I remember a 10-year-old me trying diligently to submit a gender-neutral school essay using his/her, he/she wherever possible. It seemed unfair how skewed the language was towards the male pronouns.
A little while later, I came across the concept of 'Hijra'. As a child, I thought that they were men dressed as women. But then, I was told that they were 'cursed to be neither male nor female'. People feared and ridiculed them, and prayed that a Hijra child not be born to them. Such a shame that would be, and the Hijras would come and take their offspring away.
Now, if the English language was unfair to women, it totally lacked the vocabulary to adequately address this community. 'Why should a creation of God be feared and ridiculed?', I would think. Why is there so much stigma attached to a natural phenomenon that parents are forced to send their Hijra children away? Why can't they live normal lives, study, work, play like the rest of us? They are humans after all, with a right to lead dignified lives. But alas! Such provisions didn't exist in our society. So unfair.
And then, one fine day, a curious teenager me, got to know that there are men who fall in love with men, and women who fall in love with women. They are called gays and lesbians, I was told. And these guys were perverts and sinners, I was told. So, at least the Hijras were naturally occurring. But the homosexuals were downright diabolical!
Again, my feminist brain refused to buy this argument. How can loving someone be a sin? Homosexuals have no voluntary control over their sexuality. Homosexuality is not a psychiatric disorder. It cannot be 'cured'. Being homosexual is as simple as being left handed - which by the way, was also considered ungodly until recently. So then why, why must I believe that they are sinners, just because they love differently? And to accord them 'criminals', only because of their sexuality? That's a bit too much, don't you think?
Now, I'm much older, and know a lot more about the LGBTQ community. I know appropriate gender-neutral pronouns for addressing them. And I know for sure that their sexuality or gender identity doesn't make them criminals. What two consenting adults do behind closed doors is nobody's business. It is high time that they are given a dignified place in our society.
To those who say that they are against Indian culture, there have been covert references throughout Indian history towards alternate sexuality and gender identity. Shikhandi who was instrumental in Bhishma's death, Arjun banished to live like a woman, a child born to Vishnu and Shiva, the depiction of androgynous forms such as Ardhanarishwara, they are all proof that 'Bharatiya Sanskriti' has long endorsed the LGBTQ community as a normal part of our lives. The stigma associated with them is fairly recent and definitely needs to go. Repealing Section 377 is the first step in doing so.
Just like us cisgendered, heterosexual humans, 'they' too must be able to live full lives without fear. 'They' must be able to rent homes, have access to healthcare, and forge meaningful relationships. So that gay men don't marry heterosexual women and destroy the lives of all involved. So that they too can lodge complaints if they are abused, and justice prevails. So that the world becomes fairer. And love conquers all.