The University of Delhi is known for having a progressive student body. The campus has witnessed various pride parades, speeches and talks that are targeted to positively represent the LGBTQ+ community in India. However, public perceptions and ground-root realities can be contrasting, so one of the best ways to understand the environment of DU is to ask its students to share their experiences. In this article, students from all over the DU campus were asked to share their opinions on the LGBTQ+ community.
Siddhant Saini, a student from the Kirori Mal College, had a very straightforward opinion. He said, “Apart from their sexual orientation, there’s not much difference. We’re all the same.”
Unfortunately, his opinion has not been the standard of our society for a long time. People’s sexual orientations have dogmatically been associated with their humanity. Not only does this amplify the discrimination they face, but it also dehumanizes them, making social stigmas against them hard to resolve.
“The LGBTQ+ community in India has been neglected to such an extent that there is a certain atrocity between this community and people belonging to other communities. Some people hate thinking someone they know could be gay or bi or anyone, they need to evolve and put this orthodox thinking to bed. PEOPLE NEED TO LET OTHERS BE THEMSELVES, REGARDLESS OF THEIR SEXUAL ORIENTATION, THEY NEED TO ACCEPT THEM FOR WHO THEY ARE! LGBTQ+ community needs endless support in their upcoming battles”, said Rythum Goel, a student at the School of Open Learning, DU.
Although pride parades in India are essential to show people’s acceptance of a community that is still intensely stigmatized, they are often only accessible to people that already exist in progressive groups.
Ananya Gaur, a student of the Hansraj College said,“ DU is mostly pitched as a university with a more accepting atmosphere, and it is, indeed, if you manage to find other LBGTQ+ individuals/circles. I do feel however that this is a misconception on a certain level because discrimination and harassment, targeted or out of ignorance, are often ignored. Most societies have *air quotes* rainbow-themed events, especially during pride month. While this is certainly liberating and an opportunity to be free and oneself for many people, it isn’t enough. They’re are turning out to be more gimmicky. What I feel is needed alongside is sensitisation, which would not lead to homophobia being ignored.”
Yuvika Dhingra, a student of Shaheed Rajguru College of Applied Sciences for Women has experience working with the transgender community in India. She said, “ My personal experience has been a beautiful one by working with transgender people through Enactus and getting to know their real struggles. Different gender and sexual orientations that define them can only define their body and hormones but not their minds and hearts…The LGBTQ+ community is marginalized, but should it even exist as an excluded community in the first place?”
Unfortunately, exclusion of this community has been a long standing tradition. For instance, members of the Hijra community are considered auspicious when rituals require their presence during celebratory events. However, the stigma against them remains strong outside of these incidents where they are often seen and addressed in a derogatory manner. Social and cultural exclusion of entire communities is devastating for its members. Recently, Anjana Hareesh, a bisexual person from Kerala was lost to suicide after her family’s strong unacceptance of her sexual identity. The American Academy of Pediatrics published a study where more than half of the transgender male teens who participated in the survey reported attempting suicide in their lifetime.
Should our education be LGBTQ+ inclusive?
Nilesh Goswami, an English major says, “Educational institutions should encourage conversations about gender identity and educate students about prejudices and stereotypes regarding the LGBTQ+ community and to what degree these prejudices/stereotypes are entrenched in our society. Also, it is imperative to teach school students about gender pronouns and the need to ask individuals about the pronoun that they would like to be addressed with. Sex education should be made compulsory in all schools. Many school students don’t even know about the most fundamental difference between sex and gender. These things apply to colleges too, but school is where it all starts from”.
However, the medical community has different opinions about the differences between sex and gender. One part of the community believes gender to be a social construct and biological sex as something one is born with. Arthur Arnold, a research professor at UCLA’s Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, in an interview, believed that gender isn’t restricted by the limitations of one’s body and physiology.
On the other hand, others have differing opinions. Debra W. Soh, a neuroscientist specializing in gender, sex and sexual orientation believes that science doesn’t back up gender as a social construct. With a contradictory stance between medical professionals, the introduction of related studies among school students have parents strongly divided. Nonetheless, education against discrimination of this community is necessary.
While it is heartening to see such a positive response from students in support of the community, the university is inherently a place that is limited to academic circles. With the sky-high scores required to be a part of DU, it is imperative that we take the community’s acceptance amongst the youth of our country with a grain of salt.
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