Urban gay Indians inching out of the closet

Natalie Relph July 10, 2007
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The expanding economy of India and an increasingly liberal attitude has created the climate for a growing and visible community of homosexuals and transgender people.

The Gay Delhi Sunday School formed last year provides a meeting place for gay men to talk politics and family issues.

The gay scene in larger cities such as Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai is increasingly vibrant.

Time Out Delhi was launched three months ago with a homosexual section and listings featuring gay nights and social gatherings.

NGO worker Ranjan, 41, told the Indian Express:

“When we decided to start the socials, it was a conscious decision to be visible, to hold our gatherings in the day in a coffee shop. It was our way of pushing for a bit of public space.”

Ranjan is one of many who are defying the law against homosexuality in India and recent years have seen a fight for acceptance, tolerance and equality of LGBT issues.

A Gay Pride March, held last Sunday, saw a parade of supporters walking to Rabindra Sadan-Nandan, Kolkata’s cultural hub.

The gatherings helped architecture undergraduate Ajay to meet likeminded people and to come out to his father.

“Two months after I attended my first social I realised I wasn’t alone,” he told the paper.

Hundreds united in Delhi from May 25th to June 3rd this year for the Nigah QueerFest, a media event of features, documentaries and short films about homosexuality and transgender experiences.

Photographer Sunil Gupta commented: “It was an affirmation of their lives and choices that people were desperate to see.”

Not everybody is free to declare their sexuality, in smaller cities, organisations like Sangram are needed to support the rights of sexual minorities.

“We have received queries from many wanting to come out into the open but can’t. Many are caught in heterosexual marriages, some simply don’t have the courage,” said member Arunabha Gath.

For lesbian and bisexual women there are fewer support places available.

“We are silenced. Public spaces are inaccessible for women,” Maya, member of Delhi based support group Sangini, told the Indian Express.

“We don’t even put up stickers advertising our help line number at any public place because we know a woman will not stand up in a public place and scribble that number down. There is always the fear that too many people are watching.”

Despite increased awareness of LGBT issues prejudice still rages, in the last three months there have been at least six reported attacks with victims being mugged, tortured and murdered.

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