It was as early as 1989 when American civil rights advocate Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw coined the term ‘intersectionality’. She did so with respect to the Black feminist movement but over three decades later, this term still holds equal—if not more—value in the landscape of the LGBTQIA+ and feminist movements in India.
In simple terms, ‘intersectionality’ addresses how factors such as, say, sexuality and gender identity can lend to a more complex and exacerbated discrimination against women. Lesbians, bisexuals, trans women, and AFAB (assigned female at birth) non-binary people thus face oppression for being/ presenting as women and then, again for being queer.
As a queer woman in India, the effects of intersectionality are a lived and learned experience for me. I acknowledge that the realities of me and my peers are not the same as that of a queer feminist living in the West, owing to the difference in society and culture. For starters, it has been less than five years that our existence was recognised as not a criminal offence and as we navigate this relatively new legal landscape, there are still micro-aggressions, subliminal messaging, and common societal pressures that limit our movement.
But even more important, I find, is to acknowledge that those within the LGBTQIA+ community in India are not afforded equal privileges. People belonging to structurally marginalised caste and religious communities, lower social and financial standing are susceptible to much higher degrees of discrimination and violence.
People belonging to structurally marginalised caste and religious communities, lower social and financial standing are susceptible to much higher degrees of discrimination and violence.
Violence against LGBTQIA+ people
It was only five years ago that a mere 17-year-old queer trans-fem person underwent a dangerous stunt involving fire and blades by a baba to “fix” her identity. It was only two years ago that a Delhi court assigned police protection to a 23-year-old lesbian woman who had been forcibly married off to a man against her will. It was only one year ago that four queer friends filed an FIR against a photojournalist and police personnel for mental and physical harassment. And it was during this year’s Pride month that a queer femme was killed by a tantrik contracted by their ex-partner (from a previous same-sex relationship) and her mother.
Pervasive even in 2023, abundant acts of violence and discrimination against queer women—sexual, physical, mental harassment, bullying, “corrective” rape, conversion therapy, healthcare bias, eviction by landlords, familial violence and much more—hold a mirror to the realities of our society. The threat of such consequences looming over their decisions can compel queer people to hide their sexual and gender identities (even discourage transition for trans people) at the expense of their mental health.
For each case of violence against queer women that makes it to the news, there are many others that remain unreported due to social stigma, the fear of rejection, disapproval, violence, further discrimination, or often get less recognition.
Why should a feminist care
Understanding this intersection between pride and feminism is paramount to the creation of a strong foundation for feminism. It helps us understand that there are several differences in women’s experiences and as progress of women’s rights must include all women, it must also account for the variety in their realities. Homogenising women’s lived experiences is also detrimental to policy-making as women from different communities are entitled to be represented with respect to their beliefs and lifestyles. It is a matter of not just equality but also equity and representation.
Homogenising women’s lived experiences is also detrimental to policy-making as women from different communities are entitled to be represented with respect to their beliefs and lifestyles. It is a matter of not just equality but also equity and representation.
The pride month may have passed, but the opportunities to learn of and discuss queer experiences should always be open. Happy Pride!
Further readings that were referred for the article: