By Devesh Narayanan:
“What are you working on?”
“I’m writing about homosexual acceptance.”
“Couldn’t you find anything nicer to write about?”
Apparently, I barely have to look beyond my own family to get a glimpse of the stigma around the subject of homosexuality in India. Our society’s attitude towards homosexuality is deplorable, and the legal provisions are even more so.
This is a topic that has united religious leaders all over the country in an unprecedented manner, albeit to voice their homophobic tendencies. ‘This is against Indian culture’ has become the war-cry of the multitude who denounce homosexuality as sacrilegious and abhorrent. Perhaps a change in legislation would humanize the attitude towards the LGBTQI community, but any move would be met with the stiffest of resistance. It will be no small task to change the deep-rooted mind sets of the many Indians who stand up against homosexuality. Which begs the question: will our society ever accept homosexuals as one of our own?
One of my dearest friends is a lesbian, and I was an active part of her two-year struggle to come out to her parents. The many conversations I had with them are still fresh in my mind. “Aunty, it’s perfectly normal to be gay. There are millions of people like your daughter, and there’s nothing you can say or do to change her orientation”
“What bakwaas! Homosexuality is a disease and I’m taking her to the doctor. You know, she’s been watching all those American shows. Putting ideas in her head. She needs a good beating, that’s what she needs”, was her reply.
Well, all I can say is – if American shows were that powerful, she should thank her lucky stars that her daughter hasn’t become a meth drug lord or a psychopath. It is convenient to believe that the West ‘invented’ homosexuality, and are ‘franchising’ it to us like their McDonalds and Subways, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. C. Cass, who authored one among the many research papers about homosexual identity formation, talks about how homosexuality is an example of a normal and natural variation in human sexuality and is not in itself a source of negative psychological effects.
Of course, after the beatings and threatening failed to have an effect, the next step was to get me to ‘talk some sense into her’
“Son, you’ve known her for so long. Why don’t you two, you know, try something? I’m sure you can get her out of this nonsense”
One thing is for sure; sometimes, when Indian parents request you to date their daughters, you know that they’re getting really desperate. I’m pretty certain that I don’t have the looks or the charisma to turn a lesbian woman straight. Well, no one does. You can’t force a person to be someone that they are not. It is a simple question of respecting opinions and valuing an individual’s right to be whoever they want to be. And our society has failed to provide answers on many levels.
Whatever happened to Vikruti Evam Prakriti? Rigveda talks about how that which may seem unnatural, may actually be natural. Our canonical sacred texts seem to be far more tolerant than our 21st century society. It is disturbing to see that our country’s legal take on homosexuality is so archaic that section 377, a ruling that dates back to 1860, is still being enforced today. With Baba Ramdev claiming that he can ‘cure’ homosexuality through yoga, and P.P. Malhotra saying that the decriminalization of homosexuality would be a health hazard, our country has its fair share of figureheads who are leading the society in taking a decisive step backwards.
Granted, given that sexuality in any form has scarcely been discussed in the country, homosexuality may seem a tad difficult for many to understand. But, this can never justify the narrow-mindedness that has become so prevalent. In my opinion, being gay is completely natural, it is the persecution of the LGBTQI community that is unnatural.
My friend recently moved in with her partner, and her family has grudgingly come to terms with her sexual orientation. That’s one family down, millions more to follow. I am cautiously optimistic about the future of the LGBTQI community in India. It is heartening to see a number of people being interviewed in the streets and saying things like “They deserve the choice to do whatever they want” and “I’m not gay but I’m cool with homosexuality”. If only the rest of society was so mature! Gay marriage is perhaps a distant story, but basic humanization and societal acceptance is not much to expect.