Unifying All Colours of the Spectrum: Rainbow Dot
The LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) is a community that is growing and evolving as we speak. They are a group of people who have a very contrasting approach to gender and sex unlike normal ‘male’ and ‘female’ sexes. Most of us have been raised with pretty simplistic ideas about sex and gender. Namely, that there are two sexes, male and female, and that they align with two genders, man and woman. But with the increased visibility of transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary folks, many people are beginning to understand that the categories of sex and gender are far more complicated.
Rainbow dot is a noble initiative in the direction to educate people and spread awareness on the same concepts and its various implications. This initiative has brought in appreciation from the NITR junta as well as faculties including SAC. Team Monday Morning had the opportunity to have a chat with the President of the club regarding the club and its aspirations:
Monday Morning (MM): Would you say that the students, professors and the officials are supportive of students who want to share their identity and stories? What are your views on the inclusivity on the campus?
Rainbow Dot (RD): I don’t think that the campus is inclusive as there is a long way to go till the entire population understands the meaning of LGBTQ and remove all the misconceptions and rumours about the community. There are many examples where we can see the backwardness of the junta in terms of behaviour towards a person belonging to that community. For one instance, there was a first-year who came out as a person with a gender different from the binary standard. As a result, everyone stopped talking to him and as a prolonged result of this, he slipped into depression and got diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. His dignity in the campus was affected, people in his department got to know about this and as a result, his academics got affected although he was academically sound prior to this. He wanted to leave the institute, but some friends guided him and made him stay back. But, he got a semester back because of this incident.
MM: Rainbow dot is the first LGBTQ+ support group in NITR. What does it aim at and how is it going to achieve its goals and what are some misconceptions regarding this section of the society?
RD: With the opening of this club, the main aim has been to reach out to people who believe or feel that they don’t belong to the binary genders, but are too afraid to come out in the public fearing the consequences and stigma around it. So, we aim to give them the feeling that it is ok to be gay/lesbian etc and give them a platform to be themselves without discriminating against their gender. This has been a very big misconception about Rainbow Dot. The people who are part of this club don’t necessarily belong to LGBTQ, they are open-minded people and accept the fact that there are people with different genders and don’t discriminate them on the basis of that like how the common man does. Rainbow Dot provides them with an environment where they don’t have to be scared or insecure about their gender. Even after clarification, many people still look upon this society and club with disgust. This is also what we told our new inductees to be resistant to during our inductions as well. The misconception that this is a disease or a condition and quite laughably contagious has to be removed first. We are also planning to have an anonymous chat with the ones who are too shy or uncomfortable coming out. We feel that the lack of awareness in society is the root of all this. We are conducting sessions with people coming in from various support groups across Odisha to come and interact with the NITR Junta and help remove all the misconceptions. Collaboration with the Institute Counseling Services is also in the making. The rainbow dot is not just for homosexual people. We don’t have to announce our sexualities. That’s the beauty of it. We are just a group of people present here to spread awareness about something good.
MM: Even though the Supreme Court has decriminalised homosexuality, society hasn't been hospitable. But do you see any positive changes?
RD: Establishing Rainbow Dot in NITR is a very positive thing in itself. The mindsets of people have changed a little. It is legal to just go and say, ‘ I’m gay and it’s fine’. Before the historic Nalsa judgement, people were afraid to accept their own identity and come to terms with it. We don’t need people to come out, it’s their choice.
MM: Many students belong to the community but don't come out of the shell. What's your opinion on that?
RD: It’s your personal choice. You don’t have to write it on your CV. You don’t go around asking people if they’re straight. Our club’s VP Ankita Das talked about the issues regarding LGBTQ community and recited a very beautiful poem. Shivam Shrivastav, our club’s founder, talked about the inception of the club. It wasn’t like the orientations and inductions of other clubs where it’s intimidating and there was no clear set hierarchy in the club like everybody is treated equally. It was a very interactive session with games, quizzes and fun activities. It felt like a family and everybody feels included. We owe it to Shivam Shrivastav and Prof. Sambit Bakshi, without whom it wouldn’t have been possible for the opening of this club. They form the backbone of the club.
Talking about the inception of the club, they said that the administration has been very helpful.
I had thought about opening a club and had approached many Professors too but they were reluctant as it’s a very sensitive issue. Prof. Sambit Bakshi had some contacts in IIT-Bombay and there’s an LGBTQ support group called Saathi. Prof S.K. Patel has been very helpful and co-operative for our club. We’re going to organise an event in BBA and we just want the administration to make it compulsory for the freshers as most of them don’t know that this section of the society exists. I think the problem is with the publicity and we need to spread more knowledge about it.
Shivam Shrivastav, the founder of the club, shared his motives for the revival of the club:
Post 2018 after the repeal of 377, a rainbow wave hit India. India witnessed a series of pride march in the awake of emancipation. Prof. Sambit Bakshi as well was moved by the Rainbow revolution and he came in contact with Saathi of IIT-B (Saathi is an LGBTQ Club in IIT-B where they work to empower LGBTQ students). Being VP of LCS he discussed his idea of opening of such club with the secretaries, I appreciated his idea and responded effectively, then we met and I proposed the name as Rainbow Dot and we discussed about the vision of the club as mitigating stigmatization of the queer individuals and spreading awareness in the campus and nearby. Among all NITs, NITR is the first NIT to have such kind of social club to work specifically for the betterment of the LGBTQ community in the campus and also to city and near by.
MM: What are the achievements and initiatives taken by the Rainbow dot club? What are the plans of the club?
RD: We will organise more events in the future, including a sensitisation march. Forming a club like Rainbow Dot in an orthodox society is a very big achievement too.
Speaking about some of the hindrances they’ve faced, they shared many troubling stories.
I know a girl who is bisexual in the campus. When she came out to her boyfriend, he was shocked and even after she made him understand, he was sceptical. He also got insecure because another girl touched her hand. He thinks that her being attracted to a girl is different from her being attracted to a boy. The girl didn’t join the club as she thought it might harm their relationship. Comments like ‘chhakka, mammu’ traumatise homosexuals a lot on the campus.
Tavishi, B.Tech fresher who’s also a new inductee, shared the following stories:
Most of the people I know are curious about who attended the orientations as they think that only people from the ‘closeted society’ will go for it. Also, it has become a ‘fun game’ for them as they try to guess who is gay or not. It’s very embarrassing and shameful. A friend of mine refused to share the induction poster as she was afraid that she might be labelled homosexual.
Team MM is proud of NIT Rourkela for creating a safe space to promote inclusivity in the campus through Rainbow Dot. We wish them all the best and hope that they meet success in all their brave endeavours.