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If Homosexual Love isn’t Love, Who Defines What Is?

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Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~ Rumi

This legend understood it in the 13th Century which most of the so-called sophisticated and educated people of heterosexual hegemonic regime refuse to understand even today. Or it is just that we don’t have the mettle to understand it. Whatever the reason might be, something is really disturbing about our understanding of love, to be precise in the understanding of same-sex love.

I see people eyeing any gay couple walking down the street (a crude judgment here). One of my friends has a purse and whenever he meets me in the metro, people leave everything important and unimportant and stare at us like we’re alien.

I have overheard many saying, “Ye Ladki wala purse kyun le rakha hai ladke ne?” (Why this guy is carrying a lady’s purse?), “Dusre ke paas nahi hai, dost hain?” (The second guy doesn’t have this, are they friends or what?)

I mean, brother, man, whoever you are, will clothes and bags of ours tell you about our sexuality? Okay, even if they do. So what?

I believe in a very simple logic, if you have a problem, say it. If you have a confusion, get it cleared. If you have any doubt, ask. We’re so open to questions, man. I’m sure if you’ll ask my friend, he can get your cobwebs cleared. Ask me I’ll counsel like a hetero, but fucking keep your scary stare to yourself.

Treat what’s written as an epilogue to the movie “Weekend” which I watched a month ago. Not just the Indian society but wherever this heteronormativity principle rules, people who fall under the LGBTQ+ bracket are going to get reprimanded, not accepted and would be subjected to all kinds of abuse.

A very poignant narrative based on the lives of a lifeguard Russell (Tom Cullen) and an artist Glen (Chris New), “Weekend” movie is directed deftly by Andrew Haigh. I choose to write this epilogue to put things in perspective. There are so many reasons behind homosexual people to remaining closeted. The major factors unsurprisingly are their families and society.

Russell is a closeted individual while Glen is openly gay who came out before his parents at the age of 16 on Mother’s Day. Russell couldn’t because he was raised in foster homes and did not have a family to share this with. After attending a party at a gay club, Russell and Glen are in the former’s bedroom (probably after sex). In the morning, Glen begins to record and asks Russell to tell him what happened between them the previous night. This could be an old habit of Glen’s. He tells Russell that it is for an art project.

Suddenly, Glen climbs down the bed whispering to Russell, “Did you hear that?” Someone is shouting outside, “Queer”. Imagine someone living fourteen floors above the ground and a random jerk is shouting ‘queer’.  How far can this bullying go?

Glen gives a strong reply but Russell is so afraid that he wants him to shut the window and return. After usual conversations, Glen is about to leave. There’s a poignant parallel shown here. Near the elevator, a straight couple is bidding farewell to each other and they kiss. Glen is looking expectantly at Russell but he knows that he is a little afraid of expressing love openly. He smirks and says, “see you soon!”

The scene which affected me the most was this discussion between the two of them sitting on a sofa:

Russell: It’s for an art project, Yeah?
Glen: Yeah.
R: So, Is that What you want to be, you want to be an artist?
G: Kind of.
R: So, and you really don’t have to tell me, how is your tape art project just going to be an art project and not people talking dirty?
You know what I mean.
G: It’s just I’m not sure if… (Grunts)
… people want to hear about the random sex life of strangers. You just don’t want people to hear about your sex life.
R: That’s true.
G: Imagine if everybody was just open about what they did and that everything was normal.
R: Yeah, but people are open, aren’t they?
G: Are they? Gay people never talk about it until it’s a cheap innuendo. It’s like when you sleep with someone whom you don’t know. It becomes this blank canvas and it gives you an opportunity to project onto that canvas who you want to be. Well, what happens is, while you’re projecting who you want to be, this gap opens up between who you want to be and who you really are, and in that gap, it shows you what’s stopping you from becoming who you want to be. They’ll go see movies of refugee, murder or rape. But gay sex? Oh, Fuck off! I told them nature or nurture, it’s your fault so get over it!

I was intrigued by the argument when Glen was shouting at Russell and telling him that people compromise they can’t bear their life by being themselves. No one is themselves. They compromise.

We do compromise, don’t we?

What makes me write this?

I attended a talk at the Indian Habitat Centre which was titled “Beyond 377”. The panellists included a gay magazine founder, an advocate, two civil society individuals working on raising awareness on the subject of sexuality and help sexual minority communities.

After the discussion, during the panellist and audience interaction, a person who has recently written a book about a homosexual relationship spoke up. Through his telling, we came to know that the book has been well-received. We also came to know that he had written the book under a pseudonym so as to hide his real identity from his family. And, as fate would have it, he found his daughter reading it.

He shared that he happened to be well settled and married. He has a 15-year-old daughter now. He was kind of unsure of his sexuality at the time of his marriage, or probably he knew but hid it from his family. But what can he do? He said that he is attracted to men. How to confess this to his wife after years of being in this relationship? And how would his daughter react when she finds out that her father is gay?

Let me draw your attention to this scenario:

“It’s fine yaar! We can’t judge anyone, that was love, c’mon. He happened to be married to this woman and now after a few years, okay after 15 years, he falls in love with another woman. What’s the harm in it? That’s love. Why do we fail to understand this?”

Consider the reaction to the situation mentioned about. Is this the kind of liberal statement you are bound to hear from any sophisticated individual about a heterosexual guy falling for a woman after years of marriage? Probably yes. When I heard the author’s case, I kept thinking whether we as a society would extend the same logic to him? What idea of love do we have when we hear about a man falling in love with another man? In times like these, this is the fundamental question.

I have a doubt and I would like my readers to clear it for me. Do we have a definition of love which is accepted by us because a segment of society wants to accept it? Or, do we understand love as a spectrum of emotions where there are endless possibilities?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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