In another guest piece, Vijay from Vannam writes about gender and sexuality, and the struggles of those who don’t conform, within the campus. This is the fifth piece in our Gender Series.
Humans are accustomed to hierarchical ordering, and gender and sexuality is not an exception. To start with two genders, male is always kept at the top and female comes always after. And needless to say, those who do not conform to these two binary divisions are eventually kept after them. Even within the binary paradigm, achievements and aggression are almost always assigned to males, while calmness and flexibility are assigned to females. A male core can be successful in an event out of his own set of skills, while the success of a female core is attributed only due to the other male volunteers around her.
One of the mails about registering for internship opportunities sent to the students’ mail start with the quote “Real men do internships.”
Ponder upon: What measures do the institute take about pruning gender skewness in its activities?
When a person behaves out of the commonly allowable behaviours of their assigned gender, the society shows a crooked face. A perceived female student has to behave in a certain manner in order to get the acceptance of their colleagues. If, for instance, they dress up in shirt and pant, and walk in a “manly” way, they are being looked upon. This prolonged non-acceptance of the people around them leads to loneliness, depression, and eventually to mental trauma. Especially in a campus setup, not having a proper space to share their feelings related to gender in their formative years of their life poses a heavyweight on their happiness, career, and day-to-day activities.
Vannam has received negative feedback about some Medall counselors being not receptive and being prone to suggest drugs instead of listening to and addressing the root cause.
Ponder upon: How is the counselling available in the institute rated? Is there any option to provide feedback?
The other transition from male to female is not happy either. One who is assigned male at birth but who wants to be a female faces a harsh life in the institute. Their male friends frown upon their behaviour of having “fallen” to the level of a female from a male. Be it their dressing, way of speech, and gait, the transgender students have to face teasings from other students everyday. It is of no use complaining to their faculty advisors either, since most of the faculty and staff in the institute are unaware of gender and sexuality issues. Furthermore, as recorded in The Fifth Estate survey about gender-based harassment, even faculty can be sources of sexual harassment of students.
Vannam has received an anonymous complaint from a research scholar who was teased by fellow lab students and also mocked by the research guide a few times due to their dressing behaviour.
Ponder upon: What type of awareness has been given to the faculty and staff regarding the perception of gender and sexuality? What feedback system is available in the institute to provide feedback about the faculty regarding personal interactions in addition to the teaching feedback?
Vannam, as the campus LGBTQ+ support group, collaborates with MITR or Saathi to conduct awareness activities such as invited talks, panel discussions, and movie screenings in the campus. While we are well aware that a social change can happen only slowly and the student attendance in these events are usually within the finger-and-toe count as expected, it is sad to see our officially stamped event posters pulled down by anonymous students within a day in Himalaya. Perhaps it reiterates the very need of the existence of our group in the institute.
What can each of us do?
- Give an ear to your friends when they want to talk to you.
- If your friends come out to you as a transgender/homosexual/bisexual, do not treat them differently from before.
- Do not make fun of anyone just because they are different from the perceived average behaviour.
Note: Vannam is the institute’s student-run support group for students who identify differently and/or belong to the LGBTQIA+ group. You can learn more about them at and contact them here.