Scrapping of Section 377 that criminalised homosexuality in India was just a relief for the LGBTQ community and there is still need for a comprehensive campaign to sensitise the society about their issues, says author Sharif D Rangnekar.
He has come out with his memoir Straight to Normal in which he narrates his trials and tribulations as a gay man and the discrimination the community has undergone in the country.
I think there is just relief (that Section 377 got scrapped off). Relief, that we aren't criminals any longer for doing something as basic as having sex. Yet we are far from freedom, he told PTI.
There are a number of areas to be addressed be it at the workplace, anti-discrimination laws covering schools to colleges and so many other spaces of existence. We have issues on insurance and health to inheritance. And what's more is that there has to be a comprehensive campaign to sensitise society which the (Supreme) Court suggested but is still to be addressed by governments and related institutions, he says.
The 50-year-old Rangnekar, who spent 28 days writing his autobiography last year, says he had planned the book at least 15 years ago but could not pen it down due to the fear of the law and the society.
The first time I felt like writing was back in 2004 when I returned to Delhi after a visit to Thailand where I experienced acceptance and a certain sense of normalcy about myself and the community. I also saw the murder of Pushkin Chandra being turned into sensational stories by the press that reflected a mindset that was no different from society at large. he says.
This is when I penned down some 3,000 words reflecting my anger and pain of living in Delhi. I didn't write more after that, not until 2013 when I decided to write a book under my pen name - Bharat I Sharma. But somehow I struggled with the idea of fiction, creating settings, many of which didn't seem real enough to me. And then the law came in the way, leading me to completely abandon the idea of writing a book, he adds.
Rangnekar says the fear does not exist anymore as he now has the law on his side.
Importantly I have my family, mother in particular, with me besides a number of amazing friends, he says.
He is also largely disappointed with the portrayal of LGBTQ characters in Hindi films in terms of addressing the community.
Hindi cinema has largely been a disappointment. After Fire' and My Brother... Nikhil', we've seen precious little. Barring films like Aligarh' where you in any case have a queer activist and writer, Apurva Asrani, writing the script and to some extent Ek Ladki Ko Dekha', co-written by Gazal Dhaliwal, there is very little out there that comes close to addressing our community, he says.
We are still to see a love story and a real story of the trials and triumphs of a queer person. We are still to see any story that parallels life in general that society relates to as theirs', he says.
He believes that the book, brought out by Rupa Publications, needs to reach out to parents, youngsters going to school and college, the LGBTQ community and those who maybe living in fear or doubt of who they are, questioning whether they are normal.
On a possible screen adaptation of his autobiography, he says only if it has the same sensitivity of treatment that Made In Heaven, a recent web series with a homosexual lead character, has.
It's a series that breaks barriers and creates a path that cinema today needs to look at, Rangnekar says.
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