A 16-year-old boy in Faridabad took his own life by jumping off the 56th floor of his residential society. In a letter, he alleged that he faced sexual assault and harassment because of his sexuality. He wrote, “Mumma, you are the best mom on this planet. I am really sorry that I couldn’t be more brave. This school has killed me.”
“Please get yourself a new job and please remember ‘never stop doing art’. You are an angel and I was blessed to have you in this birth.”
The victim was gay and dyslexic. During an exam days before the incident, he asked his teacher to help him understand a question, and allegedly, she scolded him for ‘taking advantage’ of his disease. He was also told that he and his mother were throwing tantrums. He had reported the harassment before, and his mother, being a teacher at the same school, had complained to management multiple times. The victim was depressed due to the homophobic harassment he faced at school.
I am in the same class as him. I, like him, will graduate class 10 this year. I, also like him, am queer and neurodivergent.
And I am terrified.
Whenever you talk to the authorities about bullying and harassment, you are subjected to a lecture about how to report bullies. You are told to register an official complaint. You are told to do a plethora of things that may or may not result in action being taken against the bully. And very often, there is no action taken. And if you’re queer, or god-forbid neurodivergent and mentally ill – there is little to no chance the system will help you. It also doesn’t help that queer and neurodivergent people are more likely to contemplate and attempt suicide.
The most terrifying thing isn’t that there is nothing we can do. It’s the fact that even after doing everything, nothing changes.
When homosexuality was decriminalised in 2018, I saw ads about queer people all around me—in newspapers, on TV, on the radio. And it made me feel validated. Even as a 12-year-old girl, I understood that I wasn’t ‘normal’ and these ads made me feel like I was. It was like fitting in.
But after a few months, I realised this was all a facade. We went back to the status quo— we went back to talking about gay people as if they were a dirty secret. We made problematic movies about gay. We passed regressive legislation about transgender people.
I am aware of how social media has furthered the progressive cause—but there is a huge gap between social media and real life. Many people that support progressive causes on the internet, forget all about it as soon as they walk into real life. Even now, I see how my classmates support the LGBT community on Instagram yet use homophobic slurs at school.
I see the harassment happen in front of my eyes. Especially to queer men that don’t fit into what is socially deemed as ‘masculine’. The people who do it call themselves feminists. They say they were perfectly progressive and it is all a joke. This happened in Delhi – one of the most progressive cities in the country. I can only wonder what happens in more rural areas, places where getting away with violence and harassment is easier.
This co-opting of queerness for the profit of corporations and social capital has been more harmful to the community than any sort of outright bigotry. Hate is easier to spot and oppose, indifference though is harder to counter.
For a long time, I believed no one cared. That’s how it felt. The tragic death of this young boy, and many other queer people before him has been largely ignored by mainstream media. Now, we have specialized news channels for ‘good news’ and ‘positivity’. We have news channels doing two-hour segments about the death of certain celebrities. But on the death of a queer child? Not a word. A child died because of ableism and homophobia, and no one cares. This is hard for me, and many other people to grapple with.
But we need to remember, this tragedy and the young boy who died should not be forgotten. We cannot remember it as a suicide, because this is a murder. There is blood on someone’s hand – and that someone is not an individual or a group of individuals. It is an entire system that ignores and humiliates queer and neurodivergent people for their mere existence.
In times like these, the system seems too big and I seem too small. I am terrified.
And you should be too.
The author is a student at St Gregorios School, New Delhi. Views are personal.