Indian fans of teen comedies were startled when it was revealed that “Love, Simon” — the new film based on the bestselling novel about a gay American teen — would not be opening as scheduled earlier this month.

The reason? Some reports say that India’s Censor Board rejected the film because of its portrayal of a gay relationship. The blog Feminism in India notes that most fans only found out the film would not be screening when their attempts to find showtimes and purchase tickets failed. “It’s ironic that on Pride Month, the release of ‘Love, Simon’ has been pushed back indefinitely in India,” Feminism In India editors tweeted.

LGBT and free speech advocates immediately began calling for a reversal of the decision, with many petitions calling on moviegoers to speak out about the decision. “It’s been more than 2 months and the LGBT+ community has been patiently waiting for the movie which finally gives the community some representation,” wrote Muskan Mundra, the creator of one such petition. “India has lacked a mainstream powerful representation of its LGBT+ citizens for a long time. Although not Bollywood, this film could not only encourage LGBT kids to come out but also educate parents about what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual etc.”

“Love, Simon” is based on a bestselling young adult novel by Becky Albertalli. Twentieth Century Fox

Social media users also began using hashtags like #ReleaseLoveSimonInIndia to express their displeasure with the decision. “There is a big need of LGBTQIA+ representation in India. Every day, someone is harassed for being their true self,” the women’s rights organization CREA tweeted. “Their biggest challenge is the myth that being gay, lesbian or queer is “Western culture.”

As for the Indian Censor Board, at least two members have publicly pushed back against the use of the phrase ‘banned’ with regards to its treatment of the film. “This is one more attempt to use the censor board to gain publicity for a  film,” one board member anonymously told the Deccan Chronicle. “The truth is Love, Simon was not released in India for the same reason Call Me By Your Name was not released. There is no audience interest in India for films on homosexuality.”

It should be noted that the Oscar-winning screenplay for ‘Call Me By Your Name’ was written by James Ivory, who among other things was the longtime partner of the Bombay-born Ismail Merchant. As for the supposed lack of audience for Indian films with LGBT themes, we encourage readers to check out our list of Bollywood movies that got LGBT representation right.

Image credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Related coverage: Members of India’s LGBT community speak out in new viral video

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