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'My Country Decriminalised Homosexuality in 1791': A Queer French Woman's Dating Experience in India

377 being repealed does not mean that all of a sudden, thousands of flamboyant queers will swarm the streets, in their rainbow dresses and glittery eye-shadow.

Manon Phare-Querho | News18.com

Updated:September 12, 2018, 8:56 AM IST
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'My Country Decriminalised Homosexuality in 1791': A Queer French Woman's Dating Experience in India
377 being repealed does not mean that all of a sudden, thousands of flamboyant queers will swarm the streets, in their rainbow dresses and glittery eye-shadow.
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After moving to Delhi, the first date I went on was a Tinder date. I had been in India for less than a month, and I knew nothing and no one, but the city somehow already felt like home.

That day, though, was hectic, and I was hours late. The party I was supposed to join had just ended, so my date and I met on the street, in front of this random bar, and she invited me to her place to play music and have some tea.

Back at the apartment, her flatmate was waiting for me at the door, with that judging look the landlord gives you when you come home at 6 am with makeup all over your face. He seemed relieved, though, that I looked the way I did: a blond girl wearing a huge men's shirt and a nose-ring, he immediately perceived me as an ally much more than a threat.

We sat on the floor and started to chat.

Their first question was: who would agree to come home with someone they had just met, in a country where homosexuality is a crime?

I had to admit, I didn’t think about it. I had the luxury of not having to think about it. In the following weeks, I started paying attention, and I was told many versions of the same story. I listened to my friends talking about their experiences, including attacks and blackmail. This was heartbreaking. But back at that time, I was feeling safe.

Of course, I experienced the usual train of thoughts, coming with Tinder dates: “Am I being catfished? Is she using photoshopped pictures? Is it an old man pretending to be a young woman?" Raising all these questions, I never envisioned the possibility that this would be a trap, a setup to find queer people and harm them.

How could I? I grew up in France, where homosexuality has been decriminalized since 1791, and where the same-sex union was adopted back in 1999. I was 8, and it felt entirely normal. Later, I fought for same-sex marriage, and the first wedding I was ever invited to included two brides. From the first day I started questioning my sexuality, I found spaces in which to discuss, explore, and learn.

And even within that legal framework, I've seen the oppression, the mockeries, the humiliations. In many occasions, I've observed my fellow queers trying to be discrete, whether it's with family, at work, or even just taking the subway with your significant other. I have been in that position - longing to kiss someone, but having to do a quick 360 check before doing so, or holding my girlfriend's hand on the street and being shouted at.

But even then, I knew that the law had my back, that I would be defended. I knew that I didn't stand alone in front of a blind and deaf system. I simply had to remind myself that these people were bigots, angry bigots and that my allies were more numerous, and more importantly, much louder and angrier than my detractors.

I can’t imagine the courage it takes to be queer, when you were born and raised in India, especially in rural regions. Inventing yourself outside of heteronormativity is difficult enough. Doing it with almost zero representation, and facing a world that tells you your desires are “unnatural," seems impossible to me. I've seen that courage, and the wonderful trees that blossom out of this strength, but it's still too early for me to be able to understand where it has its roots. And the question remains unanswered - where does that determination come from?

I’m not naive. I know 377 being repealed does not mean that all of a sudden, thousands of flamboyant queers will swarm the streets, in their rainbow dresses and glittery eye-shadow. We still have a long way to go, for people to be accepted the way they are.

But today, I’m only hoping that, however you identify and whatever you look like, next time you want to post something on a queer event, add your picture to an LGBT dating app, or go on a date with a person of the same sex, you will feel fearless. Even if it's just for a minute.

Because let's face it - whatever your orientation is, putting yourself out there is frightening. I'm simply hoping it will become less of a threat to the LGBTQ community than it used to.
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