State armed groups.

My first encounter with the LGBTQ+ community was while watching a movie. I flinched and felt strange discomfort at first, but inquisitive all the same. Why? How? I had so many questions swirling round my mind. Having the resources to do so, I decided to educate myself on the topic, and I am glad I did. People from the LGBTQ+ aren’t any different from us. They too have hands, legs, eyes, emotions and everything else. They only love differently than what social convention dictates. But loving isn’t a voluntary choice. It isn’t a phase either. So, repeat after me: love is love. Love is love.

*Ruchika is a 10th standard student at Sanskriti The Gurukul, Guwahati. She is a writer in making and contributes regularly to the Saathi Blog.

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