April 26th is celebrated as Lesbian Visibility Day across the world. This year, we decided to speak to Sonal Giani who is an LGBTQ+ activist and the founder of Umang, a support group for lesbian women and she feels that Lesbians are completely invisible in India!
“There is absolutely no visibility of lesbians in India. There are no role models or influencers who are lesbian and out of the closet. There is absolutely no one that people lesbian women can look up to, no one to bear the torch. There are hardly any films or shows that show Lesbian relationships that are not just reduced to sex.” Says Giani.
Shows like 4 More Shots Please and Made In Heaven are now pushing out progressive content by showing Gay and lesbian relationships and we wanted to know what Giani thinks about it. She says, “Its a good thing that there is some representation of the LGBTQ community in these shows and movies but I’m sad about the part that not a lot of these same-sex relationships in shows have a happy ending.”
Women, in general, have to deal with a lot of problems in India. And Lesbian women have a completely different and additional set of problems. “It's difficult to be a lesbian in India. There is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to women who like women. People assume that all of us are kinky and over-sexualize lesbians. IIt'sdifficult being a woman in general. We have to deal with our parents, stay away from the watchful eyes of society and its difficult to find safe spaces.” Says Giani.
“Over the years, safe spaces are slowly increasing in India. We have Pride Marches across the country where we can openly be ourselves. Another difficulty we face is finding a partner. Gay men can simply log on to Grindr and meet someone but we women have to use Tinder or meet someone in a public space.” She added.
But the most difficult thing to do when you are Gay or Lesbian is coming out of the closet. “I think a lot of women can’t come out of the closet because they are afraid of their parents or what will people say.” She said.
We asked Giani about what changes she would like to see when it comes to Lesbian representation in the Media and in India, she says, “Same-sex couples need basic rights like the right to get married to whomever they want to, adopt a child and other legal rights like co-owning a property with your partner. We need laws that prohibit discrimination of same-sex couples. We also need to start talking to people about sexuality at a young age. That will help them understand and explore their sexuality and help them make better life choices. “
Giani urges women to reach out to support groups like Umang where they can get counseling about Lesbian relationships, meet likeminded people and even come out of the closet with the help of guidance.
Illustration credits- Michelle Mildenberg