India’s queer youth find both hope and despair online

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02/13/2024

In 2016, when Roshni Singh was in Class 9, Reliance Jio launched an offer wherein it provided customers with free SIM cards, along with 1 gigabyte of free internet per day. Singh’s parents procured a SIM card for the family, which she would use. The easy access to the internet opened up a whole new world for the teenager from Jamshedpur, Jharkhand. She recounted, for instance, that she began watching a show hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, an American actress and comedian, on her mobile phone. On one episode, the actress Portia de Rossi appeared on the show, and before starting the interview, shared a kiss with DeGeneres. “I was like woah! Is this something that’s normal? I didn’t know that they were married then,” recalled Singh, who identifies as a pansexual woman. Growing up in a traditional family, Singh would wonder why only men and women married each other – but she sensed this was not a question she could ask openly. Watching DeGeneres and de Rossi kiss encouraged her to explore her queer identity. She began to Google questions about same-sex attraction and read blogs on the subject. She would also look up quizzes with titles such as “Am I gay? Am I lesbian?”

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