We’re Poor. We’re Queer.

Yes of course we exist.

joono
Pop Desified

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The term “Queer Community” creates a certain mental image in our head. A bunch of rich, educated, upper-class, English-speaking people, topped with a good sense of fashion and taste in lifestyle. The reasons behind that could be many. From media representations to pop culture and queer myths, everything points towards this image. So are all queer people just rich, educated, good-looking, English-speaking folks or are they just the ones that are profitable for representation in the capitalist structure of our society?

That’s a rhetorical question. The answer is obvious. In India, it is clearer than day. Queer people are everywhere yet only acceptable when they are packaged in good looks and an affluent lifestyle. What about the average-looking, lower middle class, jobless, homeless gays and transgender people who don’t “look” like our imagination of gay people? Why are they always excluded from these circles and conversations?

India is a developing country and has a higher population of the economically weaker sections of society. Which in turn means there are more queer people amongst them than among the rich. Yet time and again queer people are represented in unrelatable light, almost like a knockoff of Western queer representation, further pushing the ideology that queerness is a Western concept.

Being gay cannot only mean being attracted to the same gender. You need to look the part to be taken seriously. Without looking fashionable and high-end while being ostracized by society for your identity, your experience is invalid. Without being a judgmental, bitchy gay man who gossips about his friend’s bad taste, your queer identity isn’t complete. Being gay means knowing all the modern English vocabulary that describes your queer identity. Being gay means liking that cult-favourite English movie streaming on Netflix. Without these and so much more, your queer identity isn’t worth any attention. Except for a lot of it comes at a price most closeted, overworked and low-income queers cannot afford to pay. That’s classism amongst the queer people for you.

Being queer as a privileged Indian citizen is hardly a holistic representation of the entirety of the desi queer experience. From having their parents' support to otherwise having the money to leave them, from being an MBA graduate to having the money to fund a lavish lifestyle of supportive friends, clubs and wine to drown social discrimination in, this representation only ever touches the lives of the minority within this minority. The queer voices that are lost because coming out can cost them their lives or homes, those that are closeted husbands and wives to homophobic partners, those that lack a sense of fashion because fashion costs Rs. 5000 for a shirt, which can instead feed them for half a month, in them lies stories that are hardly ever covered; therein lies the complete desi queer identity.

An inclusive Queer Indian story

The exclusive nationwide representation of a diverse community of people erases them from discussion and in turn, harms the social progress of the queer community. Fighting against the system as a wealthy, bisexual, Brahmin man dating a woman and as an impoverished, Dalit, transgender woman is very different and needs equal if not more representation. Picking and choosing the likeable aspects of a socially unlikeable community by erasing voices that need to be heard because your movie needs to make millions in the box office is representation no one asked for, is not even real representation. It is queer baiting and capitalizing off of the desperation of a heavily misunderstood and underrepresented minority wanting to be shown, in any form, in the media.

We need accurate queer representation, that talks about the struggles of being queer in a society that is predominantly queerphobic. Marriage, adoption, and inheritance are a few of the many laws that strip queer people of basic human rights to love and have a family. Making gay characters that straight people write to appease straight people has been done enough. We need more films like Aligarh, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, Margarita With A Straw and Badhaai Do, whose stories challenge the comfortable lens that cisgender heterosexual people love seeing queer people in.

It would be wrong to blame only the media for perpetuating classism in their representation. There exists loud and active classism within the community as well. According to Bloomberg,

In India, all space is heavily segregated by economics—and this wealth disparity further restricts access to queer spaces. For example, the entry fee to one of Delhi’s regular “gay nights” is Rs. 400 to 600 ($7-10). But such fees may be prohibitive for those at the bottom of India’s wealth ladder, who only make Rs. 400 rupees working an entire day.

Even though NGOs and many queer-led organizations are working to make inclusive spaces for all queer individuals alike, it is not enough. The various minute levels at which money and influence come into play create a huge disparity among people of the same underprivileged community.

Intersectionality is a must in all movements and most of all, is required within feminist and queer circles, to make sure that all voices get a chance to present their thoughts, be heard and find a way out in a society that makes even the simplest things twisted for people who don’t fit in with the biggest majority.

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joono
Pop Desified

With everything going on in my mind, writing is the only way to keep track of it ^^