India: For LGBT folks, freedom is still a dream

The first time Apoorva and Chetana* met, it was magic. One lied to parents, concocted a job offer and flew down from Pune to Lucknow, the other financed last-minute tickets with her hard-earned savings. They had spent a restless month chatting online after navigating for years the crushing ennui that accompanies most LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) lives in small-town India.

They met at the airport, ran towards each other and hugged. In the taxi, they stole kisses. Apoorva couldn’t stop smiling when they bunked up together in her house. They spent a euphoric week, eating, going out, planning their future together.

But life was determined to crush their dreams. The first shock was when they tried opening a joint account – bank after bank turned them away saying they needed a legal relationship, or a family connection, for any transaction.“Many asked us if we were sisters because our glasses looked alike,” Chetana says, laughing.

We are sitting in a coffee lounge in the older parts of Lucknow where the two had first met, and spent countless afternoons together planning their lives, recuperating from the agonizing negotiations with prospective employers, family and most importantly, society over the next three years.

The couple meticulously saved every penny, clawing their way to financial independence, building job skills. A mesh of lies, concealment and ingenuity kept them together but increasingly convinced them that their future didn’t lie in a country that criminalises them. 

“In five years, I want to move abroad to a country where we can legally marry and be employable… I never wanted to move but maybe I became selfish, I want a comfortable life for us,” says a visibly-conflicted Apoorva. “I know that my family will force me to marry so I want to move away.” She is studying to be a lawyer and her partner is an engineer. Read more via Hindu Times