Thursday, January 19, 2012

What To Do in Case of Homophobic Abuse

Hey everyone,

After a recent incident of homophobic abuse, in fact it happened on the pride night (i sad and ironic). Emanuel and I wrote up this guide. Let us know if there are any additions that can be made.

Please read it and take something useful from it. Thanks again for all the inspiration!

What To Do in Case of Homophobic Abuse

1. What is Homophobic abuse?
Homophobic abuse can range from name-calling, discriminatory language, taunting, to physical alternations, violence, throwing of objects, and the list goes on. Any kind of willfully discriminatory action towards one or more LGBT persons can be considered homophobic abuse.

2. Where it can happen?
Anywhere. Homophobic abuse can happen in the most gay friendly neighborhood and in the least. Reports of homophobic abuse have been made in areas as public as Church Street and Times Square but can also happen just outside your doorstep, at school, or at work.

While homophobic abuse can happen anywhere it is important to not live your life in fear. Know what to do if you encounter a situation of abuse and empower yourself to stay smart when it happens.

3. What is legal?
Being LGBT is legal in India. Intimidation, blackmailing, and assault are illegal. Know your rights. No one in India can be “caught” for being gay. If someone threatens to reveal your identity or take you to the police it is important for you to call them on their bluff. Tell them that you will gladly go to the police and report them for intimidation, assault, and blackmail. If they do end up bringing you to the police they will be the ones in trouble. Again, being gay is not a crime.

4. What to do if you are in this situation?

If you find yourself in a situation of homophobic abuse, here are some tips:

A. Stay calm
Keep a cool head throughout. This will help you think clearly about what you should and the best steps to take. Staying calm does not mean not reacting or responding, but it is important to not freak out. Abusers pray on fear so, even if you are terrified, don’t give the abuser the satisfaction of knowing it.

B. Be Proud and Be Smart
If someone is calling you abusive names, telling you that you are disgusting or perverted, you can choose to ignore them and not give them the time of day or you can ask them why they are filled with so much hate. No matter how you respond, realized that you have a lot of to be proud of and that no one can take that away.

If someone says you are a filthy gay, you might think of saying: “I am gay and proud of it.” Or “ I am proud to be gay – if you have a problem with it, keep it to yourself.”

Being smart means knowing how to judge a situation. If the abuser wants to get physical - by pushing you, throwing things at you, or the like - you need to be smart about how you react. If you feel as though you are capable of defending yourself and need to defend yourself than that is one choice of action, but if you are outnumbered, alone, or don’t feel comfortable defending yourself by responding physically then report to the nearest responsible adult and/or safe place immediately. If this is occurring inside a restaurant, bar, or residential area – alert the manager, bar owner, or look for a nearby safety zone immediately. Don’t wait.
Please also see the emergency numbers section just below.

C. Call emergency numbers.
Have these important emergency numbers stored in your phone and on quick dial and make sure to call them immediately when the abuse starts. There is no such thing as being too careful or too responsive to homophobic abuse. The worse that can happen is you get some back up in the case the situation does worsen and a little moral support in case in doesn’t. The people on the other side of these phone lines are there to help. They want to be there and they want to help you.

Even if the incident is over and the abusers have left, you can give these numbers a call to report what happened.

Sangama runs 24/7 crisis hotlines. If you are ever in trouble, call them. They will help you ASAP
+91 994 560 1651 / +91 994 560 1652
+91 994 560 1653 / +91 994 560 1654
+91 994 523 1493
The Alternative Law Forum
+91 80 2286 5757 / +91 80 2286 8757
Good As You/Swabhava
+91 80 2223 0959
Lawyers Collective Bangalore
+91 80 4123 9130 / +91 80 4123 9131

D. Report the incident

One of the biggest obstacles in fighting homophobic abuse is a lack of data. Without enough hard data and statistics it becomes hard to implement policies that will make our cities and our lives safer. Policies such as sensitizing and training police, implementing extra watches around certain problem areas, and even the changing of laws to be stricter when punishing those who commit these crimes, are all potential results of increased reporting.

There are many ways to report an incident anonymously. One can file an anonymous report at a police station, get a friend to do the same, leave an anonymous tip on a police phone line, or send in a letter or email.

In you have chosen to report the incident to the necessary authorities it may also be a good idea to bring up the situation to peer support groups in your area. There are a variety of support groups throughout India that provide safe spaces for LGBT people to talk about incidences of abuse. In Bangalore, the Thursday night Good As You meetings continue to provide a forum for individuals to share their stories, seek solidarity and advise, and inform fellow community members.

While it can be very frightening to report or to talk about incidences of homophobic abuse, this is one of the best ways in which to use your experience as a force for positive change. Our power is that we are in the midst of a worldwide civil rights movement and the world is listening. These issues are being talked about in meeting rooms, offices, and coffeehouses around the globe and incidents such as this add needed real-life examples to that conversation. If everyone kept their experiences a secret it is almost assured that nothing would change – but if we share then we have the ability to empower others and gain perspective ourselves.

5. Some quotes from people

“When I was in my final year in law school…these people…broke into my room and found these books that my boyfriend had gifted me and just kind of tore them up and scribbled…fag on the cover and obviously broke the lock open for that. If you are in an institutional set up than I would say approaching the authorities is a great idea. In other circumstances, anyone who bullies and an anyone who is homophobic does not deserve your time and patience…I would say contact your local NGO person, whoever they may be – they’re always very helpful here. For instance I did talk to people at ALF when that happened and you know, they were of some use to help give me advice for things.” Sundeep

“Two years ago I was stalked by a man instead a car. It was quite late -11 PM. At 11 I went out [and] started walking and I could feel something, you know? It’s creepy. It’s scary. It’s dark outside – no one’s around so there was a neighbor cigarette shop and people there knew me well so I stopped there, I started smoking a cigarette and the car stopped right there. I still had a kilometer to walk. I decided I am not going to look the person in the eyes and I just kept walking and walking walking and I made it to my home.” Saeed

“Another time, back then, in 2004, I had just started meeting people. I met this guy. One morning my mom told me that a friend of you wants to speak to you. I heard a random unfamiliar voice on the phone saying, ‘I heard that you were hot in bed. Meet me tomorrow at 5 PM.’ That you have to come, you have no option. That was hilarious I replied, ‘If I decline what are you gonna do?’ He said ‘I’m going” to speak to your mom and I’m going to tell her what you are doing around in this town.’ I said ‘good luck’ I slammed the phone. Nothing happened.” Saeed

“My BF & I checked into a hotel in Chennai for a night in 2009 (after decriminalization of Homosexuality in India). He lives in Mumbai & had came out to his parents that day (which went disastrously). He rushed to Chennai to be with me. We had to stay in a hotel because I lived with my parents & didn't have enough privacy.

When we checked out the next day, guys at the front desk made some nasty comments (behind us). And also asked persistently why we were staying in a room when we live in Chennai (I had given my address during check-in. They didn't have any problems letting us stay & wanted the business.)

For the next few weeks, I got harassing calls at my residence. The guy who called spoke to whoever picked the phone & said thing like " I am Mohan's wife speaking", "May I speak to Mohan madam" (referring me as a female), "Mohan sir indha vaaram entha hotel, enna rate?" (Which hotel is Mohan staying this week? what is his rate?) etc..

My parents were very upset. I am out to them, so I explained what happened & asked them to ignore the calls. I didn't pursue this with the hotel.” “It took every ounce of my energy and will to write this mail without being overtly emotional though the entire experience was an eruption of emotions. Mohan

Never in million years would anyone of us have thought that our regular weekend pub hopping would end up in such disheartening and humiliating experience. Being able to glide through in and out of the lounges and bars for many years we never would have imagined that something like this will happen to us. Assuming being well educated and being in the cream layers of the society will make things easier for queer men was shattered.

What can be merrier and joyous than being with bunch of gay men who could just see everything on a lighter note??? That was the state of mind we were in when we started out on 23rd October Sunday evening. As we were getting ready we got a call from couple of our friends who were already in a bar (The Zodiac bar at The Accord Metropolitan) to come and join them. Since this is one of the bar we have frequented we went inside and after the usual greetings and hugs couple of us placed the orders and others started looking through the menu One of us was carrying a man bag and the waiter sort of whispered to the bartender pointing him. When our friend asked the bartender about our order he didn’t answer. The manager I presume told him that there is no service for our group and we are not allowed and asked him to leave the bar.

Since he couldn’t talk Tamil and the manager couldn’t respond well in English, we, who were busy going through menu sensed something was wrong as our friend started looking perplexed.

The entire scene unfolded in the lounge outside the bar when we asked why there is no service. One of the service guys said they allow only men and women. We were shocked by this response. It was a blow to our pride and we were completely taken aback.

Incredulous as it sounded one of us asked him again what he is trying to say, he said that “men and women only sir, gays lam allowed illa”. We shot back that there is no such rules listed in entrance and we have every right to be there and they are unreasonable denying service. Then came another guy who started talking in Tamil said “ungala ulla vidradellam asingam. Kelambu kelambu” (it’s a shame for us to let u inside. Move move).

We were addressing him with respect till then and he started addressing us in a disrespectful way, tone and body language.The argument got heated and we asked them if they have any rules against letting gay men in the bar and if so they should put that in sign board and or give it to us in writing stating so. When we were inquiring on the regulations this guy became abusive and told “naalu aalungala kooptu thorathunga ivangala” (Bring four guys and chase them away).
We were so shocked and stunned by the way the management was handling and we demanded we spoke to their higher authority stating that’s they aren’t managing the issue well. He said that “adhellam mudiyaadu. Ungalukku yellarayum kooduvaangala”. (We can’t call authorities and all).

Though I had every intention of making a protest in the lounge we realized that we could do nothing about it and decided to leave the place before things got uglier.
The entire experience was so humiliating, though we all stood up against the discrimination, it dint fail to leave a deep rooted scar. I couldn’t imagine how worse the same would have been if we weren’t a bunch. When I look back at this entire scenario, I realized how feeble legal and social support is towards the queers.

Though we couldn’t do much on the issue, sharing it in this space might make us realize that we don’t have to put up with everything. At the least we could voice our protest.” Manohar

All names mentioned above in the incidents have been changed

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