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The miniscule fraction's not-so-miniscule contribution: What the LGBTQ community has done for society

Sunday, 15 December 2013 - 5:30am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Society conveniently ignores the work done by the LGBTQ community.

The SC, while re-criminalising homoxesuality, observed “only a miniscule fraction of the country’s population constitute lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgenders.” Members of the community are now pointing out how the “miniscule fraction” has been doing far more than others to help society both economically and through its creative pursuits.

“This goes far more than the fact they are not adding to the population of this already overpopulated country or ploughing back into the economy with their propensity to spend on high-end luxury goods with their disposable incomes,” says child-abuse survivor and equal rights gay activist Harrish Iyer.

He should know what he’s talking about. After all whether it is child rights advocacy or the rescue of strays and abandoned dogs or cats Harrish has always been pro-active. He made his personal blog a helpline during the 26/11 terror attacks and even organised an animal-aided therapy workshop along with Animal Angels in Mumbai to help citizens recuperate.

In fact in recognition of his contribution, on 29 June 2013, British national daily, The Guardian, named him 100 most influential LGBT people in the world this year. Listed 71st, Iyer, the only Indian on the list routinely uses blogs, Facebook and twitter to campaign for causes dear to him. “I cannot ignore injustice or a cry for help. Whether standing up for gay rights, rescuing a child who’s being pimped on the net or saving a pigeon caught in kite string, I draw on the same reserves of compassion that all human beings are blessed with.”

Internationally acclaimed and celebrated novelist-poet Vikram Seth who called the SC’s ruling “a disgrace” and described the day as a great one for “prejudice and inhumanity,” is another example of how members of the community have contributed to flying the Indian flag high across the world. This Padmashri, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman recipient, WH Smith Literary Award and Crossword Book Award winner who ranks among the top ten contemporary writers in the world vented his ire at the judgement without mincing words. “How could the judges have taken away the rights, prerogatives, dignities of 5 % of 50 million Indians who weren’t criminals yesterday but are criminals today?”

This indignation is echoed by openly lesbian Robin Chourasiya whose organisation Kranti is fighting to give a better life to the children of sex workers and kids from red light areas affected by domestic violence. “Instead of criminalising the LGBT community, society would do well to see how it is putting its shoulder to the wheel and helping,” she said on the sidelines of the rehearsal for a play written, directed and performed by rescued girls from red-light areas at the Kranti shelter.

This psychology graduate, worked with the US Air Force and volunteered with an anti-trafficking NGO in Uganda and came to Mumbai for six months for the same. The Mumbai experience made her pursue a Masters in gender studies. Though she rejoined the Air Force, lesbianism led to discrimination and harassment when she opposed it. “Being coloured, lesbian, of Indian origin and a minority meant the odds were stacked against me. It defined my trajectory.”

Though admitting to challenges running Kranti there have also been very fulfilling experiences for Robin. Like Shweta Katt, the first alumnus of Kranti received a scholarship for admission to Bard college in New York.  “Examples like Shweta tell me I’m on the right path. The revolution in the country will come from empowering people to bring in change,” she says and adds, “Maybe then we won’t have things like unjust criminalisation of communities.”

Its a lament heard from one of the the top 10 fashion designers Wendell Rodricks too. The designer who has never been apologetic about his sexuality is a name to reckon with in the world of fashion across the world. Trained in Los Angeles and Paris, Wendell has designed and styled for Garden Vareli, Lakme and diamond major DeBeers. His collections inspired by Tibetan monasteries, tribal symbols of Shiva and Vishnu, the Harem at Istanbul, tattoos of the Lambadi tribe and the internationally unique collection transferring Braille onto fabric for the visually challenged have made him into a fashion legend.

Widely respected as the first Indian to display at the world’s largest garment fair in the world at IGEDO, Dusseldorf, Rodricks lectures on world costume history, writes for leading magazines, is a patron of the Kasturba Gandhi Memorial Trust, Goa to promote hand spun khadi and retails at the country’s best stores. The designer whose uniforms are worn by Goan police, the state’s tourism department has styled international ads for Delsey, Swatch, Breguet and Raymond Weil laments the SC’s ruling. “Suddenly all the contribution that I was being praised for is forgotten and I’m a criminal. But I’m confident that the powers-that-be can’t ignore the roar of the community which will become a deafening din till we get justice.”

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