Globally, LGBT History Month is held every October as a celebration of inspirational personalities who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. As we close one fortnight and enter the second one in LGBT History Month 2020, let’s salute queer icons in India. Without these courageous personalities, the queer movement wouldn’t have been alive in our country today.
What is LGBT History Month?
LGBT History Month has humble beginnings from the mid 90s. It is the brainchild of a school teacher, Rodney Wilson, from Missouri, USA. He realized that the queer community is the only one in the world that isn’t educated about its history either in school or at home. Wilson chose October because all schools are in session and Coming Out Day is held on October 11. The special pride history month found endorsement from various American and international gay rights organizations including GLAAD and the National Education Association.
Why is LGBT History Month important?
Acknowledging the movement’s history, landmarks and historical figures helps build a sense of community. It brings to light the contributions of lesbian, gay and trans activists towards civil rights and other movements including feminism. Having a designated month for learning the LGBT movement’s history provides role models for teenagers and youth who identify as queer or are coming to terms with their sexual orientation.
In India, for example, activist-lawyers Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju are the ones who literally made it happen – decriminalize homosexuality. The lesbian couple fought and won the landmark Supreme Court case that declared the dreaded Section 377 as unconstitutional and cemented their place in pride history. In fact, they are Equality Forum’s official LGBT History Month Icons this year. They are the only Indians on the 2020 list apart from Laxmi.
2020 LGBT icons from India
Guruswamy and Katju are real life partners as well. For their case historic case Navtej Singh Johar vs Union of India, they roped in classical dancer Natvej Singh Johar and his partner, Sunil Mehra apart from other public figures like hotelier Keshav Suri who heads Lalit Hotels. Last year, Time magazine put both Guruswamy and Katju in its 100 Most Influential People list.
As for Laxmi (aka Laxmi Narayan Tripathi), if you haven’t seen this prolific and articulate trans rights activist, film actress and Bharatanatyam dancer, you don’t know your queer history. She has a fascinating story and an even more fascinating personality. Laxmi is a founding member of Dai Welfare Society, which works for transgender rights. She made a famous speech on the state of sexual minorities at the 2008 UN General Assembly where she was representing Asia Pacific.