SUKHNIDH KAUR

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HOMOPHOBIA 

in Indian educational institutions, is what this BadassBoss is attempting to research.

The research aims at understanding the role of school authorities in the perpetuation of homophobia in urban Indian schools and identifying ways in which power is misused to discriminate against LGBTQ+ students.180 student respondents across 10+ Indian states participated in her survey and recounted their experiences with injustices they faced. She is now boldly seeking to get a take on this subject from school authorities.

This bright young lady is 19 years old and already one of the most articulate minded women we have interviewed so far. Her passion towards alleviating the major issue of homophobia that plagues the country, by providing a platform to those who have suffered is absolutely inspiring! 

In this exclusive interview we discuss her ideologies, inspirations and aspirations. 

 

Did you have any friends who struggled with their sexual orientation?

Yes, I have friends who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community and have struggled with coming to terms with their orientations and finding acceptance within their social spheres. I don’t think I’ve ever had an open, honest conversation with a queer friend about their experiences wherein they haven’t brought up the struggles they have faced. I think that says a lot about where we are as a society right now.

 

Did you see anyone get bullied for his or her sexual preference in school or college?

I attend a liberal, open-minded college. Owing to that, I haven’t seen outright bullying take place. However, we have all been raised in a way that has ingrained a lot of internalized homophobia within us, so the occasional ignorant remark does slip by. This is not just an individual problem; our ignorance is a product of the way we have been socialized. A lot of people, even if they are well intentioned, tend to say things that are potentially offensive and in bad taste when speaking about the LGBTQ+ community. I should however point out that I have been privileged to attend a college like mine, and many others may not have the same outlook on queer issues and queer politics.

“I was bullied [by classmates] for not showing masculine traits 7th grade onwards...Two male teachers asked me why I'm not masculine. One caught me almost committing suicide, and told me not to do that as it's a very (9).png


Why do you think that sexuality is not covered in a sex-ed class in schools (if at all they have one!)?

We’ve been fed this idea that anything to do with alternative orientations is inherently sexual, and anything sexual is considered taboo for young adolescents. So sex-ed, when it is taught in schools, is limited to one workshop a year at most. This is a problem because if our institutions don’t teach students about consent, health and hygiene, safe and unsafe sexual practices, alternative orientations, sexual safety for gay and lesbian sex, STDs, etc. – youngsters are going to have to navigate these things on their own, and that can be dangerous! Moreover, being LGBTQ+ is not accepted as ‘normal’ yet – it is stigmatized, and because of that, many schools don’t want to touch upon the topic. This also goes to prove that stigma is scary because it forces us to be ignorant. There’s also the problematic notion that there simply aren’t enough LGBTQ+ students to consider inclusive sex-ed. The truth is, they’re right there, just stigmatized and invisibilized . 

At the end of the day, all students, queer or not, should be made aware of LGBTQ+ issues. Inclusive sex-ed needs to be part of students’ curriculums, and it is high time that something is done about it.

 

What inspired you to take up the mighty task of researching this subject?

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I strongly believe that homophobia is rooted in ignorance, not just hatred or fear.

- Sukhnidh Kaur

I don’t know if it’s mighty, but I know that there’s a pressing need for it right now. School students regularly face injustice because of their orientations, but they cannot speak out because of the fear of negative retaliation from schools. They suffer in silence while school authorities continue to teach discrimination as part of their curriculums. I am attempting to contribute to change in whatever way I can. I have a voice and I am trying to use it for a cause.

We saw a 15 year old student from Kerala commit suicide because his friends teased him for being effeminate this February, and 9 school girls from Kolkata were mistreated on the basis of their alleged homosexuality this March. Horrible things like these are happening in every state, we are simply not aware. This is my attempt to make people more aware of the happenings of our country and the experiences of Indian LGBTQ+ students.

 

What motivates and encourages you to keep going?

The students who are speaking up about their experiences and helping me collate these accounts in the form of research, and those that are still finding the courage to talk about what they’ve been through motivate and encourage me. The fact that so many young adolescents who have faced injustice in their schools have chosen to trust me with their stories has made me feel an immense sense of responsibility to raise awareness, and in whatever way I can, help make things better for students hereon.


What is homophobia in your words?

Homophobia is systemic discrimination against individuals who do not identify as heterosexual or gender conforming, but instead fall on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. This includes bullying, denial of access to resources such as healthcare, education, and accommodation, stigmatization, and all conceivable forms of discrimination based on peoples’ individual orientations and association with the LGBTQ+ community.

“I was bullied [by classmates] for not showing masculine traits 7th grade onwards...Two male teachers asked me why I'm not masculine. One caught me almost committing suicide, and told me not to do that as it's a very (8).png

 

Where do you think the stigma attached to LGBTQ+ stems from?

LGBTQ+ individuals are classified as the ‘other’ – something far away from preconceived notions of normal. This leads to stigma and discrimination because people are unwilling to accept what is different. Queerness is also caricaturized and hypersexualized, and is seen as something inherently against the order of nature. What people need to realize is that there is no ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ in matters of queer identity. The stigma is rooted in ignorance, and I strongly believe that it is the duty of the current generation to try and weed this ignorance out by educating people around us about what queerness really entails.

 

Do you think it’s a trickle up from the society or a trickle down from the ruling sect (politicians)?

We know that our politicians have partaken in horrific acts of violence and discrimination over the years – it’s nothing new. However, I want to stress upon the fact they have been socialized, just like us, to form a certain idea of queerness that does not reflect reality and is harmful to citizens of the country. Queerness is still seen as a social evil, and that is the root of the discrimination we see today. It is still however important to remember that it is the irresponsibility of politicians that they have not cared to educate themselves about queer identities and experiences over the years. There is no excuse for discrimination.

 

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There is no excuse for discrimination.

-Sukhnidh Kaur

 How can one tackle a homophobic?

With patience.

Not everyone will have the same funda as me when it comes to this, but I believe that you can only change someone’s mind by being patient, educating them, and undoing years of ignorance. I wish there was an easier, quicker way around this – but I’m afraid there might not be. Retaliate with anger, and you will be met with resistance. Respond with patience, explanation, and education – and you might just get somewhere. Patience is difficult to maintain when you know how unjustly people are being treated, but for an in-depth societal change, it is the only solution. We need inclusive education and open conversations about LGBTQ+ issues in our schools, colleges, families, and workplaces.

How do you explain homophobia to an orthodox middle-aged ignorant relative?

I think the only way to go about it is to try and have an open conversation with them about the fact that their generation was made to believe that there is something wrong with being LGBTQ+, and that just like society has evolved to work towards erasing casteism, racism, and sexism, we are trying to do something about homophobia as well, because it puts innocent people at the receiving end of injustice, harassment, and discrimination. It might work, it might not. It is difficult to accept, that as much as we try, some people may not be interested in knowing the reality of the situation because they have been told that queerness is wrong all their lives.

Would I cut contact with a relative because they refuse to understand homophobia? No, because our choices and opinions are moulded by what we have been made to understand by society, and the atmosphere they grew up in was different from the one we did. This is also why I think it is important to take this conversation forward with today’s youth, to teach young children about important social issues at an early age.

 

Have you ever lost your patience during your research?

Almost…but I tell myself stay focused on the mission. I had to spend a considerable amount of time to clean out my data because people took to trolling me by filling in obscene phrases and words in the survey. I had people tell me to ‘chill’, that nobody cares, that homophobia doesn’t exist, people typing in slurs…but I have learned to filter all of it out. When VICE posted about my research, people on Facebook responded by making fun of it, but it didn’t deter me because I know that despite the trolling, there is a serious issue that is finally being addressed. The experiences of young students are valid, and I want to make sure that they are being heard – regardless of what people say.

 

Do you ever question the relevance of what you’re doing?

No. I never have, and I never will. Each individual story that I read strengthens my believe that this is a cause worth fighting for.

 

How do you bounce back from your lows?

My lows are all about self-doubt. Sometimes I don’t know whether the way I’m going about my research is good enough. Sometimes I wonder why young students are trusting me with their stories, whether I’m responsible enough to raise awareness. Sometimes I wonder whether this will make an impact or not. But every story I read inspires me to move forward, and it reminds me that this is a cause worth fighting for.

 

In an age of selfishly superficial humans, how do you get the courage and determination to do something so selflessly?

People are not as superficial as we think they are. Everybody is fighting their own battle, and definitions of battles are very personal. My personal definition extends beyond myself, but if all that one person wants to do is save themselves, it is still an honorable and worthy endeavor and should be recognized as such. Having said that, my determination is simple – it is a passion for bettering the lives of young students.

 

Name some badass women who inspire you.

Gauri Sawant, Betu Singh, Sonal Giani, Aruna Roy, Shaheen Mistri, Indira Jaising, Gauri Lankesh, Irom Sharmila…the list goes on.

Indian women who have made a difference in the fields of LGBTQ+ activism, feminism, education equality, and journalism inspire me.

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What is Badass?

"Badass according to me is the virtue of sticking to your guns and working hard towards what you believe in with determination. Badass is self-love, Badass is chasing your passion as if nothing else matters. Badass is kindness and strength. Badass is standing up for yourself and for others, and using your voice to make somebody’s life better – even if it is your own."

-Sukhnidh Kaur

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Oh and btw she isn't some boring nerd with her big beautiful eyes buried in text and her passionate pretty head in the sky. She can play four instruments (Ukulele, Guitar, Piano and Glockenspiel) and has the voice of an angel!

Follow this Badass Boss on her journey to make this country a less homophobic and a more a melodious place - @pavemented