Social support is an important means for tackling stigma and discrimination against LGBTQIA people in India. Such support may have various forms – support groups, safe meeting and recreational spaces, publications, helplines, shelters and community events to name a few. This section looks at some key social support initiatives in India.
Let us begin with LGBTIQA+ support groups – these are peer support or self-help forums run by LGBTIQA+ people themselves. They may focus on all or specific sections of queer people in terms of gender, sexuality, age, language or location; they may be offline or online or both. They may be small collectives of individuals or large registered organizations. Some may have a mixed leadership and cater to LGBTIQA+ people through specific activities or programmes.
Fundamentally all support groups provide emotional and information support through community meetings and one-to-one interactions. They may also organize events, develop referral linkages with queer-friendly health and legal aid professionals, and help access social security and livelihood options. Some groups may assist you in coming out to family and friends, and deal with workplace harassment, or intimate partner and family violence. Others may organize film festivals, rainbow pride walks and sensitizations sessions with different stakeholders. They may take up human rights campaigns or publish journals / webzines on gender and sexuality. India now has old and new groups and ally NGOs in all regions. Click here for a region wise listing.
Support forums for parents of LGBTIQA+ people: While LGBTIQA+ people often have to face the brunt of social stigma and discrimination, their parents too have to struggle with personal values and deal with criticism and rejection from the extended family and neighbours. Parents who have already been through the process of coming to terms with their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity are often in a strong position to help other parents of LGBTIQA+ people. In Mumbai, Gay Bombay and Humsafar Trust organize parent support meetings, while support forums in Kolkata, Chennai and other cities organize similar one-off meetings or events.
LGBTIQA+ support groups in educational institutions: These groups provide support to newcomers and existing students in dealing with coming out, relationship issues, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Such groups have come up in institutions in cities like Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai (Queer IISc at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore is the oldest among these). Many of the Indian Institute of Technology campuses also have such groups. Queer Campus Delhi attracts students from across institutions. Tagore International School, Delhi is among the few such groups at the school level.
With regard to workplace support groups, some of the multinational companies like Google and IBM and homegrown ones like Wipro and Tata Steel have in-house support forums. Delhi has a unique Delhi LGBT Professionals Group that is a meeting point for like-minded professionals across a variety of employment sectors.
Helplines (phone / email / chat-based) are a key activity of LGBTIQA support groups. Prominent ones are run by Humsafar Trust, Mumbai; Madhya Banglar Sangram, Baharampur; Orinam, Chennai; Sappho for Equality, Kolkata; Swabhava Trust, Bangalore; and Xukia, Guwahati. Among allies, TARSHI, Delhi; International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC), Chennai; and SAATHII, Bhubaneswar run helplines. Orinam and Varta Trust have extensive online databases on queer-friendly health and legal service providers.
Temporary shelters: Support groups like Humsafar Trust, Mumbai; Sangama, Bangalore and Snehalaya in Ahmednagar (Maharashtra) facilitate access to shelter for LGBTIQA+ people in a crisis. Snehalaya also provides temporary shelter for people living with HIV. Gay Housing Assistance Resource (GHAR) is a free all-India accommodation resource bulletin board on Facebook. PCVC in Chennai has a shelter for women leaving home because of family violence.
LGBTIQA+ themed publications have played a crucial role in the Indian queer movement. They are media created by queer people to write their own stories! These include Bombay Dost, among the oldest in India (started 1990); queer webzines Gaylaxy and Gaysi Zine; online gender and sexuality resources Orinam.net and Varta; and Swakanthe – In Our Own Voice by Sappho for Equality, Kolkata. Queer Ink, Mumbai focuses entirely on publishing queer content.
Finally, here is a region wise rundown on LGBTIQA+ community events. In the North, there are the annual rainbow pride walks in Delhi, Chandigarh and Lucknow. Delhi has one of the best and busiest queer party circuits, and queer friendly restaurants and bars like Guppy by Ai in Jor Bagh and Sky Lounge in Connaught Place. Some of the parties also act as fundraisers for other community events like the Delhi Queer Pride and Chandigarh Rainbow Pride Walk.
In the East, Chandannagar, Islampur and Kolkata have annual rainbow pride walks, with the Kolkata walk possibly the oldest in South Asia (the first was held in 1999). ‘Dialogues: Calcutta International LGBT Film & Video Festival’ is India’s oldest continuously running queer film festival. Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival organizes parties and addas that are among the most inclusive of the queer diversity; the parties act as fundraisers for the annual rainbow pride walk. In the North-East, the annual ‘Queer Pride Guwahati’ is organized by Xukia and other groups. Manipur hosts transgender beauty contests organized by LGBTIQA+ support groups and allies.
In the West, Mumbai, Nagpur and Pune host annual rainbow pride walks. Mumbai’s ‘Queer Azaadi March’ is among the largest attended in India. Gay Bombay parties are perhaps the most popular across India. ‘Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival’ is the premier and largest film festival of its kind in India and South Asia. In the South, annual rainbow pride walks are held in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kochi. ‘Bangalore Queer Film Festival’ is another happening event in the Indian queer calendar since 2008, while ‘Reel Desires: Chennai International Queer Film Festival’ has been going strong since 2004. The Koovagam annual festival of transgender communities in Tamil Nadu attracts participants from across the queer spectrum every April-May. It takes place at Koothandavar Temple dedicated to Aravan (Koothandavar), and has a rich mix of traditional and contemporary attractions.