It is more than six decades since our country gained independence and yet there is one important minority that still continues to live in constant fear and daily humiliation. It's a minority whose very existence is treated as a crime. To this minority belong all those with alternative sexualities—lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT).
Gazal Dhaliwal takes you back into a time when she was a girl trapped in a male body. She was taunted and humiliated in school and college but with her parents' unconditional love and support, she underwent a biological sex reassignment surgery and is a confident woman today.
The oppression faced by gays and lesbians is no less tragic. They become aware of their different sexual orientation in a very homophobic society. The resultant confusion, fear and guilt haunt them through their youth. Deepak Kashyap, a counselling psychologist, experienced this first-hand while growing up—the fear and trauma even making him contemplate suicide. (Watch: Born again). Manvendra Singh Gohil, crown prince of the former princely state of Rajpipla, created a storm when he revealed he was gay. He had to fight against all odds for his rights. (Watch: The brave prince)
Doctors and psychiatrists in India have been known to subject gays and lesbians to shock therapies in order to supposedly 'cure' them. This, despite associations of psychiatrists and psychologists all over the world stating that it is a normal human variant. Since heterosexuality is regarded as the universal norm, someone like Divya only became aware of her alternative sexuality after marriage. She was happily married for ten years and was fortunate to have an understanding husband who accepted her sexual orientation and then stood by her during the divorce so that she could find fulfilment in life. (Watch: Busting myths).
Some parents force heterosexual marriage on their gay son or daughter. The result is catastrophic not just for the individual but also for the person they are married to. (Watch: Match not made in heaven). However, some gays and lesbians have received love and support from their families who accepted their sexual orientation and this has been crucial for them to find happiness. (Watch: Loving your own). Abhina Aher, a transgender, could complete her education and is successful in her work because of the acceptance and support she received from her mother. (Watch: Of love and support).
But not all are so fortunate, especially transgenders. Simran was born in an affluent family and her worst tormentors happened to be her family itself. Unloved and rejected, she left home even while in school to make her own destiny in a hostile world. (Watch: Against all odds).
The harassment of transgenders begins in schools and it is great that a school like Tagore International School, Delhi, consciously teaches its students to respect alternative sexualities. (Watch: School kids take a stand). Many transgenders have with great courage completed their education despite the harassment, but are denied jobs or discriminated against. (Watch: Right to work). Hirak Dey, who has her own beauty parlour in Raipur, and Veena Sendre who works as a beautician, prove that transgenders can all be gainfully employed and socially integrated. (Watch: Hands of Beauty).
Today all of us have to be involved in the struggle against the discrimination and torture faced by the LGBT community. The biggest obstacle to equality for the LGBT community comes from the law. To our eternal shame, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code still criminalizes homosexuality—even among consenting adults. It is considered to be 'against the order of nature' and such acts are punishable for a term which may extend to upto 10 years. This law is a blot on modern India and must be amended. (Watch: The struggle continues).
But even more important than the law is the need for social change. In Pune, Senior Inspector of Police, Bhanupratap Barge, was transformed by a chance encounter and is today an ardent supporter of the LGBT community. (Watch: Policeman with a heart).
It is important that the change starts at home. Rani Sharma, whose grandson Sambhav is gay, has shown that if you have love in your heart, it is not difficult to accept those born different from you. (Watch: With open arms).