Periclean Scholars Class of 2023 releases multimedia project documenting Tamil LGBTQIA2S+ experiences in Sri Lanka

The project’s website hopes to educate people in the U.S. by disseminating and lifting up the lived experiences of community members living in Sri Lanka’s north and east.

The Periclean Scholars Class of 2023 has released a web-based multimedia project that documents and shares the lived experiences of Sri Lankan citizens that identify as LGBTQIA2S+.

For the past three years, the scholars have been involved in an invited partnership with two LGBTQIA2S+ organizations in Tamil-majority areas in the north and east of Sri Lanka and have been working to assist them in disseminating their personal narratives to a wider international audience. During this time, the scholars compiled and edited the narratives they collected into this comprehensive multimedia project.

Titled “Strength and Resilience: Lived LGBTQIA2S+ Experiences in Sri Lanka,” this project uses an engaging mix of videos, text, audio clips and still photography to provide insight into the lived experiences of people living in the Tamil-majority cities of Jaffna and Batticaloa. This work serves as a capstone to the graduating cohort’s work in allyship with, and advocacy for, Sri Lankans that identify as LGBTQIA2S+.

Members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community in Sri Lanka face substantial marginalization at both the hands of the state and civil society. Article 365 of the Sri Lankan Penal Code criminalizes same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults, and strict social norms related to binary gender roles, marriage and heterosexuality facilitate deeply entrenched discrimination against anyone who differs from these socially constructed norms. Sri Lankans who identify as LGBTQIA2S+ face frequent negative bias in the workplace and in their home communities and are often unjustly targeted and abused by police and other state actors.

Although members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community in Sri Lanka face significant bias, discrimination and harassment, this multimedia project focuses on the strength, power and resilience of these community members against the challenges that they confront daily. This project is intended to both educate non-Sri Lankans regarding the lived experience of Tamil LGBTQIA2S+ community members and showcase their resistance against social, political and legal structures that seek to criminalize and diminish their diverse identities.

A brief note on language: Throughout the project, the term “queer” is widely used, both in text and spoken words from the members of the Sri Lankan LGBTQIA2S+ community and Elon students. In Sri Lanka, the English word “queer” does not have a history of use as a pejorative. Rather, it is used as an affirming umbrella term, and is the self-descriptor preferred by the community members the Scholars partnered with.