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India: ‘Homosexuality and religion can coexist’

People can be both queer and religiously devout, speakers declared this month at the Awadh Queer Lit Fest in northern India.

Artists perform during the Awadh Queer Lit Fest. (V. Sunil photo courtesy of The Times of India)
Artists perform during the Awadh Queer Lit Fest. (V. Sunil photo courtesy of The Times of India)

That was the thrust of several LGBTI activists’ remarks on the theme “Homosexuality and Religion Can Coexist,” which was a focus of the Awadh Queer Lit Fest on Feb. 9 in Lucknow, India. These are excerpts from the Times of India article on the event:

Quoting Pope Francis to emphasise her point, a transgender and an LGBT rights activist, Zainab Patel, said, “If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge him as a person?”

“Be it Hinduism, Islam, Christianity or Sikhism, foundations of all religions are based on peace, befriending and supporting each other,” Patel added.

Another activist Ritwik said that he comes from a lineage which advocates that humans are complete in their own self. “As per my lineage, it is the soul which meets God after death,” said Ritwik, who practises the Vaishnav sect of Hinduism.

A Gorakhpur-based content writer, Alice Bailey, said, “There are lot of churches abroad which actively support the LGBT community. However, churches in India claim that our sexual orientation is a sin and try to heal us. In the Bible, it is mentioned that God will decide on the Judgement Day, whether one is a sinner or not. So, we should leave it to God to decide that and not any single body.

The speakers also said that there are many verses in the Quran and the Guru Granth Sahib [the holy book of Sikhism] which talk about transgenders and the queer community.

“The discrimination against homosexuals is more on a cultural level. To make the religious clergy understand that religion and homosexuality are two different institutions and we have the right to be religious and queer at the same time, we need engage with them more. We need to make more documentaries on the LGBT community and create a platform to discuss these issues with them,” said Sukhdeep Singh, a software professional and founder of an India-based LGBT magazine ‘Gaylaxy’.

The Times of India reporter probably misunderstood LGBTI activists when he or she quoted them saying “that homosexuality was more of a lifestyle choice.”

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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