The Twitter Chat on LGBTQIA+ Myths was hosted by OFC and moderated by Vandita Morarka and Shruti Venkatesh.
On 20th September, 2019, the Queer Resource Centre held a Twitter chat on the topic of queer myths. The chat was moderated by Vandita Morarka, CEO and Founder of One Future Collective and Shruti Venkatesh, the Program Director of the Queer Resource Centre. We explored common myths related to the LGBTQIA+ community which are prevalent in India, how we can help eliminate such myths in our society and how such myths can harm queer persons. We also explored the possible reasons behind certain queer identities being more invisible than others and how we can change this. Finally we looked at the primary responsibilities of queer allies. You can read some of the answers and conversations below.
What are some of the most popular LGBTQIA+ myths that you have come across?
One of the participants mentioned that the myth she had heard the most was that sexual orientations which stray from the norm of heterosexuality stem from childhood trauma, abuse, ‘poor’ upbringing and other types of ‘bad experiences’ during adolescent years. This was added to by Shruti that research has found genes, exposure to certain hormones during fetal development and environmental factors to play a role in determining the sexual orientation of a person. The participant also mentioned that sexuality is a complex part of our identities and the idea that only survivors of trauma could stray to other ends of the spectrum is extremely reductive, especially since it’s used very often to imply that queer women simply haven’t been with the ‘right man’ yet. To which, Vandita added that it often results in sexual violence being perpetrated against them to ‘make’ them straight.
Vandita also mentioned a very common myth related to bisexuality which is that it does not really exist except for the pleasure of men. Another participant pitched in to state that one of the most common myths that they have heard is that queer persons are mentally unstable and that god punished them for their sins by giving them an alternate sexual orientation. Shruti added to this by pointing out the irony as a lot of historical documentations have queer representations and that homophobia is often a power play.
Other common myths which were stated include every lesbian relationship has a “man” and a “woman”, bisexuality involves being attracted to only men and women and not other genders, homosexuality is related to pedophilia and that queer persons have sex all the time.
What are some of the ways in which we can eliminate such myths in our society?
One of the participants stated that it’s important to create inclusive spaces starting from school to workplace as general awareness and knowledge has to begin from our educational systems. They are of the view that that when we make information accessible to all, we start moving in the right direction.
Shruti stated that techniques like storytelling, art, cartoons etc. have shown to be quite effective in eliminating LGBTQIA+ myths.
Another participant mentioned that we must treat queer people as a part of this society and that even after the abolition of 377, people are still put down because of their sexual orientation. They state that we have to treat them as a part of this society because they contribute in the same quantity like we do.
One of the participants also expressed the importance of inclusive sex education that provides updated information on sexuality and health care without endorsing abstinence as the only form of contraception and so making these resources more accessible through doctors, therapists, educators, content creators, etc.
Another participant mentioned that more research is necessary for the purpose of putting out information on the realities of the queer community in order to ensure that policies and laws cater to their needs rather than having binary gendered legislations. They also talked about the need for celebration of events such as IDAHOT to shed light on the difficulties which non binary people face on an everyday basis.
How do such myths harm the LGBTQIA+ community?
One of the participants stated that such myths leave us vulnerable to hate crimes, bullying and blackmail and they also reinforce the belief that something is inherently wrong with queer people which needs to be corrected/fixed, and when attempts to change/suppress those feelings fail, this belief can even drive one to make rash decisions.
Shruti mentioned that when people buy into such myths it almost always directly leads to discriminatory behaviour, abuse and violence against the community and yet again – helps perpetuate stigma.
Another participant stated that when the myths are pedalled by people in power, it leads to queer people being shunned from public participation and contribution which then leads to certain groups not having a voice in decision making.
Another participant mentioned that these myths also allow for the persecution of queer individuals through a flawed legal system and through discriminatory policies, which makes it complicated for them to access good quality health care and safe living spaces.
One of the participants stated that the very idea of labeling people as us vs them ergo homosexuals vs heterosexuals rather than human beings first with basic human rights leads to a lot of problems of who gets to enjoy more rights and freedom than the other.
Vandita agreed to this but also added that sometimes this is helpful because certain specific positive rights are needed for groups that have been marginalised for decades.
Why are some queer identities more invisible than others? How can we change this?
One of the participants tweeted that the idea that sex is meant only for reproduction and male pleasure might be what fuels this erasure the most. They elaborated that gay men are seen as ‘less than’ for not wanting sex with women, lesbians “haven’t met the right men yet” and bisexuals are either unreal or “greedy” heterosexuals.
Shruti was of the view that asexual, intersex and non binary identities are more invisible than others within the community. One of the reasons for this could be greater stigma associated with them – making them fear coming out. She also mentioned that are not less in number. They’re just less visible than others due to the prejudice they encounter.
Vandita stated that this invisibility has a lot do to with performative expectations of queer identities along with a continued centering and defining of queer identities around heteronormative ideals.
Another participant was of the view that oftentimes, because of the more vocal and visible genders, people try to fit in and that some haven’t realized how they can/ should identify as because they do not posses the knowledge to discern between the different sexualities and genders. Vandita added to this by stating that our idea of what is queer and what isn’t is also formed primarily by what is visible and what isn’t.
What are certain primary responsibilities of queer allies?
One of the participants was of the view that allies tend to be performative in their solidarity with the queer movement where embracing queerness is seen as “cool” and “trendy” which needs to stop.
Another participant stated that allies must stop speaking for queer people and instead use their privileges to help queer persons build a platform and boost queer voices on social media and in real life. The same participant also mentioned that consistent efforts to understand what allies’ biases are and where they come from are needed, so they can work on their own sensitivities before engaging with queer folks.
Another participant mentioned that allyship is about respect and being supportive i.e. understanding that it’s not about them and also to refrain from asking insensitive questions and education oneself.
Shruti added that one of the best ways to stay informed is to have real interactions with people from the community and that it’s good to be curious but it’s far more crucial to be sensitive, especially while asking questions which may be more personal than others. She also explained that many people may choose to share their experiences, which is a great way to learn and understand the different forms of discrimination and struggles faced by LGBTQ+ persons.
Overall, it was an extremely insightful set of conversations. It’s refreshing to see so many ideas and dialogues surrounding important, neglected topics like allyship and queer discriminations. We hope to achieve more of this at OFC’s Queer Resource Centre. To find out more see: http://onefuturecollective.org/qrc/
Shruti Venkatesh is the Program Director at One Future Collective.
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