The University of Delhi is revered for having a progressive student body. Its campus has witnessed countless pride parades, speeches and talks that are targeted to positively represent the LGBTQ+ community in India. However, outwardly public appearances and ground-root realities don’t always go hand in hand. A promised ‘Queer Quota’ in ECA societies doesn’t necessarily guarantee a discrimination-free student body. This artifice makes it hard to truly evaluate the true inclusiveness of the campus.
In an attempt to combat this predicament, current DU students from all over the campus were asked to share their opinions on the LGBTQ+ community. After all, what better way is there to gauge an environment than by directly assessing the reflection of its key constituents?
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. Those who stray away from heteronormative sexual orientations have relentlessly been put at a disadvantage. Their humanity is consistently questioned. This not only amplifies the discrimination they face but 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, they need to evolve and put this orthodox thinking to bed. This community needs endless support in their upcoming battles”, said Rythum Goel, a student at the School of Open Learning, DU.
Another student questioned the accessibility of Queer people into the pre-existing ‘inclusive’ progressive groups on campus.
“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. However, I do feel that this is a misconception on a certain level because discrimination and harassment that are targeted or done 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 turning out to be more gimmicky. I feel like sensitisation is also needed alongside everything else, which would not lead to homophobia being ignored”, said Ananya Gaur, a student of the Hansraj College.
Yuvika Dhingra, a student of Shaheed Rajguru College of Applied Sciences for Women has collaborated with the transgender community of India through a non-profit organization. When she was questioned about her personal opinions, she replied, “I had a beautiful personal experience while working with transgender people through Enactus. I got to know their real struggles. Different gender and sexual orientations can only define people’s 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, the exclusion of this community has been a long-standing tradition. For instance, Hijras are considered auspicious when celebratory religious rituals require their presence. However, the stigma against them persists outside of these incidents where they are seen and addressed in a derogatory manner.
Countless incidences reflect how social and cultural exclusion of entire sections of society is devastating for its members. Recently, Anjana Hareesh, a victim of bi-phobia was lost to suicide after her family’s inability to accept her identity. The American Academy of Pediatrics published a study where more than half of the transgender male teenagers who participated in the survey reported attempting suicide in their lifetime.
We can all agree that getting rid of these life-threatening social evils is vital, but what is the best way to attain that goal? Should our education be LGBTQ+ inclusive?
Nilesh Goswami, a student of English Literature at DU, says, “Educational institutions should encourage conversations about gender identity and educate students about prejudices and stereotypes regarding the LGBTQ+ community. 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 topic of updation in the education system has resulted in a greater discourse between the medical community. For instance, Arthur Arnold, a research professor at UCLA’s Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology believes that gender isn’t restricted by the limitations of one’s body and physiology. Yet, on the other hand, Debra W. Soh, a neuroscientist specializing in gender, sex and sexual orientation claims that science doesn’t back up gender as a social construct.
This makes introducing a one-dimensional line of teaching murky. Although, working towards an education system that has an emphasis on key values like being anti-discriminatory, willing to have a nuanced understanding of our societal structure and promoting inclusivity is a good milestone to follow.
It is, indeed, heartening to see the students of the University aligning with these principles but ultimately a university is a place that is limited to academic circles. With the sky-high grades that are demanded by the administration to even access these limited circles, it is imperative that we take the idea that the community has gained adequate acceptance amongst the youth of our country with a grain of salt.
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