I would end up moving twice — once to Ann Arbor to attend college and then to New York City to pursue a career in writing — before coming back to Troy a decade after leaving it. Even after I came back, I was struck by how unchanging this town has been over the years. Maybe a new Starbucks goes up or a new place to get chicken shawarma opens up.
After the economy tanked in 2008, the housing market remained stagnant around Troy. A few storefronts have come and gone since then, but most have remained the same.
In recent years, however, it has evolved noticeably. It became the town that smartly decided two years ago to oust a mayor who had made her disdain for “queers” vocal.
It is a town that is slowly opening its borders up to queer men and women — perhaps not with the enthusiasm of larger metropolitan areas, but any progress is good progress.
With such an all-American hometown, in, every day, every month, every year, my ability to speak fluent Bengali worsens — what was once a smooth road of syllables and sentence structures is now as jagged, uneven, and broken as the very pothole-ridden roads that run through Metro Detroit. By contrast, my ability to play with the English language has only sharpened. Every day conversations with my mother end with her telling me, “I actually stopped paying attention to that last thing you said because you were talking too fast.” I have to remind myself that not everyone shares my penchant for Lorelai Gilmore-inspired banter. My ability to speak fluent Bengali worsens — what was once a smooth road of syllables and sentence structures is now as jagged, uneven, and broken as the very pothole-ridden roads that run through Metro Detroit.
I recall the morning that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was passed, there was a stark lack of horror, or even disappointment, expressed by many queer journalists I followed on Twitter, including those who wrote for larger outlets and enjoyed regular access to the kind of reach that I might enjoy as a fluke. Their parent outlets may have reported on the development — but missing were the op-eds, the incisive thinkpieces. I suppose I was counting on them to care because one of the world’s largest democracies had essentially outlawed queer identity — a ruling that could feasibly set off roll-backs on the queer civil rights developments of the past decade.
I was even more rankled when I noticed journalists in the West more easily summoning outrage over Russian’s human rights abuses than over India’s. Is it because Sochi allows them the perfect news hook for a week’s worth of traffic-spiking thinkpieces? Or is it because India — like Africa and the Middle East, where LGBTQ-related human rights abuses also run rampant — is a land with a variety of dense cultures and traditions that would require some level of education and effort on the journalist’s part to dissect? Does Western media just assume that Indian culture is inherently homophobic and therefore news of Section 377 was, in essence, non-news?
Or is it because journalists in the West — part of a media industry that is known widely for its homogeneity — simply do not know how to sympathize with humans who are members of other cultures enough to dig deeper and ask questions that matter? Was Section 377 just a brown person problem, like anything happening on the other side of the world?
It’s not that coverage was lacking. The ruling was widely reported. But coverage is not horror — and sometimes, you want to feel that the people who you admire are capable of empathy. That they understand why something is horrible.
It was annoying because this was an incident that was missing the same furor that seemed to cloud over similar rulings in Russia.