Getting accepted

Find out more about IIT Delhi’s new gender and sexuality group

Indradhanu, the first gender and sexuality support group at IIT Delhi, is not interested in half-measures: “We want to hear ‘we love you’ rather than ‘we love you anyway’”, Kapil Rananaware, a third-year B-tech student and one of the group’s founders, told Time Out. The former, he said, is acceptance, while the latter is just tolerance – it’s like “saying it is unfortunate that you are like this, but we love you”.Indradhanu, which came together in January of this year, consists of both queer and straight founding members. Their aim is to create a “non-gendered, non-sexist” environment at IIT – an institution known for its deeply skewed sex ratio – and function as a support group for students struggling with their sexuality.

Indradhanu is already quite active in creating a support structure and educating students: the group’s posters are visible all over campus and Rananaware and Anand Poonia, an electrical engineering student in his final year, recently gave a presentation attended by over 400 students. Indradhanu has also held an ori­entation for first-years, and has been pledged the assistance of a university psychiatrist to help students deal with, as Rananaware put it, “the fear, vulnerability and isolation” that non-heterosexual students experience.

Rananaware said that the group has so far enjoyed strong support from the heterosexual community at IIT and he believes it is important for other students to recognize that a LGBT support group can have heterosexual members. Indradhanu holds twice-monthly meetings, which are attended by both straight and non-straight members. Moderators do not ask attendees about their sexuality in the meetings;rather, so far they’ve used the time to discuss how to move the group forward. Indradhanu will also hold open events, such as a film screening in early April (the details were yet to be confirmed at the time of going to press), and a workshop, also in the process of being planned. These events are listed on the group’s Facebook page.

Establishing Indradhanu was not easy for Rananaware, Poonia and co-founder Sanchita Srivastava (a PhD student writing a dissertation on the stigma surrounding LGBT individuals). According to Rananaware, the first challenge was that very few students are publicly out. Rananaware himself came out last August, partly so that once Indradhanu was founded, students would have the courage to join. (He said some students still fear being associated with the group.) An easier task was garnering the support of heterosexual students – Indradhanu’s early members found support from students in IIT’s “intellectual” community, such as members of the debate club and the National Service Scheme.

An ongoing obstacle is acqui­ring official permission to hold on-campus events. The founders approached a faculty member in charge of clubs who, according to them ,“was initially very harsh and rude”, but after persistent efforts confessed that he supported their cause. However, he advised them to hold their events under the aegis of the NSS or other groups – he felt that for Indradhanu to do so independently would be “risky”.

In the meantime, Indradhanu members continue to plan events with support from other groups, hold informal sessions and spread the word on Facebook and on their Google group. They are also in touch with similar groups at other IITs, such as Saathi (IIT Bombay) and Unmukt (IIT Kanpur). Their increasing presence at IIT Delhi also goes a long way in battling stereotypes – both with students and professors – of LGBT students only belonging to the arts or humanities (or, for that matter, being in any way “different” from their peers). And the group’s members’ courage in coming out – either as non-heterosexual or as people truly accepting of non-heterosexuals – goes a long way in filling out IIT’s rainbow.

Indradhanu meets twice a month.

by Simran Bhalla
Source – Time Out Delhi