A 19-year-old boy from Chennai committed suicide on July 2, allegedly over transphobia and homophobia, according to the virtual suicide note he left behind on his Facebook account.
Avinshu Patel’s note read: “Please don’t blame anyone for my death. I am someone you call a hijra … everyone knows that I am a boy but the manner in which I walk, talk and think is like a woman. People in India do not like this fact. This is why I am committing suicide.”
Avi, as he was known by his friends, hailed from Mumbai and had moved to Chennai three months ago to start working at a spa. According to police reports, he called his friend in Mumbai earlier that evening, telling him he wanted to end his life. He was later found at Neelangarai beach by the local police, according to reports by The New Indian Express (TNIE).
TNIE also spoke to the friend, Ishaan Mastry, who said, “He sent me a text around 2.30 afternoon saying he was at a mall with a friend. They had gone out for lunch. Just two hours later he called me and told me he wanted to end his life. He was crying.”
“He told me he had taken poison but did not explain the reason for the drastic decision. He just hung up. I tried calling him back, several times, but there was no answer. At around 9 in the night, he put up that Facebook post, after which his phone was switched off.”
Ishaan Mastry contacted the staff at his salon, who also tried to get in touch with him, but in vain. Next day when the staff called his mobile phone it was answered by a cop, who informed him that he was dead. Mastry added that Avinshu had never mentioned being bullied or harassed before.
According to TNIE a senior police officer said that his family did not want to press any charges. “We investigated, but there are no signs of abuse. We are, however, probing the death.”
In his note, Avinshu also mentions his family. “Please do not blame my family. Help them. We are poor. I love my mom, dad and sister. I thank them for supporting me.” The letter ended with another request to not hold anyone accountable for his death.
The plight of LGBTQ in India
The suicide comes less than a year after the Supreme Court struck down Section 377 of the IPC in September 2018, decriminalised homosexual intercourse. While the LGBTQ community has garnered legal support, the ground realities are still very different.
Homophobia and the society’s treatment and attitude towards the community are yet to change. “Every queer person faces harassment. Section 377 may have been struck down, but it remains a judgment. It has not changed people’s mentality or our everyday lives,” C Moulee, founder of Queer Chennai Chronicles told TNIE. “Not many organisations have anti-discrimination policies to provide LGBT+ individuals with safe spaces.”
A recent report by the JAMA Pediatrics, who pooled data of 35 studies and analysed over 2.5 million adolescents, found that sexual minority youths were at higher risk of exhibiting life-threatening behaviours, such as suicide, as compared with heterosexual peers. Transgender youths were the most affected, nearly six times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual peers, followed by bisexual and homosexual teens.
If you know someone – friend or family member – at risk of suicide, please reach out to them. The Suicide Prevention India Foundation maintains a list of telephone numbers (www.spif.in/seek-help/) they can call to speak in confidence. You could also accompany them to the nearest hospital.
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