By Uzair Belgami:
The debate on homosexuality, the topic that parents don’t dare to speak about (“quickly change the channel!”), and youth can’t stop speaking about (“dude, that’s so gay!”), needs to be understood from a more fundamental perspective. Before discussing on whether it is alright to “prefer the same sex, for sex”, I believe we need to first discuss ‘sexuality’. What does one’s ‘sexuality’ mean? What is the ‘purpose’, if any, of a ‘sexuality’? Is sexuality something that is innate, or something that is socio-culturally imbibed? If people are free to choose their sexuality without inhibition, what shall we opine regarding bestiality, incest, even masochism?
In my opinion, the question of homosexuality, or to be more precise – sexuality itself, is not just one of choosing a simple trivial yes/no question (is it okay/not okay); and we have to strive to help emancipate the discourse from such simplifications and generalizations. It is more than a question of sexuality, and rather expresses where a person chooses to locate his worldview, his outlook to life, “where he is coming from”. The values a person chooses to adhere to, whether coming from religion, an ideology, from the popular sitcom “Dexter”, or even not choosing to have any “values” (which in a way is ascribing to a particular value in itself) — all shape the way one would approach questions in life, including sexuality. And hence the debate now is not just of sexuality, but of a worldview itself.
With these initial remarks, which were intended to put the issue in perspective and bring in the necessary complexities, a point which needs to be talked about is homophobia. Homophobia, is firstly, not a phenomenon restricted to our country (we have enough of those, I garner!) and its manifestations can be found in countries all over the planet, from hangings in some African countries to academic writings by right-wing university professors in America. In my opinion, homophobia and all other forms of ‘intolerance’ and ‘demonization’ need to be strongly condemned. However, I believe that does not imply that we become phobic to “homo-phobes”. Rather, understanding their perspectives and their intentions for which they believe their actions are sanctioned is very important if we want to move forward together. I believe asking everyone to accept the sanctity of a person’s decision/inclination towards a particular sexuality is not necessary or to-be-expected, but asking everyone to accept the sanctity of a person’s freedom to make that choice is necessary, regardless of our differences with that choice. The debate and discussion must be held open and involve all positions, in order for us to grow as humans.
In India, I believe there are many conditions which contribute to the growth of homophobia. I think these factors are contributory not only to homophobia in specific, but to a general wave of ‘intolerance of the other’. Whether homophobia is a ‘new’ or ‘growing’ phenomenon in India is a question that needs to be analysed, as it is only quite recently that the issue has acquired public spotlight. Of course not to imply that homophobia and even violence against people of ‘different’ sexuality never existed. The growth of right-wing organisations in the country’s political and social landscape are an important phenomenon which, in my opinion, have led to a persisting prevalence of homophobia. An interesting feature of such organisations, who even though may be quite different in their objectives and inspirations — still share the same opinions when it comes to issues such as ‘gender’, ‘sexuality’ or dealing with the ‘other’ in general. I believe patriarchy and the gender stereotyping that is characteristically prevalent in Indian society also contribute to an image of ‘gender’ that is challenged by the idea of homosexuality, and hence this patriarchy and stereotyping of genders contribute to homophobia. A simplistic & literalist understanding of religion and religious positions by both the followers of a particular religion and critics of it too lead to an interpretation that so-and-so religion encourages people to be homophobic. A last factor I would like to mention, which is often undiscussed, is the lack of engagement between different positions and people of different understandings of sexuality. This in turn leads to demonization, misrepresentation and ‘stone-throwing’ (in some countries, literally!).
In conclusion, my opinion on homosexuality, I would like to state is a work in progress. I don’t pretend to have reached a final ‘solution’ or position. However, I believe in the ‘humanization’ of humans, rather than their ‘de-humanization’, and in the value of being ‘non-judgemental’. I also think that to not endorse homosexuality and to be homophobic are two separate, not necessarily coinciding positions. And I can never agree with the blind intolerance, demonization or generalization against any group of people or idea. I believe all humans, are humans. Until proven otherwise.