Chennai: It was on June 25, 1978 that the rainbow flag representing gay pride was flown for the first time at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade. Thirty-four years have passed and things remain more or less the same for this marginalised section.
The visibility of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender) and now the Q (Queer) and I (Intersex) community, has increased in Chennai, with the recently hosted fourth Pride March. Yet, people belonging to the LGBT community have several experiences of prejudice, discrimination and violence to share.
There was this unholy spectacle of a young student from a city college, who was beaten up, stripped and made to walk in his underwear by his seniors at a freshers party, only because he openly admitted he was gay.
A bunch of educated guys who held decent positions in corporates were refused to be served and chased out of a pub in a star hotel in the city, because the hotel manager decided that they were gays, as they carried beautiful handbags.
There are several stories of how intolerant families put such children in mental asylums and prayer houses, thinking it will change their sexual orientation or their gender identity. There are families forcing their gay or bi-sexual sons to get married, which, even lawyers admit, is one of the major reasons for divorce.
When Steff (21) told his parents that he was gay, they got him admitted to a psychiatric centre where he was not even given water. Later, his family moved him to a prayer house to heal him.
Dev (24), an MTech student who is gay and Director of Chennai Dost, an online community for the gay and bi-sexual men, says: “The personal battles that most of us go through, not being able to tell our dear families and friends about our real selves, is very tormenting. Every time we interact with them, it is a battle. We have this fear - will our families stop loving us or will our friends stop talking to us, when they know the reality.”
And there have been incidents of some LGBT members being thrown out of their jobs.
Magdalene Jeyarathenam, Director, Centre for Counselling, who has been working on the issues of the LGBT community said, “The corporates in the city should have an inclusive HR policy for accommodating people with alternative sexuality.”