Ok. We have finally slain a colonial dragon.
I have spent years working closely with the LGBTQ community, met hundreds of them and made some very good friends. Watching them as people struggling for acknowledgment of the identity that they have chosen for themselves and watching them in context, in a social setting where it is like hacking through a dark jungle, there are a few things I have come to realise.
Getting rid of a law is at the same time a victory and a beginning of a new battle. Now that it is established that we are all same and one, people with choices, I think it is time for another major exercise. The part of the verdict that Justice Nariman wrote stuck with me. That there should be periodic efforts to spread the message.
Years ago, I was in Machilipatnam, in Andhra Pradesh, reporting an HIV/AIDS intervention. I met a big group of MSMs (Men who have sex with men), one of the key populations in NGO parlance, and sat with them for many hours. This was just one of the many dozens of such interactions I had across several years with the community.
The team lead told me one of the MSMs, a 19 year old, was very agitated as he has problems with his family. I made him sit next to me and asked him what the problem was. The boy was a late born and an only son and his father was almost 60 now. He was angry that his father was unable to digest the fact that his son was gay.
“My father has no choice. He bloody well accept it.’
I was shocked by the fury and hatred on his face when he spoke about his father.
‘But he is 60. he probably doesn’t have much exposure. And he just got to know about your preference. Should you not give him some time?’ I asked.
“How long will he take? Whatever he thinks, this is my life.”
“Indeed,” I said. “It IS your life. But he is family. Have you tried to explain to him how it is?”
“No, he is crying. I don’t have so much patience. And I am not changing”
“No, you don’t need to change…so give him time. Sit with him. Or take a counselor along. Explain to your parents that this is the situation.”
The boy didn’t seem convinced that this could have come as a shock to his father. But hopefully, he followed my advice.
How to resolve that situation? Can’t tell the boy to just go ahead and assert his identity and shun the family. Can’t tell the father to just forget everything and hug his son. The need was for a bridge where the twain met halfway through.
Now that a major hurdle has been crossed, I believe it is time for communication both ways. We all need to reach out to each other with an open mind and understand that differences exist but they need not impact harmony.
I think it is as much up to society as it is for the community to reach out to each other. In India, in spite of the billion plus people crawling all over the place, it is tragic that we have a dearth of human support, of emotional support systems. Or mechanisms to counsel and facilitate complex relationships. And this absence of support would be most glaring when gay couples want to move on…to logical progression in life. To marry, to have kids. To live as couples in habitations and colonies. The decriminalisation may be something that may bring about a change in the way law enforcement deals with the issue. But, it is now that society’s dormant view may come to the surface, in support or in opposition.
So I believe we have made a great beginning and we should build on it. And become the mature, open, supportive society that we should have been long ago. And it takes all parties concerned to be patient, tolerant, respectful, receptive and understanding of each other’s viewpoints and apprehensions.
Sexual preferences are personal and should not be anyone else’s business except for the two people involved.
Love those relationships and people in those relationships, if you completely understand.
Support if you understand but have your own views.
Keep off at a respectable distance if you don’t understand what it is. This is just another of those things that are beyond our comprehension but we don’t need to judge anyone.
My love and support to all my dear friends for whom this judgment is a direct victory.