The Glass Closet¹ – clear, painted, transparent, translucent, opaque even, sometimes offering a mirror of distortions, sometimes one of clarity, refracting, or creating chiarscuros of rainbows or endless shades of grey – is an attempt to bring together some everyday stories of queer experiences on campuses in India.
With the increasing visibility of queer lives and queer issues in Indian urban space in general, and in higher educational campuses in particular, many young people are asserting their identities. Many continue to live through their campuses as interlopers or aliens.
Even as we get to hear coming out stories or stories of discrimination faced by queer students on campus, often we miss out stories of people’s everyday negotiations, survival and little triumphs in these spaces. This blog, the glass closet, attempts to bring out some such stories through various forms of expressions such as articles, poems, comics, artworks or photographs by students who are currently on campus.
This blog has emerged as a part of a research project titled, “An exploratory study of discriminations based on non-normative genders and sexualities” which is located in The Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies, TISS, Mumbai. In this project research, while we want to create documentation on discriminations faced by individuals on the basis of non-normative gender or sexuality in different areas, we also want to understand the meanings of discriminations and non normativities as reflected in our everyday. One of these areas is higher education where our focus is to understand the enabling factors and negotiations that take place while entering these spaces and surviving within them. This blog is one outcome of one of the processes part of this research.
The higher education research team consists of Chayanika Shah and Ditilekha. One of our aims is to find different ways of talking about the experiences of being in higher education, and not just within the language that the university pushes us all to aspire to. To this end we organised two writing workshops, one in Kolkata and another in Bombay, with 14 students from campuses in Bombay, Bangalore, Kolkata, Bhuveneshwar, Banaras and Guwahati. These interactive workshops were facilitated by Shals Mahajan and helped create a space where those attending shared some of their experiences and concerns.
These discussions and writings from the workshops enabled us to form a loose collective with several students, placed in different University campuses across the country to share their writings and give and receive feedback from each other and the facilitator. This blog is the collective effort of that group. The individual authors are listed in the authors page and will be filing multiple entries to this blog.
The title of the blog too came out from this process. In the very first workshop, one person referred to their experience of being on campus as living in a glass closet and the ensuing discussion led to a writing exercise and you will find some of those here. Later, while deciding on the name of the blog, it came out as a front runner in extensive discussions and a poll with Campus Interloper and Campus Alien not too far behind.
We are aware that our stories are perhaps a small insignificant slice of the wide range of experiences that many are living. Thus we would like to open this blog to invite submissions from other “queer” identified students to write about their stories and experiences of their lives within campuses. If you would like to submit your stories kindly write in to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For details on how to write for us click here.
Chayanika, Shals and Diti
 We are aware that in the 1990s the word glass closet became popular as a phrase to associate the state in which a person’s sexual orientation maybe known to many but they may not acknowledge it publicly. As the blog pieces suggest there are many more interpretations that are possible.