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After the decriminalization of Section 377 in 2018 there has been a lot of talk about LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual & others) and the issues faced by them, indeed before 2018 there has been a lot of talk about the community and its issues and it is the trouble of numerous people that led to this verdict. Still, there is a long way to go for LGBTQIA+ to be normalized in India and many other places. This leads to an important issue that this community faces, the victimization especially faced by the youth in public and private. According to studies by UNESCO, it has recognised that people who perceive themselves to be different or do not conform to gender norms are more likely to be victimized. Similarly, WHO’s studies have also classified LGBTQIA+ as a vulnerable group who are at higher risk of suicidality because of the increased risk of internalized stigma, bullying, harassment, discrimination and abuse. It is the need of the hour to educate the general public, especially the youth about the community and also make them unlearn the gender norms which have been conditioned since they were born and this has led to victimization in schools, workplaces etc.

Victimization of LGBTQ+ youth takes place due to the heteronormativity that is hammered into the minds of young people which makes them believe that heterosexuality is the norm and any deviation from it is not normal. Mainstream society consists of heterosexual women and men and anyone whose sexual orientation is outside of this is considered a sexual minority. Heterosexism which stigmatizes any form of behaviour, identity, relationship or community which deviates from the heterosexual norm leads to harassment, discrimination and violation which results in mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Bullying in educational institutions due to the deviation from the heterosexual norm has been prevalent in many places, a study states that around 60% of the students who identify as LGBTQIA+ faced bullying in middle or high school, 43% of the students were reported of being sexually harassed but only 18% is reported to the authority, whereas 33% of them drop out of the schools. Many students mainly don’t report to the authorities as they might get into trouble and not the perpetrators because people are not well aware of the community and won’t take proper action. There is also the issue of being a closeted person which leads to more difficulty for them to come and talk to even their parents about the issue as they are scared of their reactions all this builds up tremendous stress on the students and it contribute to higher risk of suicide, substance abuse, mental disorder and unsafe sexual experiences. Arvey was a 15-year-old boy who committed suicide after being allegedly bullied over his sexuality and his mother is seeking justice for him and he is one example of so many who go through the same experience as him and for us to not repeat what happened to Arvey we need authorities who can act well against these situations to understand the community and take action against these kinds of victimization of youth. 17% of India’s population identify themselves as non-heterosexual, but access to mental health services, support and information is negligible. The community remain at high risk of mental health issues and suicide risk, the mental health stats about the LGBTQIA+ community in India is hard to find but the American numbers show that the youth of this community suffer from anxiety and depression 1.75 times more. Still, we don’t find many queer-friendly mental health services which are a need of the hour but even now many psychologists and psychiatrists in India consider sexual orientation and gender identities as a disorder and they try to do correctional therapy than accept it the way it is which could lead to more mental health issues. Even though there is a lot of representation in TV shows, movies, music etc there is still a need for more awareness and learning on our part to understand the community, especially the youth who are still in the closet who are carrying a huge psychological burden. Everyone must come out on their own time when they feel strongly about their identity, there are platforms like Gaylaxy and Gaysi and publishers like Queer Ink that give space for LGBTQ people to interact and share life stories and experiences which could lead to a feeling of being included and not alone.

There is a need for people to change the ground reality, we need to question all the stereotypes unlearn and relearn, stop telling homophobic jokes and don’t condition your young generation to be in a certain way which will lead to them thinking everything is rigid and no one can deviate from it which will result in victimization of youth in private and public places. This needs to stop, we need to change this, we need to lay a better foundation for our children.

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