Why Pride Marches in India Matter in Texas
Pride parades recently swept the subcontinent, and we should care.
1:30PM, Tue. Nov. 26, 2013
In spite of legal progress both here and overseas, the LGBTQ community remains in a precarious position. Upon inspection, our situations are similar both in India and Texas.
India recently celebrated Queer Pride in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, and Pune, celebrating progress that has been made while continuing to demand justice. Although the key law that required imprisonment of gay and lesbian citizens was declared unconstitutional in 2009, the lived experience of queer citizens remains very difficult. Many participants in these demonstrations feel compelled to wear masks to hide their identity from their employers and families.
The law in question is Section 377, imposed under British rule in the 19th century, which forbids sexual acts "against the order of nature." The 2009 ruling did not remove the law from the books, nor did it overturn it in its entirety. Although the law is now limited to non-consensual acts including rape and child molestation, arrests have continued, as recently as a few weeks ago, prompting protests and keeping pride marches around the country both relevant and radical.
Transgender citizens face even more contradictory challenges. Indian culture has long recognized a third gender, the Hijra, who are simultaneously accepted and ostracized in a unique social arrangement, but that term, which more literally means “eunuch,” applies to a very specific subset of intersex or male-to-female transgender people. It does not include the female-to-male or genderqueer people.
We should feel solidarity with our brothers and sisters in India, and remember that although we may be a few steps further along on the road to equality, we have very similar complications here at home. Texas’ first sodomy law was passed in 1860, the same year British colonists imposed their law upon India. The Texas statute was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the historic Lawrence v. Texas case, which also invalidated the laws of 13 other states. However, since that decision in 2003, the Texas legislature has refused to strike the unconstitutional law from the books.
That the law remains on record is significant, because India is not the only state using defunct buggery laws to prosecute consenting adults. Just a few months ago, police in Baton Rouge arrested a dozen gay men based on Louisiana’s invalidated-yet-still-extant statute. That the arrests cannot lead to valid prosecution is beside the point; the purpose is intimidation and humiliation, not the effective prosecution of criminal behavior.
As long as our political leaders embrace retrograde and reactionary opinions about our struggle for equality, we must remain vigilant. American public opinion has moved well past that level of bigotry, but some politicians continue to exploit the uninformed paranoia of a shrinking, misinformed base. We can party down at Austin Pride, we can embrace our transgressive history at Queerbomb, but we can never forget that there is, and perhaps always will be, a confederacy of sorts arrayed against us, lest we go back to feeling that we must mask our identities or risk mass arrests.