It is an irony that a tool of liberation for the LGBTQ people in Kerala is also turning out to be the space where they face abuse.
Jijo Kuriakose, a Kerala-based research analyst and a gay man, started Queerala, a community supporting the LGBT in Kerala in 2013.
“One of the main objectives of the group is to shatter the ‘I am the only one notion’. We post inspirational ‘coming out’ articles from across the world. Most of the abuse we face is because of the ignorance too. So we try to create awareness,” he says.
In the last three years Queerala has connected with more than 300 people and receives at least 10 enquiries per week, Jijo says.
“If someone who is confused about their sexuality or wanting to join a community, has read an article where my name or any LGBT activist’s name is mentioned, the person will definitely try to get in touch with the activist or Queerala,” he adds.
“We are also focusing on getting more articles written. In Kerala writing is considered to be more influential compared to speaking. Apart from this breaking into art is also something we just started doing and it has got us a lot of support,” Jijo says.
Jijo urges institutions and people provide avenues for people within the community to talk about themselves rather than always have outsiders talking about the community.
“We have a collection of films, articles, music and any kind of media about LGBT, and articles and media that were also banned. Instead of calling students of arts discipline to present papers, the institutions should be inclusive of people who represent a social cause. By getting the papers published, we are trying to get a written impact,” he says.
He said that there was a large mass of people who were yet undecided on what stand they took on issues, including the rights of LGBTQ people.
“One must keep in mind the larger section of society which is hostile to the LGBT community or which wants to evade the subject. At the grassroot level, when a particular issue is (being discussed) and we are saying something, people who are in neutral could either support or oppose,” he adds.
Jijo said it was important to keep the conversation going because at present there is a lot off intolerance on a range of issues including homosexuality. “At a time when the broadcast media keep pushing stories about intolerance, an ignorant person would not know how to react to it. So they might refuse to agree with what the article intends to say,” he adds.
He feels that movies stereotyping homosexuality as feminine, tends to harm the community, as people use that to mock homosexual men, and project the notion that all homosexual men were feminine, when that is not the case.
Queerala members have not been attacked, but threats and intimidation is a daily battle.
“Often, caller identity detecting applications come to the rescue but when they don’t, one just has to endure the abuse,” Jijo says.
“There are times when people have sent abusive comments on Facebook. Even when you block them, some make fake profiles with a lot of dedication and continue to abuse. In the cyber world homosexual people are vulnerable to attacks and abuses,” he adds.
In his experience, Jijo says that these people do not comment on the profile, but send messages into inboxes.
“Even on public discussion forum, which have discussion on progressive topics and have thousands of followers, people from LGBT community face are (verbally) bashed during discussions,” he said.