5 Grave Problems, Homosexuality & India
Growing up, we’ve all seen Bollywood movies, right?
A macho hero. A beautiful heroine. They romance each other. The end.
There’s also special comic-appearances! Preferably a meek, oddly dressed, gay man. His job is to flirt with all men and play dress-up with the heroine.
He looks funny. He talks funny. He walks funny.
The movie ends. But, the laughter. The cringe. The character. That very image stays put in a million children’s impressionable young minds.
For a homosexual child, it’s not funny anymore. It becomes a matter of shame. Perhaps he was hoping to see a movie about two heroes at the cinema, not only does that disgusts people — it is also supposed to disgust him.
So even though it feels right, he obliges. He begins to hide his truth from the world. From himself.
It’s going to be a difficult journey.
I’d be lying if I said, I was always as vocal about the atrocities faced by gay men. My perception intensified the day one of my best friends from college, opened up to me about his sexuality. It scared me. I remember my first reaction was, “Run away.” He chuckled, “What? Hahaha. It’s fine. I am closeted.” I dismissed him, “Seriously. Finish your degree. Settle in the US. Never look back.”
But. Who am I to banish him from his own country?
Why should he leave? Why is he the one at fault?
Moreover, why is it a ‘fault’?
So many questions. In two minutes.
Imagine the amount of unanswered questions in his mind.
That was two years ago.
Today, he isn’t closeted anymore. Together, with the help of my friend, I’ve listed five problems faced by a gay man in India.
- THE CONSTANT FEAR OF GETTING ABANDONED
Most gay people constantly live in the fear of being termed as an “outcast” as soon as they are out of the closet.
Friends are ‘programmed’ to make fun of them.
Families tend to throw them out and cut all ties.
The fear of getting boycotted is so intense that some of them perfect their act of “being straight” — dating girls, acting tough, shying away from anything remotely “girly”.
2. THE VICIOUS SYSTEM OF LAW & ORDER
India was celebrating the day consensual gay sex was decriminalised in 2009 but — the decision was overturned in 2013.
Hundreds of activists took to the streets and protested.
Finally — on the 6th of September in 2018, Section 377 was scrapped, and the 158-year-old colonial law was abolished. A historic day.
But, what exactly does all this mean? Is it enough?
The truth is, it’s not. Same-sex couples have little to no civil rights.
They still get harassed by policemen, employers and landlords.
The right to live together? The right to have equal employment opportunities? The right to be seen as a ‘couple’ in the eyes of law — to be allowed to make legal decisions for their partner? Urgent health-related decisions? Funeral rights?
They have none.
Our society continues to reject them.
3. GETTING TRAPPED IN THE FANTASY
One of the things, my friend pointed out was — the sympathy he felt for folks ‘getting trapped in the fantasy’.
Many homosexual people trust their straight friends a little too blindly. Especially, the girl who insists on calling him her GBF (Gay Best Friend) for popularity.
Young straight people in India are terrified of the online backlash they might receive for being intolerant or orthodox or well, uncool.
So, they pretend.
To love them. To accept them. To fight the world for them.
A lot of gay men draw strength from their friends’ online-progressive nature to come out of the closet. But, it’s all a mirage.
This fake-friendship saga is just one real-world-problem away from crashing down like a house of cards.
The price gay men pay for ‘getting trapped in the fantasy’ is their lives. We get you’re homophobic but please, just please, do not be secretly homophobic.
4. SELF-HATRED: A SLOW POISON
Imagine living on a planet where being heterosexual is looked down upon. You can only have same-sex relationships. That is the ‘law of nature’ there.
You are the weirdo now. Constantly being bullied. Being subjected to humiliation for something so — personal. For years.
It will scar you. It will force you to believe there’s something wrong with you.
Our world is no better to homosexual people. This self-hatred turns into self-harm in a heartbeat. The minute a perfectly normal person is driven to take their own life for being abnormal, evil wins.
And, we have been helping the bullies for years.
Yes. Our silence makes them stronger.
5. THE DOOMED WEDLOCK
This scares me the most.
In order to ‘fit in’ or ‘please their parents’ countless gay men marry women — pretending to be straight. For generations.
This is dangerous. It destroys many lives.
Two people trapped in an unhappy marriage, being forced to live together and have kids! Why?
More than the man, my heart goes out for the woman in this situation. What a sad state of affairs.
If only our society could live and let live.
The Indian Psychiatric Society had to issue a statement in 2018, to make it clear, “Homosexuality is not a mental illness.”
In nine out of ten Indian households, homosexuality is a taboo topic, a mental sickness. Parents would do anything to “cure” their children — taking them to doctors, to holy preachers; who further dupe them, giving the child some kind of expensive holy treatment to “get rid of it”. This is absolute madness.
It pains me.
Homosexuality was openly accepted in India before colonization.
We had no laws against it till the British walked in and introduced Section 377 in the IPC. Same-sex couples were imprisoned for life. That’s when it all began.
In fact, Indians celebrated same-sex relationships through poems, stories and songs. Both, in Hinduism and Islam.
According to scholars Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai’s groundbreaking 2000 essay collection on same-sex love in India, Hindus embraced a range of thinking on gender and sexuality as far back as the Vedic period, around 4000 B.C.¹ In the Kama Sutra, the character Svairini is described as as a liberated woman who lives either alone or in union with another woman.¹ Many Hindu Gods represent both genders and are being worshipped since generations.
“Male-male attraction” is also “one of the themes of pre-colonial Urdu poetry” writes Vanita about Indian Islamic literature from the 18th and 19th centuries. Some scholars of Islam, also find acceptance of gender fluidity in the Koran, which says that Allah “shapes you in the wombs as He pleases.”¹
Our ancestors were way more open towards gender fluidity than we are.
India is no longer under British rule but we’re still slaves of their strict Victorian conceptions of human sexual behaviour.
Today’s Britain, has shunned all their colonial-era laws and have happily embraced same-sex relationships.
We, on the other hand, continue to play the blame game. Politicians keep targeting the followers of Hinduism and Islam — “It’s against our traditions.” “It’s a sin.” “Unnatural.”
Well. Historic evidence speaks otherwise.
We have a long way to go.
I dream of a day, I wouldn’t have to protect my loved ones for being born a certain way.
I hope I wouldn’t have to ask them to leave their own country.
I hope, one day, we’d stop being bothered by the bodies of a couple and rather bask in the warmth of their souls within.
I hope, one day,