Chakka, meetha, hijra.
In India, homophobic and transphobic terms are often thrown around loosely under the guise of 'humour' or 'friendly bullying.'
For a country which finally abolished a law criminalizing gay intercourse only two years ago, India still remains massively backwards at giving members of the LGBTQ+ community basic respect.
Name-calling and using such terms to describe someone's actions or intentions under the garb of 'gay' is homophobic. There is no other explanation for it. Period.
Yet, in India, it's normalized - mostly by popular 'influential' creators on YouTube.
YouTube star, Carry Minati, who recently had a video called "TikTok vs YouTube : The End" taken down for content, used slurs like Meetha, Pari, Meethai ki Dukan, and Beti-- all to mock a man.
In fact, Carry Minati has an entire video to mock a man who, according to someone who wrote society rules, has 'effeminate' characteristics. And while the video doesn't directly use slurs, the entire video mocks him for it.
Minati isn't the only one. Triggered Insaan, a popular creator uses the popular warning ad sound of cigarettes containing nicotine, to describe a proposal between two guys in a video called 'Try not to Laugh/Dare challenge.' The video also has other instances of mocking gay people on TikTok.
Another video, by 'Elvish Yadav,' also has obvious slurs and demeaning content and homophobia in the garb of a video.
Gaylaxy Magazine, one of India's only publication focussed on covering LGBTQ+ community, is trying to change the normalization of these terms in YouTube videos.
On a petition on Change.org, the magazine wants YouTube India to hold gender sensitisation workshops for all its top content creators to educate and sensitise them about SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) issues. LGBTQ+ people do not deserve to be merely a subject of mockery and deserve to lead a dignified and respectable life. The workshop is just a small step towards equality.
Sukhdeep Singh, editor-in-chief of Gaylaxy magazine, tells News18 that these YouTube videos in the name of roast and fun, directly or indirectly, pokes fun at gender non-conforming people.
"This creates an environment which makes it difficult for LGBTQ people to be themselves. It also encourages others to make similar comments on people around them. and creates a very toxic environment," he said.
Singh said that since the decriminalisation, LGBTQIA+ people have become more open about their sexual and gender identity, and a lot of young people, those in their teens or early 20s, are coming out. "At a time like this, it makes it harder for them," he added.
While YouTube doesn't downvote or remove content for being homophobic or transphobic, YouTube community standards actually do mention that hate speech on the basis of gender/sex is a violation of their norms.
YouTube mentions that it doesn't allow content that promotes violence or hatred against individuals or groups based on a number of attributes, including, but not limited to: age, race, gender, or religion. It further clarifies what exactly those attributes cover, including sexual orientation, sex/gender and gender orientation, and encourage users to report it.
But surprisingly, YouTube also has a record for not taking down homophobic content. In 2019, YouTube refused to take down content by YouTuber Steven Crowder saying that Crowder did not violate any of its policies and that Crowder’s YouTube channel will stay up, despite their being repeated homophobic slurs in the videos.
Other LGBTQ+ YouTubers had also spoken up about YouTube's refusal to acknowledge this problem, saying how "It feels like a slap in the face when they use queer content in their promotional videos," they said in an interview to The Guardian. "It feels like exploitation – if you want to use us, you actually have to care about us."
Minati's video on TikTok was recently taken down. Perhaps, more are. But for Indians to actually see change, it requires YouTubers to take the onus to not use slurs and homophobia in their videos, especially ones which influence masses just to shell out 'popular content.'