By Tina Acharya:
Last year there was a YouTube advertisement depicting lesbians that created ripples in social media with three millions hits. The ad was produced by an apparel company Anouk for their ethnic wear collection with the punch line ‘Bold Is Beautiful’.
I must admit, I was not one among those first three million YouTube visitors who watched India’s first lesbian advertisement The Visit and made it go viral. I didn’t watch it, not because I wasn’t aware of it but, because I have never been interested in issues concerning the LGBT community. To be honest, I was one those people who treat issues related to the LGBT as taboo. So, I hardly ever read anything about them, other than for general knowledge when ‘Section 377’ hit the headlines.
Even Manabi Bandopadhyay, India’s first transgender college principal, didn’t interest me enough. One can say that I was quite indifferent, if not insensitive, about them, their problems and struggles. In fact, things wouldn’t have changed had a friend of mine not suggested that I explore further about the community. I would never have known about their struggles and their reality. That is until I saw The Visit.
As I explored (a bit unwillingly), I was stunned to discover the reality. The advertisement, The Visit, actually made me re-visit my biased perceptions.
Homosexuality – how uncommon it is, you may say – is a reality that has existed on earth since time immemorial. Our scriptures have prominent characters who were homosexual. The character of Shikhandi in the Mahabharata is a famous example. One can find enough evidence of it in the rock paintings of Ajanta and Elora as well.
However, I really wonder why such famous characters are never found in modern history. For example, we never get to hear the story of a lesbian or gay freedom fighter. Why? Did they not exist? Or were they never recorded, or were they edited out? Why have their achievements (I don’t feel that there are none) never been made a part of our collective memory?
In fact, it is a mystery as to why and when the LGBT community became unacceptable in our social life when ancient scriptures and art forms clearly have depictions of them? I didn’t find any time-line of our changing perceptions of them. They are present outside of our temple sculptures and ancient, and not-so ancient, scriptures as well. You know it, I know it and everybody else knows it. But the very mention of this subject is treated as a crime. It is taboo and cannot be discussed among family members, let alone accepting someone from amongst us who is gay or lesbian. The taunts and ridicule are unbearable.
It is really appalling that our society and culture doesn’t accept these individuals as regular human beings. Some cultures treat them as unnatural aberrations while others consider them to be diseased. Some homosexual persons are ‘treated’ with something called ‘corrective rape‘, often perpetrated by family members, to change their sexual orientation. How terrible this is! Further, they struggle in society to find a source of livelihood to support themselves, to find an accommodation and even to feel accepted at social gatherings or functions. All this, while fighting the perennial problems of hate, suspicion and the mocking glances of people.
As we know, like any other living beings, humans too, have the natural urge for sex that is vital to their well being. It is unfair and insensitive to discriminate against people just for having a different sexual orientation. It doesn’t make them any less human, does it? It is insanely inhuman to judge them unfairly because their sexual orientation is not in line with social ‘norms’. Every individual has a legitimate right to choose the kind of sex they want. Whether it is moral or immoral should be left to the individual’s wisdom.
Section 377 (I don’t know why it was drafted at all) is inhuman as it prohibits a sizeable community of people from leading a normal life. It’s time now to scrap it immediately and to recognise their identity as human beings. For the LGBT community, it will be a start. But they would still have a long way to go before they are accepted by the majority.
The society needs to revisit some uncomfortable realities instead of being so rigid and imposing the majority’s opinion. We must understand that our opinion about them is not their reality, but our opinion certainly affects their reality.