Chennai Dost, an online portal, has been actively involved in providing support to the nearly-invisible LGBT community in Tamil Nadu ever since its 2008 launch,
According to Vikranth Prasanna, founder of Chennai Dost, his website’s clientele represents the tip of the iceberg of Tamil Nadu’s LGBT population. “Not more than 20 to 30 per cent of the LGBT community has come out of the closet,” he remarks.
Prasanna feels that urbanisation has contributed to the increase in acceptance of the community in cities, but rural areas have a long way to go in this regard.
“The transgender community is more accepted in Tamil Nadu, as compared to gays and lesbians. They are slowly being recognised as a part of Tamil culture,” says Prasanna.
“One of the main problems is visibility. If the community is more visible, it will lead to more acceptance of alternate sexuality,” he observes.
According to him, financial independence is key to asserting one’s sexual identity, especially in rural areas. “We help people at the grassroots level find jobs,” adds Prasanna.
Sanjay (name changed), a student, states that given the rampant discrimination against the LGBT community in workplaces and educational institutions, organisations like Chennai Dost may prove helpful.
“With a platform like this, we get to interact with others who have faced similar problems. Empathy helps in dealing with these issues,” he says.
He cites the Tamil film industry as an example of the stereotyping that the community faces. “Tamil comedians make their money by making our community the butt of their jokes,” adds Sanjay.
Chennai Dost runs a 24×7 peer counselling service which gets an average of three calls per day, along with sensitisation and awareness programmes targeting the youth. “We concentrate on students so that the next generation should know and act better,” reasons Prasanna.
Event though gay marriages are not officially recognised in India, Chennai Dost’s recently-introduced LGBT matrimonial service has not received any legal objections and has received around 500 applicants.
The site has 3,000 registered members and 5000 people are actively involved with its operations.
“Our online presence is to make sure that no one in the community feels alone,” elaborates Prasanna.