Among my teaching assignments as a faculty member are a course in Sociology of Law for second year law students. LGBT issues are part of the core syllabus, as part of a module that also covers family, marriage and other kinship structures.
Besides lectures, the course also has a two-hour lab exercise on Fridays, that includes group work, skits and other interactive sessions to bring the lecture material to life.
Last Friday, I assigned the students group work to depict, through mime, a prevailing social issue from the syllabus, in about two minutes per group. Each group comprised of five students. One group asked, “Sir, can we present a mime on homosexuality?”
I replied with utmost joy, “Yes. of course! It is part of our syllabus”.
After practising for ten minutes, the group presented the theme as follows:
First, a man proposes to another by kneeling down and offering his hand. The other man accepts his proposal and lifts him up with both his hands, structurally forming a plus sign.
At this juncture a woman appears in the scene and asks the second man to drop the one he was carrying, and hits them both. The second scene depicts ostracism of queer people in a workplace-like set up. In the third scene, a cop comes and handcuffs both individuals, and takes them away, depicting criminalisation of same-gender relationships.
While miming his feelings of love and yearning for his lover, the student playing the role of the man proposing, suddenly blushed and froze, unable to proceed. He stood up and sat again for a re-do. I could understand his difficulty and let him repeat the action. After all, this was his first attempt to put himself in a gay man’s shoes.
While this was happening on stage, I was watching the audience keenly. To my relief, they were attentive. The class applauded spontaneously when one man lifted up the other in the proposal scene. During the other two scenes, the class was silent, indicating they were aware of the grim realities. Once the performance concluded, there was thunderous and long applause.
Other groups presented themes such as callousness of the public in the wake of a road accident, college bullying, dowry, etc.
I shared what happened in my class with my senior academic colleagues. They received the information in a matter-of-fact manner, neither cheering or frowning. But for me, it was not a routine event. My students have made me feel good about them – once again!
I have a long way to go in my efforts to sensitise the academic system. Filters imposed by campus servers prevent me from downloading and showing my own write-ups on queer themes to my students. I continue to wonder how and when I would be able to help establishing a fair and just atmosphere for people who are different from the mainstream.
In the meanwhile, rewards such as my students’ performance in the group exercise are what keep me going.