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I Demand Your Memory: To Be Queer in An Indian Classroom

What does it mean to be queer in an Indian classroom? On the surface, this question appears to be straightforward: it discusses a specific segment (queer students) of a given stakeholder (students) in a specified setting (their classroom) within particular geographical bounds (India). 


But when has being queer ever been straightforward (pun intended!) in any socio-cultural or historical setting? 


Being queer,

but those people are not from here.


Even as we rush towards modernity and globalisation, India still grapples with the misconstrued notion of liberal ideologies being inherently Western. In this case, our collective cultural amnesia of queerness in Indian history has led to something far more sinister than a sense of not belonging for the Indian LGBTQIA+ community: it has led to a deliberate disowning of them from the general perception of our culture. 


Even as I write this, as a queer Indian student, I feel my heart being pulled apart by two of the identities I value most. Two identities, that, for some reason, are perceived as opposites by society around me. I find it difficult to determine if I resonate more with the “us” or the “them” in the above paragraph.


Queer Activism in India – a Story in the Anthropology of Ethics by Naisargi Dave. Source: FeminismInIndia.com

As a female student, I am deeply grateful that our curriculum has expanded to include more non-canon female voices. Whether it’s history class or literature, we read not only Kafka or Tagore but also Woolf and Naidu. However, we don’t study the women protesting for basic existence for queer people in India in this picture. In fact, most Indian schools don’t even bring up the concept of homosexuality or the gender non-binary, and when they finally do, they are so caught up in sharpening morality and religion to become tools of their malicious hatred that they forget to both feel and discuss the need for empathy. 


We have always existed. 

We have always existed here

You cannot make us disappear.



I conclude, in this scramble of people determined to assign us our pronouns, that sometimes I will be us and other times, them, but I will always be me. I am queer. I am female. I am Indian. These identities don’t take value away from each other or the culture away from my country, but provide an opportunity to embrace all the love that my rich heritage can shower us with. 


Sitting in this beautiful intersectionality, I am only 16, but I deserve the respect if not the love that you, society drowned in unfair power structures, have tried to reserve for your old white elite. 


This article deliberately does not dictate a picture of the experiences of queer, Indian students because the sheer depth and nuance of what it is to be a person is impossible to even understand, let alone explain. Instead, I count on you to think about the queer people in your history and your present, to empathise, to retaliate against centuries of oppression by remembering our existence. 


To the question of What does it mean to be queer in an Indian classroom?: Why is that experience different from being just any student in an Indian classroom? What can you say to a queer student in your classroom to change it for them?


Written by a Student Journalist

A highschooler in their junior year, this student journalist is very passionate about social justice and ensuring a seat at every table for everyone. Their love for writing has encouraged them to explore journalism and writing articles as a means of raising awareness and empathy. When not writing, you can find them reading novels and poetry, scouring Spotify for a new playlist to listen to on repeat, or devouring their version of ambrosia - ramen!

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