Quest For The West: Why do queer Indians want to move?

A conversation about the future of queer people in India with a close friend ended on a sad note when he said: “I don’t want to leave India, India wants me to move.”

And then I realized why it was such a familiar feeling.

Growing up as a queer kid in a middle-class family in India, I always wanted to find a place of escape where I just felt good.

Looking back, I didn’t know at the time that I craved acceptance, but it left me with thoughts of running away, of being anywhere but here.

As I grew older and interacted with other people in the LGBTQIA+ community, I realized that I wasn’t the only one dealing with these crippling thoughts. Such feelings of alienation are felt by many people in India’s queer community, making up a large part of India’s population: around 2.5 million people, at least according to a 2012 government survey, making the India’s queer community into one of the largest in the world. world.

Deepak Kashyap, a queer psychologist born in Ajmer, Rajasthan, alternates his time between India and Canada. He confirmed that this desire to “get out” of India is a common phenomenon among Indian homosexuals. “It’s not the economy that drives queer people away, it’s about safety, security and the future. Finance is not the main reason we are moving, we are already privileged in India. But can I create a family here?

“I wish I didn’t have to move” is the most common thing Kashyap has heard when talking to queer people about this topic. “Many of us are very attached to our families, it’s not that we wanted to leave, they kicked us out. It was a decision made by us.”

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“There are fewer spaces in India where queer people can be queer. It is mostly [possible in
metropolitan cities] like Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore. And these cities are very expensive to live in, and they can’t possibly house 2.5 million people just in these cities,” he added.

The truth is that India’s queer population is moving in a phenomenon known as the ‘gay brain drain’. Saurabh Kirpal, an openly gay advocate in India, making his case for the legalization of same-sex marriages during Supreme Court hearings this summer, touched on the issue, saying: “There is also a leak of gay brains caused by [lack of equal rights, including marriage equality]. The best minds leave the country to secure freedom outside the country.”

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Kirpal: There is also a gay brain drain caused by this. The best minds leave the country to secure their freedom outside the country.#SupremeCourtofIndia #Same-sex marriage

—Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) April 25, 2023

According to World Bank research, India loses 1.3 percent of its GDP as a result of a higher incidence of despair and suicide among the homosexual population. This problem can be solved by giving equal recognition and rights to the LGBTQIA+ community. India is not only losing millions of brilliant gay people, but in the process, the country is also losing billions of rupees.

India is currently waiting to hear the Supreme Court ruling on the legalization of same-sex marriages in India. However, that didn’t stop queer lovebirds from marrying their partners.

One such couple is Vaibhav Jain and Parag Mehta, who are currently living in the United States. “I am an Indian citizen and I love my country. I watch the Republic Day parade every year with tears in my eyes, just as I did when the Supreme Court of India finally decriminalized homosexuality in 2018, offering a blanket apology for historical wrongs committed against LGBTQ+ communities.”

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“I have not left India. But sometimes it seems that India is leaving me and millions of others behind. What are our options when other governments invite us to build and learn and achieve within their borders while having to live as second-class citizens, not having to hide who we are and who we love? Leaving India might actually be the easier choice. But, by filing these petitions for the recognition of same-sex marriage, the plaintiffs are fighting to stay. We are fighting to be heard and to be seen. No one should be invisible to their own government, especially in a democracy,” Jain said.

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Living in India for queer people often means hiding who they are. For Jain, “living as a gay man in Delhi and Bangalore meant living half his life.” Jain was “incessantly bullied by family friends, classmates, even the adults at school” who were supposed to protect him.

He said: “I could be gay as long as I stayed in the shadows. Underground. But being from a ‘respectable family’ meant that one day I would have to marry a woman and endure a loveless marriage that would ruin our lives. When I had the opportunity to study abroad for my master’s degree, I thought it was a way out. But of course, that meant sacrificing everything I knew and grew up with. In the 12 years since I left India for school and work, I have been incessantly bothered by the fact that it was me, not my bullies and torturers, who was exiled. It is ironic who we keep and who we expel”.

Expressing similar thoughts, a software engineer from Dehradun who moved to the US in January 2022 to pursue higher education shared what led them to this decision. “Being in a place where I could really be myself as a gay individual meant a lot to me. The freedom to love who I love without judging was a huge factor in my decision,” he said.

The engineer, who wished to remain anonymous, continued: “I would not be able to live my life as a gay man with complete freedom in India. It’s hard when you can’t be yourself without worrying about judgment or discrimination. I wanted to find a place where I could openly express myself and embrace my identity without any limitations.”

“I am happy to say that I found the freedom to be myself. I have been involved in the LGBTQ+ community on campus and have made amazing new friends. Overall, it has been a positive journey so far, and I am excited to see what else the United States has in store for me,” he added.

Anmol, 25, also recently moved to the US for many reasons, but most importantly, to be himself. Anmol is not ashamed to admit that he led a privileged life in India, but he came at a cost, a cost that was too high to pay for that privilege.

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“Despite living a privileged life in India, I encountered several drawbacks as a queer individual. First, I spent a significant part of my life in the closet, constantly burdened by the need to hide a fundamental aspect of my identity. The absence of openly queer people during my childhood contributed to this reluctance to come out. Compounding the problem, Bollywood and other forms of Indian pop culture perpetuated harmful misrepresentations, further exacerbating the challenges facing our community,” he said.

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Speaking about his time in the US, Anmol said: “The legal battles that the queer Indian community is winning today were won in the US a long time ago and it is reflected in the daily lives of the residents of this country. . It is common to find officially recognized LGBT+ clubs at universities and colleges, and one can find openly gay professors who are happily married to their partners. This inclusive culture also permeates corporate and public spaces. Even when I was out in India, I still experienced a subconscious urge to suppress my queer identity in public places. By contrast, in the US, I feel significantly more comfortable and empowered to express my queer identity openly.”

“I discovered a refreshing and inclusive society where queer people are not marginalized, but rather live openly, proud of their identities and enjoying equal rights. They also have effective legal support available should they require it. However, despite these experiences, I remain a proud Indian, eager to explore a new country,” Anmol added.

Queer people in India want to come home to a place that feels like home and accepts them for who they are. Our constitution denies discrimination, and it is time for this to permeate the legal framework and civil society.

What do you think about Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. For more stories about the LGBTQIA+ community and homosexuality in India, keep reading Spectrum at TIT Education.

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Source: vtt.edu.vn

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