There are many things that go unreported in Chennai city. This southern metropolitan is shedding its conservative profile and undergoing some changes in life style orientation, that so far have been hidden inside the closet.
Thanks to the efforts being made by some non governmental organization that such issues are being made public and since they are significant development it needs to be highlighted.
The subject of discussion is the meeting of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) that held on March 10, 2012 in Chennai. This was the third meeting of such kind within three months and consisted of twenty women who self define as lesbian, bisexual or transgender (female to male).
The group identified from their experiences within Tamil Nadu that due to their sexual orientation some members face; rejection from friends and family members, discrimination within society and within the workplace, forced marriage, domestic violence, depression etc.
Some felt isolated and alienated after coming out due to a lack of social networks. Members felt that there was an overall lack of understanding about lesbianism due to a lack of education and information.
They felt that Lesbian Gay Bi sexual Transgender (LGBT) organizations remain to focus on the needs of the MSM community.
They requested that they have their own women only space to express their own views, to ensure that their voices are heard and that their needs are met.
During the meeting the group decided that it is essential to ensure that support systems are put in place, by creating a peer led support group which will meet once every two months and provide a congenial atmosphere to discuss the concerned issues.
They also aim to provide peer advocacy to ensure that women feel empowered to accept and express their identities fully and to reduce the marginalization and stigmatization which they face within society.
The Indian Community Welfare Organisation is the Non Governmental Organisation that’s working for multiple marginalized people.
It is seeking to address the issues which LGBT women face within Chennai as patriarchal systems and moralistic attitudes towards lesbians within the city continue to prevent many from coming out.
Such discriminatory and oppressive views can cause a variety of psychological and emotional issues for these concerned women, says A.J. Hariharan, Secretary – ICWO
.‘ICWO began to address these issues in 2009 by initiating Chennai’s first lesbian helpline (04465515742) as a response after two married women committed suicide by setting themselves ablaze in North Chennai in May 2008, due to their relationship being prohibited,’ says Hariharan.
‘Despite the helpline being in place this lesbian, bisexual and transgender (female to male) women remain somewhat invisible within the city’.
‘The organization estimates that there are many women within the city who are in a dilemma about accepting their sexual orientation, are fearful of others finding out about it, may be experiencing isolation or are facing harassment or discrimination for having spoken out about it,’ he adds.
‘As a response to theses concerns ICWO has engaged in creating a peer led women’s LGBTQ support group, for those who identify as women who love women’.
‘The aim of the group is to create a safe social space where Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered women can share their experiences and talk openly about their sexuality. Where they can meet other women who can offer support, help and to build a mutually supportive network’.
‘ICWO is also committed to engage in explorative research on the experiences of lesbians within Chennai. It aims to setup a panel of support including counselors, lawyers and LGBT activists’.
‘It plans plan to hold workshops to identify the specific needs of this population’. ICWO is networking with similar groups and organizations within other cities and aim to create a women’s only LGBT drop in centre in its premise’ Hariharan concludes.
Additional information regarding this initiative can be obtained from Website: www.icwoindia.org or writing to Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at email@example.com