Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui
Camera: Abhishek Ranjan, Sumit Badola and Shiv Kumar Maurya
6 September 2018 was a momentous day for the LGBTQ+ community in India. The part of the archaic law under Section 377 of the Indian penal code that criminalised Queer sex was knocked down.
Same-gender couples were free to love.
At least from the activism standpoint, things were looking brighter.
To find out how things were in the everyday reality, we caught up with three same-gender couples.
Ruth and Bhavya:
“When the Section 377 verdict came out, my mom was outside with me at the supreme court and she was holding the pride flag. But I don’t know how they are going to react to me actually being in a relationship with someone who was assigned female at birth,” says Ruth Chawngthu.
Ruth is a criminal psychology student, who also runs Nazariya: A Grassroots LGBT-Straight Alliance to fight for LGBTQ+ rights in India. In fact, that is what connected her with her current partner Bhavya Sharma, who is an artist.
But activism is not the only thing that connects them.
“We both have mental health problems. But talking to each other helps… I can talk to her in a way that I can’t talk to anyone else. When you talk to a therapist they are not part of your life and you can’t talk to them in a way that you can to someone in your life,” said Bhavya Sharma.
“A lot of people think it’s weird to bond over sad thing. When people bond over difficult things it is a deep emotional connect.”Bhavya Sharma, Artist.
Vikas and Aditya:
When restaurateur Vikas Narula met artist Aditya Raj on Grindr, for the first time he felt his jokes could be funny.
“We now have inside jokes that no one else gets,” Vikas laughs as he shares what connects him with his partner.
Vikas and Aditya have been dating for over two years now.
“If a gay couple/person gets into a fight and they go to the police, and the other party involved say they sleep in the same bedroom, even if they were just holding hands, they can still be arrested. Even with the judgement gone, harassment still exists. We live in a bubble of liberal friends,” points out Aditya.
“Even with the judgement gone, harassment still exists.”
Lameeya and Naina:
Naina Dasan is a hotelier and Lameeya Parween is an academician. What connected them? A Harry Potter pick up line.
“Our personalities are different but our values and how we view life is very similar. Both of us at the end of the day want to make the world a better place,” Lameeya shares.
“Feminism, equality, gay marriage, environment, no racism, no casteism…you get the drift,” Naina adds.
Lameeya hails from a Muslim family in Assam and her parents have a tough time accepting her identity as a lesbian woman. This prompted her to get involved with The Queer Muslim Project that works on the intersections of faith and sexuality.
The couple has been living together for almost a year now. They are looking to move into a bigger house to better support the three cats and a dog that they live with.
“When looking for houses we did not really disclose that we are a couple but called each other friends because we don’t want to lose out on cheap good houses. Yeah, the economy is really bad for queer people,” Naina says, laughing.
Same Sex Couples: Men VS Women
“The stigma of being gay works differently for men and women.”
“For a lot of straight men when you mention lesbians, it is sort of a fantasy they have seen on television etc. Whereas if you mention you are a gay man to a homophobic straight man, the first thing that comes to their mind is disgust,” Aditya points out.
“Lesbians are a porn category. It is probably the most watched porn out there. It is so unrealistic, it is horrifying. It is so fetishised. You just know it is to titillate straight men, and it is not something you enjoy as a lesbian woman,” Lameeya says.
As much as she hates the fetishisation of lesbian love by the straight world, Naina feels they still are safer when compared to gay men. “Lesbians do have a bit of an advantage over gay men. They are bullied quite a bit more than we are,” she says.
Aditya disagrees. He thinks lesbians and other queer women have it harder.
“It is completely harder for women. As men, we can go out whenever we want. You go to a queer party you’d see 90 per cent of them are men. It is harder for women to meet, go out late at night. The privilege of being a man kind of filters into being a gay man, so it is much harder for women.”