• Quirk NLS

Pride at NLS: Part 3 – Painting Stories, Changing Narratives

In continuance of our interviews with a few members of the LGBTQIA+ community on campus, here is our third and final piece in the Pride Mini-Series! The first and second piece in this series can be found here and here. [1]

Part 3 of this Mini-Series features the current Convenor and Joint Convenor of the NLS Queer Alliance.[2] It highlights their experience as members of the queer community and as driving forces behind the changing landscape of Pride at NLS through QA’s efforts to increase awareness and foster diversity. 

The artwork was submitted by Smriti Kalra (Batch of 2021) for Pride Month.[3]

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Abhiudaya is an MPP second-year student (Batch of 2021) and the Joint Convenor of QA (2019-20). He is mostly found in black shorts, is a self-proclaimed dog magnet, narcissistic and single af! He identifies as a bisexual, cis-man. He is OBC, from Lucknow, studied at an ICSE board school, and is able-bodied. He wishes to inform everyone that he is also at an ideal age for marriage, is agnostic, and loves street food but his close rich friends force him to fine dine every weekend.

I have always been loud and proud about my sexual identity since I found out. I have neither tried to hide it nor have I been like “Hi! I’m Bi” at the very first instance of meeting someone. I’ve never let the fear of society creep into me to express myself any lesser than any heterosexual person out there in my everyday life. I believe that coming out to the right people is the best way to get ready for the world out there. The support and ease which my friends gave helped me with coming out gradually and strongly. I’ve never looked back since.

NLS made me feel safe and quite comfortable in expressing my sexual orientation, even in the initial days partly because I was part of the MPP class, which was quite sensitised with the issues faced by the queer community, and partly because the college already had queer support groups like Queer Alliance and has incorporated sensitisation programs in the orientation week for new students.

Having accepted my sexuality and found ways to deal with society, NLS provided for me a safe platform to help others do the same without any fear. I got the chance to be a part of NLS Queer Alliance and hold the position of Joint Convener, which helped me initiate events and talks to make our campus more queer-friendly and start with queer activism as well.

One of the most outstanding events that our Alliance pulled off was the ‘Pride Wall’. The idea behind it was to have a physical structure in college that depicts the openness, support, and acceptance of Queer folx in the college. An elaborate mural painted by the trans women artists from the Aravani Art Project and some lovely allies from colleges all over Bengaluru helped us create this symbol of Queer pride on campus. The administration agreeing to the idea, and teachers, students, and alum who contributed monetarily was admirable. It really reaffirmed the acceptance of the community on this campus.

So far I have never faced any discrimination or other such issues because of my sexual orientation in college. However, it is a fact that this has not been the case for every queer person on campus. Being friends with a few of them in college and hearing their stories, I became aware of some instances of discrimination, trolling, and gossiping about people from the community. Ignorant and insensitive people are everywhere, and we can only hope that they “get well soon”. Most importantly, it shouldn’t stop us from being proud of ourselves for accepting who we are. I am Abhiudaya Verma, I identify as a bisexual cis-male and I love myself that way.

Entering my final year at NLS, I’ll keep trying to help and support every queer person on campus and truly strive to make NLS an inclusive institution. I’d like to end with my favourite line that I quote at almost every queer event:

Heterosexuality is not normal, it is just common”, and it’s about time we realise and accept that. Happy Pride y’all!

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Sal is the Convenor of QA (2019-20) and identifies as asexual, panromantic, polyamorous, and agender. They are upper caste, middle class, from a tier 2 city, born into a Hindu family, able-bodied, and received an English Medium education.

Before college, I was only aware of what identities such as gay, lesbian, and transgender meant. I didn’t know anyone from the community personally. A few seniors in college were the first gay people I had met, and my first actual interaction with members from the community was the QA support group meeting we had in my second year. That was the day after I had watched Call Me By Your Name – it was the first movie I had watched featuring a same-sex relationship, and I had a lot of questions about my sexuality as I felt that even I wasn’t straight. The support group meeting sort of clarified a lot of things about myself – I had sort of realised that I was asexual, and I asked someone, “If I just want to kiss someone but like don’t want to have sex, what does that mean?”. They were so confused but they obviously refrained from showing it, and were very helpful and kind. The support group meeting was also the first time when I heard about struggles and issues faced by the community and I decided that I definitely wanted to do something about it. Then I joined QA not long after that – I joined as a cis-heterosexual person and then slowly figured out my identity. But the college played a huge role in helping me understand my identity –especially Prof. Elizabeth and Prof. Rahul Singh. I wanted to make sure that the college is a safe space for everyone, and that no queer person would have to go through the kind of discrimination and violence that some of our alumni have.

My first Pride, in my third year, was when I felt that thrill of understanding my identity and finally feeling like, ‘this is who I am!’. I also felt that in my third year with a friend in the MPP batch at that time – he took me to these events like BQFF and that’s where I met people from outside NLS who were queer, and I felt at one with my community. I just wanted to live with those people for the rest of my life and never wanted to go back to the straight world. The Film Festival was for three days. It was a huge part of my exploring myself and super overwhelming, but in a good way.

I came out as non-binary in February (2020) during my internship – I came out on the batch group and on other groups I was on. The response has been super positive. Most people still misgender me but it’s mostly out of habit and they haven’t interacted with me after I came out, since it was during the vacation. Then because of the lockdown, I haven’t really interacted with people since. The response from people in college and outside college has never been negative.

I came out to my mom in May, two months ago. This was the first proper conversation we were having after the lockdown started – we hadn’t talked in forever, and I was wondering what to talk to her about. I decided to talk about QA because I had the Hackathon coming up and then I was just trying to tell her about that. She asked me why I was engaged in all this and with queer folx, and I was trying to explain the different identities to her. She wasn’t appalled by the stuff I was saying, she said that stuff like this happens and she properly understood.

Then, she asked me “but you don’t have any of these things right?” and I was like “ummmm”.  I came out as asexual – which was completely fine because which Indian parent would not want their kid to be asexual before marriage? *laughs*

She didn’t make a big deal about it, and she probably didn’t think it was going to come in the way of me getting married, even though she knows I don’t want to get married. I’m sure it would have been different if I had come out as panromantic but I didn’t even try that time. I came out as agender and I was trying to explain, but she started reacting like those dramatic Indian moms. She was like “My life is just going to be a slow death now – this is like a slow poison, you’re killing me. I can’t even talk about this with anyone. All of this is because you’re talking to all these queer people in Bangalore and you weren’t like this when you were here.”

I stated that they helped me understand myself, but what I identify as is not because of them. My mom told me that I probably didn’t understand it and that I thought I was queer just because I interacted with other people in the community. I said that she was right – and it felt like the most horrible thing to do, but I did it. I told her I would take it back from anyone whom I came out to, and she was very pleased with that. We never talked about it after that. I think she actually bought it. I just wanted to be honest with her. I don’t have gender dysphoria, so it’s mostly fine that she misgenders me. I feel like all the acceptance I have got from outside has overcompensated for the equation with my family. I just stopped caring about them and their opinions after a point. They don’t agree with anything I do, say, or believe in, so this is just one more thing added to the bucket.

Right now, as mama bear to the folx in QA, every moment that I spend with them is special and I hold all those memories close to my heart. My other favourite moments at college revolve around the reading down of S.377. Prof. Rahul Singh was taking a lecture around that time – it was a part of the Friday Lecture Series. He was talking about Puttaswamy and how J. Dipak Misra was on a roll and was going to overturn 377. Until that point, I never thought it was actually going to happen, but he was just saying it with so much confidence. On the day of the judgement, Prof. Ambasta was taking evidence and everyone was looking at their screens. I held my breath for all those moments until that judgment came out and then, I was like – “hell yeah!” I remember running outside the corridor after the judgment and my friend was there and we were both just screaming! The pub pool that happened after that was one of my favourite moments at college. I was so overwhelmed to see so many people excited, because until then I felt like only 3 people in college cared about it. I was pleasantly surprised to realise that a lot of people did care.

I haven’t had any negative experiences at college. Most people were curious, but they didn’t really respond negatively. It’s always been the age-old question – “How do you know you are not straight?”. But that’s my favourite because I turn it around and ask “How do you know you’re cis or straight?”. Their expression is just priceless and they start micro-analysing everything about their lives and it’s kind of fun. *laughs*

Having an Anti-Discrimination Policy in place would help make college more inclusive and welcoming for queer folx. I think sensitisation for staff would help – I know some of them are still sensitive but still there’s a lot of ignorance.

So now, Prof. Rashmi calls me by my name, Sal, but I can’t tell any other professor outright to address me like that.

They wouldn’t understand what I mean or maybe I just think they never will. I think we need to have queer-friendly counselors on campus because right now, even when I needed therapy, I couldn’t approach any of the counselors because I just didn’t have any confidence in them. I feel that if it was a known queer-friendly professional, I’d be more comfortable with them because it’s natural for one to be apprehensive. Therapy is a super-intimate thing to do, so I will not feel comfortable with a non queer-friendly counselor. I think our college is pretty fine, but people are can also be ignorant about the very basics of it. Having conversations around the various identities, and sensitisation workshops should solve this issue.

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[1] In a survey conducted on campus by NLSQA, out of 96 respondents, 23% did not identify as straight and around 10% did not identify as cisgender. This shows that queer students on campus are not a ‘miniscule minority’. In celebration of Pride Month (which recently concluded) Quirk presents this Mini-Series containing a collation of the personal experiences of some LGBTQIA+ members on campus. This article contains a collation of the personal experiences of some LGBTQIA+ members on campus – their journey before Law School, the acceptance of their identity, their favourite moments and terrible experiences on campus, and views on what would make the campus more inclusive!

The authors above have mainly responded to these five questions:

1) Did you know a lot about the LGBTQ+ Community before coming to college? Did college help your growth and help you figure out your identity in any way?

2) Are you out at home? With respect to your identity, how does it feel to be who you are at college and at home?

3) What has been your favourite moment at college?

4) Have you had negative experiences at college because of your identity?

5) What do you think could make college more inclusive?

Some students have chosen to be anonymous save for some descriptors. Various aspects of the authors’ identities such as caste, class, able-bodiedness, religion, native place, and education have been mentioned above, with their consent. This is so that readers can understand how a person’s experience is shaped by all aspects of their identity as a whole and how this impacts their gender identity and sexual orientation as well.

[2] The National Law School Queer Alliance was founded in 2015 as a support group for queer students on campus. To make the campus a more queer-friendly place, they have organised various support group meetings, gender and sexuality sensitisation workshops, movie screenings, pub pools, transport to the Namma Pride Parades and interactive talks by activists from the community. The Alliance now goes beyond that initial mandate, and works to further queer and allied causes, particularly in the field of education.

[3] Artwork Description: The artwork is a representation of the Pride Wall at NLS. Based on fond memories of helping paint and walk by this bright mural on campus created by the Aravani Art Project in collaboration with NLSQA, the artwork seeks to show how voices of the community and its allies along with changes in the law as we move towards justice have helped come a long way but that there is also so much more to strive for!

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