I am overwhelmed and overjoyed.
It has been a historic judgement, which touches millions of lives along with mine. We have been discriminated against for ages. This is the real Independence Day for the Queer citizen of this county.
Everyone has the right to life per their identity. No one should force one to change their identity. No more will I or anyone from the gay community have to live in fear of being blackmailed or extorted in name of this colonial law. The conscience of the nation has risen and the Supreme Court has sealed and thrown away a key part of Section 377 as unconstitutional.
Who I share my private moments with is my choice.
This is just the beginning of a journey towards equality in many other spheres of life. Now that the Supreme Court has declared 'Intimacy in private is a matter of choice', the next is 'the choice of a life partner is also personal".
No one shall be forced to choose a partner. Homosexual citizens shall also have right to choose partners of their choice rather than staying single or being forced and cajoled into marrying someone of the opposite sex just for appearances.
Even several months ago, while I was getting into a car in the heart of Bengaluru near Koramangala, around 10:15 pm, two constables started interrogating me just because I was in a designer blazer and had make-up on, since I was returning after a media event related to the community. They checked my car and my bag without giving any reason. I was taken back, though I tried to look calm. Since I was confident, I came out of it. Had I shown signs of nervousness, they would have followed the usual route of extortion. The Supreme Court observed that Section 377 was not used so much over the years. Rather, it was used by evil elements of society to extort and discriminate against people in the name of law. People lost their lives and money. It forced thousands to lead dual lives and stay in the closet. Now, that fear is gone.
Even now, I try to avoid family functions in small towns. I even missed my cousin's wedding, shuddering at the thought of nosy distant relatives and awkward conversations. But I catch up with my close relatives when they are in town or through social media.
The prejudice swirling around the queer community has been changing and the Supreme Court verdict will push it along in the smaller cities and villages.
It means no more hiding. And when one stops hiding, people are more accepting. The acceptance helps. We can finally be active members of the society instead of living a dual identity in this country or migrating to another country in order to be able to live out and proud.
I was conscious about choosing my career since I knew I would be safer with a job in IT or any creative field in big metros. The environment is more accepting here than in small towns. I couldn't even dream of a prosperous life in a government job or in business or in the service industry in small towns because of the stigma against sexual minorities there.
Many corporates formed support groups for queer employees, in a step towards equal rights and opportunities. Nearly half a dozen multinationals have health insurance for same-sex partners and provide assistance for sexual reassignment surgery for transgender employees.
This verdict will make it easier to push beneficial policies in boardrooms that are predominantly heterosexual - and reduce the time and processes at legal departments.
Since the judgment came out, I have been getting joyful wishes from my family, friends and colleagues. Even those who haven't been in touch with me for years have called.
My parents are relieved. So must be millions of others who have feared the persecution, ostracising and isolation of their loved ones.
In this historic moment, I thank all crusaders within and outside the community - lawyers, media, journalists, humanitarians, equal rights activists and all other allies in this journey.
The Supreme Court today restored the DIGNITY of Queer citizens in India and this is a milestone.
This is true independence for me and many like me.
(Tony Christopher works as Senior Technology Lead with Infosys Limited and is part of the Queer Professional Network, an independent group of professionals who work for the social welfare and rights of queer professionals in the corporate environment.)
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