"Numerous individuals deny that homosexuality exists in India, rejecting it as a phenomenon of the industrialized world. Others recognize its presence yet censure it as a capitalist aberration, a worry excessively individualistic, making it impossible to warrant consideration in a poor nation like our own. Still others mark it an ailment to be cured, an abnormality to be set right, a crime to be punished. The present report has been set up with a view to demonstrating how none of these perspectives can stand the test of observational reality or plain and simple presence of mind."
This is how a small, 70-page booklet with a pink cover titled “Less than gay: A citizen’s report” on the status of homosexuality in India starts. Published in 1991 by a collective called the Aids Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan (ABVA), the report was the first document of its kind that broke the silence around the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). One of the most powerful aspects of Less Than Gay was its detailing of LGBT stories from around India — from Mizoram in the Northeast to Siliguri in north Bengal to Virar in Mumbai. It spoke to a wide range of LGBT experiences, from violence, heartbreak, loneliness, to the thrill of discovering finding companionship.
“Less than Gay, which we call the Pink Book, broke the silence around homosexuality. It tempted you to come out,” said Maya Sharma, a 68-year-old Baroda-based activist. The 1990s were a tumultuous time for the public expression of gender and sexuality in India. The ABVA filed a petition against Section 377, IPC in 1994 in the Delhi high court but it lay in cold storage. Outside the courts, though, the world was changing.
In 1991, Delhi-based activist Giti Thadani started a network called Sakhi where lesbian women could communicate via letters. In the same year, Delhi-based women’s group Jagori started a research project on single women (Ekal Aurat). Several of them would met informally in each other’s homes. “Some of us were not open to using English terminologies, preferring to use ‘sakhi’ which pertains to female friendship, and which allowed women to address their sexual identity while retaining privacy,” recalled Maya of her association with Jagori. Organisations such as Kolkata’s Counsel Club, Mumbai’s Humsafar Trust and Delhi’s Sangini would receive letters Expression of diverse sexuality also flowered in smaller towns filled with curiosity and questions surrounding same-sex desire.
In the later half of the 90s, films such as Fire and Darmiyan also moved the needle on portrayal of queer and intersex characters. The impact of Less Than Gay lives to this day. Rakesh, a resident of Nadia district in West Bengal remembers reading the report as a lonely adolescent. “The place I grew up, there was no one who looked like me. The report changed my life. I learnt there were people other than me, who felt like me.”
Tags : #Homosexuality #India #PinkBook #LGBT #LessThanGuy