Initiatives: QueerCampus India
Team QCI for Pink Pages
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual – LGBT. Did this acronym ever feel like a parallel universe? A figment or perhaps a projected reality? Was there a time when you googled ‘gay+India’? Spent sleepless nights reconciling yourself to an isolation you could barely express? Felt the pangs of indecisiveness while attempting to disclose your ‘best kept secret’?
In India, being queer and young can be tricky. We grow up with a jingle of hetero-normativity that glorifies itself, while everything else that falls outside this conventional strait is indemnified or, at most, presented with obscurity, confusion and negativity. Held within confines of the proverbial ‘closets’, many young people among us look towards a parallel universe which, of late, is gleaming with the brightness of Queer Pride Parades sailing through the commonplace streets in almost every major metropolis of the country. So, how do we fill the ‘gap’ between these two co-existing realities? The answer lies in creating a bridge, a support-system at that stage of our lives and at those places where this gap is not only visible, but also, gaping and wide. It’s time to queer the campus.
QueerCampus India started as an online group on Facebook in April, 2010 to invite support for formation of a queer youth/students’ collective. A few interested youth (and many among us are students), living in Delhi, interacted via this forum, exchanged emails and arranged to meet. As far as Delhi is concerned, we felt that there is lack of a social space where queer youth can interact. There are late night parties, queer pride meetings, Nigah events but either they are restricted to a certain group of people who are involved with them or they take place at ‘unreasonable’ timings that stretch into the evening, night and post-midnight! India lacks a queer youth initiative that reaches our campuses at grassroots level.
The NGOs and other well-established collectives have made considerable efforts in this direction by conducting workshops, managing helplines etc. Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has a queer collective – Anjuman. Some of our universities, like JNU and NLSIU (National Law School of India University), have evolved ‘queer youth spaces’ in the form of organizing seminars, talks, and movie screenings. However, one should note that these are initiatives restricted to one particular campus; and also, they have an academic context for discussing issues of gender and sexuality. Presenting a dark contrast, we see that the same issues have been grossly neglected at our engineering and medical campuses and in those colleges that have largely remained out of the spotlight.
So, here we have a clearly demarcated need to create city-wise informal forums of queer youth/students which can also be supported by queer community members and other people interested in working with this idea. With pride marches, a host of queer-concern NGOs, collectives, parties, books, LGBT professionals, the Indian queer community is visible, more than ever. But the question is, are such spaces accessible to a queer student?
To address the same concern, one of the first initiatives of QCI has been to hold afternoon public meetings in Delhi. We are trying to evolve these meetings as spaces where queer youth/students (and others interested in supporting us) can freely visit and find some rainbow camaraderie! They can interact with a larger circle of other queer students from different colleges and discuss their experiences, coming out to family, friends and other concerns. These meetings also act as a public platform for the group where we receive a wide range of ideas and support from people. QueerCampus India is not a politics groups. It is not an activist group. Nor do we impose an ideology upon our members. One of our aims is to simply be a democratic group that gives queer youth a space to share and discuss their interests and opinions.
(We have public meetings on 2nd and 4th Saturdays of every month, in Delhi. Updates about our meetings are available at Facebook and our blog)
Another idea has been to be a part of public pride events organized in the city. This year we participated in the commemoration of Section 377 Judgment on July 2nd, 2010 at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. We are also looking forward to participate in the upcoming Delhi Queer Pride and Nigah Queer Fest.
Taking root at campuses
Our campus initiatives are in the phase of being structured. We aim to start slowly, but steadily by popularizing QueerCampus India via putting up posters and organizing QueerCampus public meetings at various campuses. And, at present, we’re looking forward to talk and seek support from different people who can help us to realize the same. If you’ve conducted college workshops on queer issues, share your knowledge with us. If you are student involved with organizing activities at your college (or a Women Development Cell coordinator at a DU college), help us to approach your campus administration. If you can, in any manner, talk about this group with your lecturers and professors who are interested and involved with this issue, we would be glad to hear from you. Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Moving towards a national collective
One of the aims of having a democratic set-up is also to help this group replicate in various other cities, so as to say, different city-specific chapters of the QueerCampus India collective. So if you want to start up a QueerCampus group in your city please read our blog and drop us a line if you are interested!
Google group: http://groups.google.co.in/group/queercampusindia
Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=116217135068834
QueerCampus India is not affiliated with any university/college. We are, at present, based in Delhi, and quite enthusiastically open to startup his group in other cities! Mail us!