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Finding Love in Mango Groves: Evolving Queer Culture in Rural India

Beneath the redolent canopy of a mango grove, where sunlight dapples the soil and the air is thick with the scent of the scrumptious ripening fruit, a rainbow of possibilities and love unfolds. In the heart of rural India, amidst traditions as ancient as the banyan trees, a vibrant queer culture is taking root. Forget the city lights and buildings reaching for the sky—here, love finds its melody in the rustling leaves and the whispered secrets shared under a starlit sky.


The Average LGBTQ+ Experience in India

India is a land renowned for its rich diversity and culture. But is diversity a baseless badge of honor or is there actual merit to our claim?

“Congratulations,” says the doctor in the delivery room, “you’ve been blessed with a boy.” Ten years later, the beautiful boy, who has been taught to like cars, build muscles, and bring home a beautiful wife one day because long live the lineage, finds himself trying to drape his mother’s red saree around his tiny waist, wearing glass bangles on his bony wrists, and testing hues of pink and red on his lips—all of this hidden from his loved ones. He shrugs off his dreams as if shedding feathers from his wings, and continues suppressing his heart’s desires.

Half a decade goes by, confused, concerned, and full of self-loathing. The boy now turns fifteen, and a tsunami of never-felt-before feelings comes crashing down with a secret he has been keeping inside the enclosed fists deep in the pockets of his khaki pants. Of course, he is a boy, what other reason could he possibly have to believe otherwise? Wasn’t the Biology teacher extremely clear when he mentioned, “Class, there are only two genders: males and females”? Alas, “only two genders”—his ears bear the weight of his teacher’s statement for many years to come.

Experiences like this are repeated over and over across lower- and middle-class families in India. LGBTQ+ life in India is a story not of absolutes but one of a thought-provoking evolution. It’s a testament to the human capacity for love to adapt, to redefine itself within the constraints of tradition. It’s a conversation starter, a call for empathy and understanding.


A History of India’s LGBTQ+ Culture

Queer culture is not a new concept in India influenced by the West. In fact, in the sacred verses of the Hindu scripture, Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, the portrayal of transgender individuals resonates with a profound sense of inclusivity and reverence for diversity. Trans people are not marginalised but rather celebrated as the embodiment of divine balance and fluidity. These narratives transcend the so-called “societal norms” and preach to us to perceive beyond binaries and recognise the beauty within every soul with mutual respect, regardless of gender identity. So how come evolution is having an inverse effect on us all?

According to a report by Kinsey Scale, India is home to the largest LGBTQ+ community with 10% of India’s population identifying themselves as a part of the Indian queer community. This statistic doesn’t merely serve as a numerical data point but also highlights individuals who defy societal norms with valor and embrace their authentic selves. Yet, beyond the crunched numbers lies a deeper narrative—one of human rights, equality, and the ongoing journey towards societal acceptance and inclusion.

Unlike the well-trodden path of India’s urban LGBTQ+ landscape, queer love in rural India isn’t a parade banner, but a stolen glance across a bustling village market, a secret confided under the hawk eyes of generations past. Let us embark on a journey of the evolving queer culture outside of urban cities guided by the voices of three remarkable individuals whose lives are woven into the fabric of their communities.



Vibrant and resplendent in a red-clad saree and adorned with the music of jingling red bangles, Sumira, in the radiant aura of new-found love, graces the room where I wait to interview her. A transgender woman, Sumira wears her identity with pride. A surge of warmth floods my heart at the sight of Sumira, a living testament to the triumph of love in its purest form.

She greets me with a gleeful smile. “Ask away,” she proclaims, “for I am an open book, freshly inked with the chapter of marriage.” I offer my congratulations, eager to delve into her story.

“I am a loco-pilot, and I recently got married to a transgender male, and ours was a typical arranged marriage,” she says. Loco pilots operate and drive trains, or locomotives.

I proceed to ask if she had to overcome many obstacles to succeed in this union. Sumira shares, “It’d be wrong of me to say that I haven’t faced my fair share of challenges, but eventually, I was met with unwavering support from my parents. Gradually, they began to educate themselves about the intricacies of the transgender community, fostering an environment of understanding and acceptance. They ensured they prioritized my happiness and accepted me for who I am.”

For each story like Sumira’s, swirling with the liberating symphonies of empowerment, there are others struggling within the dissonant chords of oppression.



With a graceful demeanor and a glint of anticipation in their eyes, Masoom, embracing their identity as a transgender woman, utters with a tender voice, “I’m quite thrilled about this interview; it marks a significant first for me.”

Her words float in the air, carrying a sense of hope and determination. I reciprocate their smile and delicately broach a question, “Have you ever been in love?”

Masoom, drawing from their inner resilience, shares a story of love tinged with sorrow. She speaks of falling for someone who lived overseas and experiencing a painful separation owing to their beloved’s parents. Ensnared by prejudice and tradition, her partner’s parents stood as formidable barriers, denying the possibility of a union of their child with a “hijra,” an Indian term for transgender steeped in derogatory connotations.



By day, Purnima is a devoted single father to three lovely children. By night, they are a reluctant participant at the hands of coercion, in the grim dance of forced sex work. Once a beacon of knowledge in the classroom, Purnima’s tenure as a revered schoolteacher was abruptly truncated when their sexuality came to light unannounced. This not only stripped them of their livelihood but also shattered their carefully constructed facade of acceptance.

I delve into the labyrinth of emotions and ask Purnima if they ever had a “special” someone. Purnima opens up, “My heart harboured love for my Bengali tenant. For seven years, our love for each other felt like an eternal flame, which would blaze the path of our forever and would set us free. I don’t think it was possible to be so madly in love with someone. However, my dream soon met with its fate as it hung like a curse for being the “ideal son,” who’d bring home a bride.” Purnima’s words hang in the air, yet another incomplete love story.

“What does freedom mean to you?” I ask. Freedom, elusive yet sought after, lies deeply manifested in the clandestine moments of self-expression for Purnima. They find it in their sanguine act of adorning a saree and a bindi under the shroud of night. But as the dawn breaks, and they return home, freedom evaporates like mist, leaving behind the jarring reality of societal expectations and the bitter taste of confinement, as they watch the very doors of their home turn into prison doors.

Returning to where it all started, beneath the mango canopy, the symphony of evolution plays on as the voices of Sumira, Masoom, Purnima, and countless others emerge against the traditional backdrop of rural India. Similar to the banyan tree, rooted in ancient traditions, India’s branches are strong enough to hold both age-old norms and the blossoming buds of acceptance. The fundamental question lingers: will acceptance bloom, or will societal shadows stunt its growth? Here, a revolution awaits to be written.




Writer Aarushi Verma for Tagg Magazine.
Aarushi Verma
Aarushi Verma, a 21-year-old freelance writer from India, has been weaving stories since her early school days. With a pen in one hand and a yearning for adventure in the other, she aspires to travel the world, collecting experiences that fuel her writing. Beyond writing, Aarushi is a passionate artist. Photography allows her to capture fleeting moments, while music serves as the spark for her soul. Amid her endless passion for art, she also loves spending her time exploring the realm of art through the world of cinema. Aarushi's love for writing knows no bounds. She enjoys all forms but finds particular joy in the freedom of creative writing and the social impact of exploring contemporary issues that surround our society. She hopes to make films or write scripts for movies/short films one day.