Even as anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests rage on throughout the country, dividing people on ground as well on social media regarding the merits and demerits of the recently passed Act, other rampant issues like homophobia and sexism refuse to take a backseat.
While it is 2020 and the world has already over a week into the new decade, some continue to hold on to offensive, homophobic stereotypes and ill-informed notions when it comes to their understanding of gender inclusivity.
A recent example came from right-wing writer and Twitter personality Shefali Vaidya who shared an image of a person, seemingly a biological man with long hair, wearing a 'bindi' and nose ring. The image was allegedly snapped at an anti-CAA protest and the subject seems to be a protester, though it remains unclear where the photo was taken and/or when.
Sharing the image on Twitter, Vaidya wrote, "How the heck can I unsee this? Sharing it to spread the misery. Why should I suffer alone?"
How the heck can I unsee this? Sharing it to spread the misery. Why should I suffer alone? pic.twitter.com/NU92wcyJE1— Shefali Vaidya (@ShefVaidya) January 9, 2020
The statement was an allusion to the person in the photo who appears to be queer or in support of queer expressions of sexuality. As soon as Vaidya posted the image, a number of her followers supported her claim. Many claimed that the individual must be a Jawaharlal Nehru University students (with no proof whatsoever).
My dog had swallowed my car keys an hour back. I tried a lot of emetics but nothing worked. Out of options, I showed him this picture and he vomited instantly, puking out the car keys as well as the bike keys he had swallowed last year. Thanx for sharing this image ma'am.— THE SKIN DOCTOR (@theskindoctor13) January 9, 2020
This man or woman should be rusticated fromJNU and not get a job anywhere in India.— The Animal Lover (@ShobhaMookerje1) January 9, 2020
Other prolific right-wing activists and social media influencers such as Abhijit Iyet-Mitra also chimed in, referring to the individual as "the Himalayan Yeti".
Oh congrats!!! You discovered the Himalayan Yeti?!? Shall I nominate you for a @NatGeo award?— Abhijit Iyer-Mitra (@Iyervval) January 9, 2020
Why was the image so repulsive to so many people? The answer is homophobia. Vaidya's tweet and the consequent responses to it sum up the attitude of a large portion of Indians toward the queer and LGBTQIA community of India, which despite legal steps forward, continues to be stigmatised and ridiculed in mainstream media and pop culture.
The comment points toward a deeply sexist mind that fails to differentiate between gender and clothing. it is an affront not just to the individual in the photo but also to the entire queer community, especially transpersons who are vocal about their right to dress whichever way they want.
While certain Tweeples got together to make homophobic fun of the person in the photo, many sprung up in disgust of the tweet and expressed solidarity for the unwitting victim. Many called Vaidya "vile" and "transphobic".
He might be transgender.— Vipul Chowdhury (@Vipulchowdhury) January 9, 2020
Why mock him?
You are so vile, I pity your children, they are at risk of becoming horrible human beings like you. I hope they find their own wisdom, their own empathy, their own education and I hope they resist the monster in you.— Sarfaraz (@BabaGlocal) January 9, 2020
Thanks for sharing this. So gorgeous unlike your sad Modified face. How do I unsee u? Yuck. #TransphobicShefali— Rajorshi Das (@dasrajorshi) January 9, 2020
I am really shocked that a disgraceful person like @ShefVaidya has so many followers. Twitter should block her.— diba (@dibakarnath1) January 10, 2020
Despite the Supreme Court granting legal rights to transpersons as a third gender in 2014, the trans community in India continues to face discrimination and harassment. And homophobic influencers on social media definitely add to the problem.