‘Nothing But Proud’: Tagore Students Back School’s LGBTQ Discourse
An article on OpIndia claimed the Delhi school was “brainwashing” children into gender identity politics.
Following an article published in OpIndia on Tuesday, 20 July, claiming Tagore International School (TIS) in Delhi “brainwashed” children into gender identity politics, people on Twitter demanded that action be taken against the school. The posts on Twitter also demanded action against Nazariya – the Queer Feminist group – that conducted the workshop way back in 2018.
“Netizens are not comfortable with the idea of children being brainwashed in these matters at an age where they are very impressionable. Some have also appealed that the Union minister look into the whole matter and prevent such events from occurring in the future," the OpIndia piece said. It called the conversations around gender identity as a “toxic ideology”.
However, students of TIS say that they are “nothing but proud” of their school for encouraging discourse on gender and identity.
“If anything, I am proud of my school for encouraging conversations about sexual identity. I was struggling with my sexual orientation as a teenager. But Tagore provided a safe space for students like me. The conversations, discussions, workshops, normalised ‘being gay’. Imagine, if your class rallied with you/for you at a Pride parade as a teenager – the kind of confidence it gives you cannot be put in words. I knew I was different but I also knew that wasn’t an anomaly, thanks to my school,” a high school student at TIS, who did not want to be named, told The Quint.
Tagore’s ‘Breaking Barriers’ Initiative
The 2018 workshop conducted by Nazariya is not a one-off event organised by the school. Since 2013, the school has been championing LGBTQIA+ rights under their ‘Breaking Barriers’ initiative. For over seven years, TIS has been organising workshops for students from Class 9 to 12, holding movie screenings, and advocacy events in other schools as well.
“I have been a part of TIS’ campaign Breaking Barriers, to spread awareness about the LGBTQIA+ community. We would interact with members of the LGBTQIA+ community to learn more and we were being taught to be more accepting and inclusive rather than focusing on a heteronormative society solely,” said former student Sreoshi Mukherjee, adding that the initiative created a safe for students to explore their own sexuality, gender identity and approach these topics without feeling afraid or embarrassed.
The students of Tagore are a permanent fixture in the Delhi Pride, and have been allying with the members of the community at every march since 2013.
“The school and its teachers are extremely sensitive towards queer rights. In fact, I’m glad that my school allows this discourse. TIS is also one of those rare schools that encourages its students to attend pride parades across Delhi. This allows students to see the ground reality and least to say, be sensitive towards basic human rights.”Abhik Sengupta, Journalist & Former Student
There Is No ‘Right Time’ to Talk About Gender Identity
While there is no right or wrong answer for this, say LGBTQIA+ activists, they add that it is important to start such conversations at the school level.
Director of Naz Foundation Anjali Gopalan told The Quint that those who are working on gender and sexuality are not trying to corrupt the moral values of the country and youngsters.
“People, especially youngsters, are fairly clear about who they are, what they are, how their bodies and hearts are responding. What is critical for us is to come to terms and learn to value ourselves. Only if we value ourselves are we going to learn to protect ourselves and make the right choice. This cannot happen without adequate input and information. As such, young people in this country don’t have access to information in this country. Enabling them access to right information is crucial.”Anjali Gopalan, Director, Naz Foundation
Echoing her is Chandraneev Das, who teaches at a prominent school in Delhi, and is also a member of the queer community.
“Sex education at school level cannot be restricted to the reproductive system and safe practices alone. It must include sexuality, sexual preferences, concepts related to gender and gender identity. It is vital that our students be educated in these aspects as they grow up. It is specifically at their age that they learn crucial ideas of acceptance, inclusivity, equality and empathy. To restrict their exposure to irrational, unscientific concepts of life, and backward standards of morality, would be unfair," said Das.
‘Talking About Gender Identity Is Not Indoctrination’
The article in OpInida said that it is “understandable why people are disturbed with the indoctrination of children into such an ideology”.
Dr V Sam Prasad, Country Program Director, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, slammed the OpIndia piece saying that none becomes a member of the queer community by “just talking about sexuality”.
“We are the second populous and the youngest country in the world. It is very sad that people don't understand the LGBTQIA+ community issues and challenges and how and why ONE CANNOT BE indoctrinated into it. Such statements only add to the stigma and discrimination prevailing on these already marginalised communities. No one becomes a member of the LGBTQIA+ community because you are talking about gender and sexuality,” he asserted, rather one would become sensitized to the needs of these communities and understands what roles he/she could play to better their lives.
(The Quint has reached out to Nazariya. The copy will be updated with their statement.)
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