NEW DELHI: Eighteen years since India witnessed its first pride, the LGBTQIA+ community has come a long way. Whether one assists or opposes or chooses to remain indifferent is a matter of uncertainty and quite often social pressures too. Stigmas although still prevalent seem to have gradually reduced and with the emerging support groups across the country, there is always scope for a better future.

The Queer & Ally (Q&A) Network was established in Manipal, Karnataka on February 5, 2017. An endeavour towards creating a safe, accepting, queer-friendly space for the university town populace, this student-run group refuses to conform to stereotypical, societal ‘normalcy’.

Angad Gummaraju, one of the co-founders of Q&A and a 2nd year student at Kasturba Medical College, Manipal speaks on the various misconceptions encircling gender terminology.

“Gender neutrality is something that people use to relate to behaviour, clothing, and other superficial things concerning external expression. But sometimes the term 'gender neutral' may be used to describe a non-conforming gender identity," stated Angad.

While explaining that one needs to understand that gender identity and sexual orientation are two different things he said, “Gender identity is how your brain perceives your gender; it's your psychological sex. Sexual orientation is who you're attracted to.”

He also mentioned that gender fluidity is experienced by a lot of people and is a gender identity that isn't fixed and changes with time. They believe in a wider range of gender expressions rather than the superficial male/female or masculine/feminine.

On being asked about the challenges faced he said that before Q&A was a pan-university entity, he had tried to start it in his own college. “The truth is, we're mind-numbingly unaware of anything LGBTQIA+ as a society, and despite our knowledge of the human body, the medical fraternity is particularly homophobic/transphobic and that continues to be a problem,” he deliberated.

While some hate, like an online troll is obvious and can be easily dealt with, systemic hate, especially when it runs deep at higher levels, is something that the network is yet to deal with.

Anirudh Gupta, another co-founder added, “Something that I think isn't very clear about Q&A is that we are primarily a place to get your questions answered, hence the name.”

Q&A is a humble, safe, interactive and highly confidential place where one can go when in need of a helping hand, a listening ear, or just some answers.