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  • At IIT-B, you can be gay and happy

    Post Date:- 08.09.11

    MUMBAI: From the outside, the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay has always seemed like an unevenly divided campus-a whole lot of boys with just a smattering of girls. Now there's a third story.

    In what is probably a first for an Indian educational institute, IIT-B has set up a support group, Saathi, for those of its students who belong to a sexual minority-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer-to help them accept their sexuality and shed their 'straight' masks if they want to.

    Saathi is a positive space not only for LGBTQs but also for those still unsure of their sexuality. "We believe the first step towards understanding and accepting homosexuality is breaking the veil of silence," said a note on Saathi.

    "Getting people to talk about the issue is key. We thus have also invited allies to join-people who're not necessarily LGBTQ, but would nevertheless like to help create a healthy, supportive atmosphere on campus," said a note on Saathi's formation.

    LGBTQ students on campus said they lived in a perpetual state of confusion, unhappiness and anxiety. "Many are still in the process of coming to terms with their sexuality. The others must continuously put on a charade of being straight. We live closeted, lonely lives, unable to reveal our innermost feelings to anyone, in constant fear of being outed, and often never reach our full potential as human beings," said a member. "Some of us suffer from depression, a few have even seriously contemplated suicide."

    On Monday, freshmen at IIT-B were introduced to Saathi. They surprised themselves; neither did they giggle nor were they rowdy. "If you had asked me last month about addressing a large audience of newcomers about homosexuality, I would have said it was impossible. But after the orientation I know Saathi, which already has 40 members, will go a long way," said Nivvedan S, founder of Saathi. "Statistically speaking, about 4 to 10% of the population is gay, so that's about 700 students on the IIT campus. But they are all invisible. After Saathi we are hoping that other IITs and colleges follow suit."

    At the address, the power point slides-accompanied by mugs of well-known gay people like Oscar Wilde, Freddy Mercurie, Lindsay Lohan and the fictional Albus Dumbledore--put to rest a lot of doubts like 'Is homosexuality a disease?' "NO,' was the answer loud and clear, 'you can be gay and lead a perfectly happy, normal, successful life.' In effect then, 'You can be happy and gay.'

    "I have been through the long and very painful process of being confused and lonely and finally coming out slowly to friend after friend. The process has been liberating. Through Saathi, we are hoping to be the people that others can turn to. The authorities have been very supportive," said Harishchandra Ramadas, another founder.

    "The country has been indifferent to the LBGTQ community for too long," said IIT-B's public relations officer Jaya Joshi. "Saathi is a fine example of an initiative of change and freedom in mindset. It's time to knife these silences-and as an institute we support this initiative whole-heartedly."

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