/Sexual diversity in IIT Kanpur: A reality check

Sexual diversity in IIT Kanpur: A reality check

Last semester, Vox Populi rolled out the LGBTQ+ Campus Climate Survey to students of IIT Kanpur. We received an overwhelming response of more than 750 people of the campus.

LGBTQ+ (short for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) is the umbrella term for the various sexual and gender diversities, approximately 12% of the campus junta.

When we talk about about LGBTQ+ awareness we find that 65% people consider homosexuality to be normal. The other perceptions range from disorder, unnatural, a special gift to ‘no-opinions’.

Exploring similar question about the difference between ‘Sex’ and ‘Gender’, half the population understands that these have different connotations. Indicatively, ‘Sex’ refers to the biological and physiological characteristics whereas gender is majorly based on behaviour, roles and expectations which exist in the society.

This leads us to the effect of societal expectations: 68% agreed that societal expectations influence their habits and behaviour. 29% of the males think their career choices have been affected by the aforementioned expectations whereas 40% of females feel likewise.

Another interesting observation was that though majority (53%) of us will get offended if some-one terms us gay/lesbian for behaviour deviant from traditional gender role expectations but on the contrary half of us have also labelled someone else gay/lesbian for so-called ‘odd’ conduct (or as a form of verbal abuse).

When it comes to conducive environment for people to open about their gender and sexuality, majority of the people (56%) think that their non-straight friend will find it difficult to be open about their sexuality. But then, 60% people won’t bother if their roomie is not straight.

Speaking with Vox Populi, Manish Gautam, an alumnus of IIT Kanpur and a member of UNMUKT – gender and sexual diversity community with its roots and presence in IIT Kanpur – said, “This is alarming and requires a retrospection on what is that stopping them. Is it their internal stigma, reinforced by the expectation of society or confusion about their own sexuality? It is because of the fear of being ridiculed or of a physical attack? It surely needs a wider discussion”

Interestingly, only 23% of the people think that the current resource groups are capable of resolving the issues of LGBTQ+ community in the campus. Now, another interesting fact is that only 24% people know about UNMUKT in the campus.

“This is not surprising. UNMUKT, started as a facebook page in 2013, did not have any base in campus then. There were just 2-3 people who tried to organise activities such as talks or open discussions. In the meantime, they got busy with their own studies/research. Also, we did not have ample means to publicise it before it became a Gymkhana wing. But there is a need of having such group in an education campus where issues on gender and sexual diversity may not be seen as important as academics or other student activities. Further,  one of the aims to start UNMUKT was to establish/create/encourage an amiable environment where people can talk about these issues freely without fearing that they would be prejudiced”, said Manish.

Recently, UNMUKT has been recognised as a wing of the Community Welfare Cell of Gymkhana. In conversation with Vox Populi,  Ashutosh Ranka, Head, Presidential Council, said – “ Various IITs already have such kind of organisations, Saathi (IITB) and Stree (IITD), and we needed a resource group related to gender and sexual diversity. UNMUKT already existed but to organise awareness and social campaigns at a greater scale, it was essential that it gets official recognition.”

By Bhanu Pratap Singh Tanwar and Karan Deep Sharma

Special Thanks to Vaidehi Menon, Stree, IITD and The Scholars’ Avenue, IIT KGP

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