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The change has started happening, it will only intensify with time- An interview with Ramya Mishra (Author, LGBTQ activist)

As Pride has officially started. We need rethink and reset our mindset towards a section of community that has been struggling for a long time. Its time to acknowledge what has been happening in our country all because of sexuality. We sat down with Ramya to know about the situation that is still prevalent in the world. Ramya Mishra, the founding partner of PR365, is a renowned communication expert. She is also a published author of two novels and a great storyteller. As an author, she applies a simplistic yet powerful approach to writing. She is an LGBT activist and through her writing wants to bring awareness and acceptability among the masses. Keep scrolling-

1.What do you have to say about the current situation of LGBTQ in India?

Ans: Well, if we compare it with the early 2000s, then it has definitely improved a lot. At least, now the community members wouldn’t be jailed for their sexual orientation. But at the same time, they are yet to be integrated into the mainstream.

I have seen in many cases people readily support the cause, but wouldn’t accept their child being gay. This hypocrisy needs to be weeded out.

Homosexuality was also present in our ancient culture. There are clear descriptions of “Swarinis” a term used for lesbians and “Klibas” for gays. Somewhere while walking, as a society we lost our way.

Indian society is slowly warming up to the community members. Until few years back same-sex love was believed to be a western import, but now the faulty notion has been discarded. 

The millennia’s are open and accepting of their queer friends. Things have started changing and the homophobia will get lessened with time.

Many allies join the pride parade, cheering up for their queer friends. We are fighting for the legalization of same-sex marriage. This will help the community members a lot, and it will be an important step towards recognizing their rights. 

In short, we are definitely walking in the positive direction.

2. How can we make our society more open-minded towards the LGBTQ community?

Ans: This is an interesting question. 

We all know cinema and books have always played an important role in influencing the mindset of the masses. Here also, we need more movies in the commercial cinema, celebrating same-sex love stories. In the west, there are beautiful heart-touching films made around the same. For example, Lisa Ray film-I Can’t Think Straight is a much-loved film in the romantic queer genre.

It is high time we need to get over our fixation with SaasBahu operas and Naagin dramas. We need more web series and serials depicting queer stories. We can gently introduce a queer character in soap operas, who is loved because of his/her qualities rather than the sexuality.

Thankfully a change has started coming. Indian web series is also bringing in queer characters as part of the main story. And recently few Indian movies are built around queer characters.

The change has started happening, it will only intensify with time.

3. As an author and an activist, how do you contribute to the community?

Ans: Well, I believe in the power of words, thus I try to generate awareness around the same through my writings.

Recently I wrote a same-sex love story US-Forever, and to spread awareness, I made it freely accessible to all. I got a wonderful response; the book received a lot of love both from Indian and International audiences. It is a romance targeting young adults. They are the real game-changers, their acceptance of the story, filled me with immense hope. 

Last October we also started an Anti-Bullying campaign, which was well received. Due to corona, we cannot do anything on the ground. But once things are in control, we are planning to collaborate with schools in Delhi NCR, to run a series of gender sensitization workshops, where we will also discuss inclusivity and diversity.

It is still a long way ahead, but yes, the journey has definitely started.

4. There is so much abuse and mental stress among gay and lesbians, how can we tackle it?

Ans: This question has no one simple answer. The mental stress problem cannot be tackled, till the time something is done around the same at the policy level. 

For this, it is important to validate their existence. The second step would be implementing laws, protecting the interests of the community members. Both from outside and also from within the community. 

It has been brought to light in certain cases due to no proper law in place, the community members fleece their partner, emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially. This needs to be stopped.

In certain countries, where it is still considered a crime, the members are often being abused or blackmailed. 

To begin with I will suggest setting up proper counseling groups, SOS helplines should be in place. Acceptance of the community members will also go a long way towards addressing mental stress.

Do remember, just because it does not fit the understanding of the few people, the existence of the whole community cannot be negated.

5. According to many people being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is a mental disorder. What is your take on the same?

Ans: A person can fall in love with anyone, be it the same gender or opposite. Sexuality cannot be constituted as a part of a mental ailment. In the west and many other countries, the scientific community has removed it from the list of mental disorders. But yes, in some places, it is sadly still a part of the list.

We have to understand everyone has a different mindset, genes, hormones, thought process, and this impacts our sexuality. Why we get attracted to particular sex? Or why do we go for a particular kind? There are no specific answers to these, though research is on. 

Everyone has heard about Leonardo Da Vinci, Alexander The Great, Babur, all were queers. None of them have achieved so much, if they had a mental disorder.

LGBTUI+ community members are present in every country, irrespective of their ethnicity, color, religion. We need to accept that few people are differently wired, and have to respect this fact.

6. There is a lot of talk regarding conversion therapy? Is it still relevant or not?

Ans: Conversion therapy needs to be banned across countries. Sadly, it is very much prevalent in the west too. According to one report issued by Human Rights Watch few American churches, fund conversion therapy programs in places like Cameroon.

Let’s understand this with an example, one might be born as a creative person, but we want to see them excel in the field of science. Therefore we decided to send them to some kind of conversion camp. Will it really help? No, it will only fill them with shame and guilt. Creativity is something one is born with, the same stands true for sexuality. No amount of therapy can help. 

Yes, often to avoid the traumas and mental abuse, people agree that they have changed. But this is far away from reality.

Forced rapes, touching inappropriately in the name of healing, in extreme cases the administration of electric shocks, will destroy an individual and never heal them.

7. If a closeted person is reading this, what you have to say to them.
Ans: Through your platform, I want to share an important message, to the community members who are in the closet- Please don’t be in a hurry to come out. This is your journey, take your own time. Educate yourself, get into good jobs, be financially stable and then come out. Life is to celebrate and not to lose hope at any point in time.

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