In a country where you can happily enjoy your latest episode of RuPauls Drag Race and as soon as you take off your headphones you can hear someone from on end the room shout ‘ay you chakka come here’(chakka is a term used in a derogatory manner to refer to a transgender) while other people consider it a cool joke and laugh about, you wonder on how such a mindset prevails in a society where we talk about pride parades but ignore such blatant Transphobia.

While the words like meetha’, ‘hijra’, ‘sixer’ and ‘chakka are used as insults and slurs in day to day language amongst people reflects their mindset of sheer ignorance towards the existence of the kinar community and the dehumanizing treatment towards them since generations.  Before the existence of the internet generation there were people who outright refused the existence of the whole LGBTQIA+ community and could not fathom their presence in the absolute heteronormative society, according to them.

In a society that is driven the institution of marriage, caste and religion it is certain that love and sexuality are viewed through a one dimension only by the middle aged or the elderly but we forget that bigotry, ignorance and hate is learnt and ingrained due to the environment we have observed and learnt over the growing years. And so, some people even in this day and age believe that we must uphold this ‘culture’ created by our elders since they are always right especially in the Indian values context where questioning the rules of the society was equated to being a brat. Hence the treatment of the whole Queer and Trans community was and to a great extent still is a taboo topic to be discussed with your parents or the elderly at home which stems from an unwillingness to change or correct oneself and imposing your majority as a cisgender heterosexual in the society over the minority of homosexuals or trans persons.

Often noticed such lines in casual conversations –

are you gay or what?

why are you clapping like a hijra?

that’s such a gay thing to do

I’m not homophobic I have gay friends’ 

I don’t have a problem or anything it’s just eww

what if he/she is like into me, I’m not like them

imagine how do they do THAT

These are all said initially in a joking manner as if they are funny statements or punch lines and garner laughs without realizing the damage, they do to people with different gender identities since this behavior acts a reinforcer of normalizing the use of derogatory terms, language and attitude to the whole community. Queerphobia among young adults can exist in many forms – it can range from disgust, prejudice and discrimination to acts of violence and long-term, systemic abuse which has been prevalent since generations and reinforced in in manners like the following.

The most recent example of this reinforcement will be the content created by some youtubers using words like ‘chakka’ and ‘meetha’ interchangeably for men who are effeminate or participate in acts like singing and dancing to make short videos. Soon after these videos garnered a lot of attention there was a significant spurt in the hate speech and use of these very terms against openly queer and transpersons. While few such videos were taken down by YouTube recognizing the homophobic content and implementing the community guidelines this created headlines and was a fitting example of how there is a difference in the intention and impact of one’s words and why one must be careful of their language. 

A person who uses any of these words might not have the intention to hurt or to demean anyone but you could have people who do harbor homophobic opinions and will foster validation by you resulting to conformity of those mindsets. In such situations an informed individual would do either just ignore the casual homophobia because they know the better side of the spectrum or they will take the effort to call out or correct the individual and possibly try to educate the person on why its not funny but rather insensitive and wrong to indulge in mocking people who are different from them. Its also an established fact that often times if someone stands up to the queer phobia they are in turn labeled as one of ‘them’ and left out in the cold or even repudiated only for taking a firm stand for what’s right and so in the fearing the same many just let it slide, though on a long term this does more harm than good. Since it only leaves the cycle of the normalizing these thoughts of homophobia and transphobia to continue and be strengthened by such stimuli, hence the idea of doing nothing is equal to doing no harm falls flat. Hence doing something is the only way to go and break this vicious cycle.

Queerphobia amongst young people in the country is not just limited to making jokes but also believing the misconception that people who do not identify as straight especially the ones who are bisexual or pansexual are interested in absolutely every random person on the street. A common practice is to break away from friends who are not straight only because they have expressed their lack of interest to a heterosexual person, their answer to the attraction of a queer person, or even the mere possibility of it is to be wary and stay away from that friend. One needs to realize that the identity of the LBTQIA+ community is not for your daily dose of entertainment these are people with a rich culture and a long struggle of finding themselves in this heteronormative society. I, as a queer person myself can tell you all we ask for is to be understood, respected and treated with dignity. We may have inherited these phobias but it is our job to unlearn these prejudices and hate and learn how to be accommodative and not indulge or rear such a mindset not just in front of queer people but also amongst straight individuals.

Nivedita Bhalla

B.A. Journalism and Mass Com.

Amity University

One thought on “Understanding Casual Homophobia and its Causes

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