LOVE is LOVE – The Big Step of Acceptance in Small Cities
“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, but is surely the most dangerous thing to live without” – William Sloane Coffin Jr.
Love is an abstract emotion; it can be only felt and expressed. It can’t be restricted to any person or thing and has a broader underlying meaning. Every person has a different way of defining love.
At Roobaroo House, we try to create a more connected and well-informed community by conducting workshops and discussions on pertinent topics, including ones that are often considered a taboo in society. Such discussions are often eye-opening, even for us as someone who initiated it, for when different perspectives flow in seamlessly in a safe space, it elevates the understanding of everyone, and exchange often leads to something new.
This past Valentine’s day, we held a discussion on “Love” and the various ways it manifests. Among the participants were people from all walks of life including some who associated themselves with the LGBT Community.
Several adjectives were used to describe this 4 letter word that captured humanity’s imagination since eternity. Some described it as passion, romance while others as peace, caring, respect, and still others as biface or even “Pyaar Dosti hai”
The discussion gradually turned towards LGBT community and the place that form of love has in our society today. Some argued that India being an ancient civilization and one that is still connected to its roots, finds it hard to digest the idea of a different kind of love. Heterosexuality is considered to be the natural for it’s related to marriage and procreation whereas homosexuality comes across as unnatural. However, it was also pointed out by a participant that Lord Shiv – one of the major Hindu Gods and Varanasi’s favourite, is also worshipped in one form as Ardhanareshwar – where he is half man, half woman.
The discussion then moved to the present day. While de-criminalization of homosexuality in the recent years has brought some relief, it has still not become acceptable in the society. It continues to be considered a taboo. In a city like Varanasi where the thought process is still conservative, it’s difficult to understand and accept it.
“LGBT is not an issue, but people have made it an issue.” – said one of the participants expressing her views. She pointed out how at times people consider it as a disease which is transferable to one another. She shared her own story. Since an early age, she was more drawn towards girls. Growing up, she worked in an NGO, where she found a lady who was a lesbian. She helped her understand her own feelings and emotions, giving her the correct guidance. However, when she tried to inform her family of her orientation, she was discouraged. It was difficult for her but since she knew she felt right about herself and her feelings, she never let positivity go from her life. She now helps other people understand and accept who they are, and she does it by means of storytelling and drama. To quote her – “I’m a part of society, and being lesbian doesn’t make me about not being in society”.
Another participant explained how acceptance is a big issue. Acceptance from friends and family is essential as they are your first and foremost support system. He explained how difficult it was growing in school and then through college. Children always made fun of him, not letting him use the boys ‘ washroom and often humiliating him. He had a hard time explaining to his parents. But then he started using media as a means of communication. He showed them woke TV shows like Satyamev Jayate, where one episode discussed alternative sexuality and its acceptance. He still shows them YouTube videos about LBGT Community and Alternative Sexuality. His parents are still in the process of accepting the fact, but he is happy they know who he is.
We had participants from Netherland and Ireland also, and it was surprising to hear that their countries are also facing somewhat the same issue. The Dutch participant was a teacher, and she shared how she has a colleague who belongs to the LGBT community, but this information has not been shared with the children for fear of how they will react. The Irish participant, however, said that while even a decade ago, it was considered a taboo to belong to the LGBT community, now their President belongs to the same community.
Eventually, the consensus was that Love is love, regardless of its form, and needs to be celebrated for the sheer joy it adds to people’s lives. We also discussed different ideas for awareness of the community – from street plays to gender study workshops, or even having similar discussions at different platforms.
While it was only a small start, we hope that by working on these ideas, we can bring about a small but steady change and make ours a society which not only accepts diversity but celebrates it indeed.