Times Out & Proud: A Classified Section Dedicated to the LGBTQIA+ Community

“Dad, I like women,” said Surabhi Raut in a short film titled ‘Times Out and Proud’ published by the ET Times on May 16 –  International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.

The film is part of Times of India’s #TimesOutandProud campaign which aims to give space to the LGBTQIA+ community to share their coming out stories, seek like-minded partners and look for accommodation in areas where they are not looked down upon. This space is provided in the paper’s classified section, which generally hosts short ads related to marriage, job openings, business and so on.

The film features members from the LGBTQIA+ community talking about their lives and struggles and how they went about writing their stories for the classified section. On May 20, the second page of the newspaper had ads carrying their stories.

The campaign, according to the Times of India, aims at providing a medium to the community and create a safe space for them. The film, towards the end, says: “We always had a place in our heart. Now you have a place in our newspaper.”

The campaign stands firm on the opinion that society must not discriminate against someone on the basis of his, her or their sexual orientation.

In September 2018, the Supreme Court read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Since then, there have been multiple initiatives in the country to create an inclusive environment for the LGBTQIA+ community in different fields.

A few weeks back, a Bengaluru-based organisation called the Pride Circle hosted a job fair for the community in the city, inviting representatives from different multinational companies from across the country. Similarly, in April, a Mumbai-based doctor opened a health clinic in the city, specifically for the lesbian, gay, transgender and the queer community, The Guardian reported.

However, despite such initiatives, social stigma against the LGBTQIA+ community still persists in society.

Last year, a play titled ‘Shiva’, about the issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community, was allegedly postponed to another day after right-wing outfits raised objections over it. According to the Economic Times, the members from the right-wing group found the content of the play “offensive” and “against their religious sentiments.”

The Times campaign, hence, wants to change an entrenched social perception which still hasn’t faded away. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community have lauded the initiative. Filmmaker Onir, who made films like My Brother..Nikhil and I AM, supported the campaign saying that there should be a conversation around building an inclusive environment for his community, the Times of India reported.

Grace Banu, a trans rights activist, also praised the campaign. However, she suggested that the newspaper should also reach out to the LGBTQIA+ members belonging to Dalit, Muslim and Bahujan communities to make the initiative more inclusive.

“Generally, such campaigns include voices from the upper-caste gentry of our community and overlook the voices from the margins. The campaign organisers must reach out to all the sections and also ensure that the editorial team doesn’t cut short their stories before publishing it on the paper’s classified page. Other than that, I think it is a very good step,” she said.

The paper has also invited entries from allies of the LGBTQIA+ community to “share their support for their LGBTQ friend or relative.”

Featured image credit: Screengrab of the Times of India’s e-paper