Glossary LGBTQIA+ a big step forward- The New Indian Express

Words without action mean little, but words can be a starting point. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) community knows this better than most. Despite the NALSA verdict that recognized the rights of transgender people and the decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations, the Indian law, legislators and society still have a long way to go until minorities obtain due dignity, rights and opportunities. An excellent example is the inadequate Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act passed despite protests from trans activists.

One should read the Tamil Nadu government notice of a Tamil glossary on the appropriate language to be used by the community in this context. The glossary is the product of a higher court order which has also resulted in guidelines for the police. The final notified glossary was developed in consultation with members of the community. While there are some sticking points (the description of genderfluid, for example, uses a word that translates to instability), it’s a step in the right direction.

Members of the community continue to be teased and taunted in the crudest terms, including in public discourse and popular culture. At the same time, those whose identities may fall within a sexual minority find themselves without a language to describe who they are. The glossary, with legal support, validates their experiences even in the face of any social or family pressure they may encounter. If the court orders the media to use the correct terminology, it is possible that the most harmful and outdated language will be replaced in the popular lexicon.

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However, the glossary should be treated as a living document that progressively evolves along with our understanding and knowledge. Similarly, the document should not be adhered to inflexibly so that community members cannot access rights by choosing to describe themselves differently. Words without action mean little. But the words in this glossary can be a start, a step at least, in the direction of a society that learns to treat LGBTQIA+ people with the respect and dignity they deserve.