Saturday, October 01, 2005

Negative Matching, Positive Mating

This is truly absurd. And the media is even promoting this absurdity as the “need of the hour” – instead of making people aware of their folly.

The immediate provocation for this post is of course a front-page report in the Bombay Times of 25 September 2005 that says more and more couples want to get each other tested for HIV before marriage just the way it’s a practice to match horoscopes. Whether it’s a trend is questionable – the last time I was closely involved in match-making was more than 5 years ago when my cousin was eager for a bride. And I do not yet expect someone about to be engaged to talk about how their HIV tests are negative/positive and the marriage proposal is at the next state of negotiation/finalized. Especially at a time when HIV is still the ‘disease’ that dare not speak its name. (This week’s report in The Indian Express Mumbai Newsline on the inhuman treatment – pardon the pun – of HIV positive patients is enough proof if any were needed. If medical personnel can be so bigoted, why fault the lay person?).

Coming back to the issue of pre-marital testing, it’s no wonder that this ‘trend’ started in rural India – this is not an ideal world so perhaps in the real world information gets infected by the time it is transmitted from scientific journals to the Indian villager. I remember reading media reports on at least two villages – one in Punjab and the other in Maharashtra (scroll down each page to read the respective story ) – that proposed making HIV testing compulsory. (Even Goa, had this idea before better sense prevailed – and kudos to the Times journo for this report.) A crazy idea doesn’t take time to take root in a climate of fear and ignorance, a climate where even talking about safer sex is shameful. (Of course, there’s the other extreme of Pune’s Osho Ashram – or whatever the official name for this ghetto now – where this business of HIV testing really started, but then we know why they have such a strong fear.) So don’t ask me what these guys were smoking when they came up with the idea.

Ask what some of today’s journos and lawyers smoke though. Instead of pointing out the ludicrousness, the media publicizes the ‘trend’ and helps society give it sanction. The Bombay Times feature even espouses the idea (“the situation in the urban areas has improved with many couples willing to go through the test”). Then there’s this gem of a quote attributed to an advocate (as in lawyer) from a organization that calls itself the Maharashtra Law Graduate Association. (The MLGA has even filed a public interest litigation asking for pre-marital HIV testing to be made compulsory!) The report reads: “a considerable number of women have contracted the virus post marriage. “It may happen the other way round too where a man contracts the virus after marriage. However, most cases that we’ve come across are where women become victims of this.” Need one spell out why the idea is daft and self-defeating?

Has anyone heard of the window period? That’s the three-week to three-month period when the virus does not show up in a HIV test even though you are carrying it. What if A who is infected marries B in the window period, and even makes B pregnant during this time? And what if A gets infected after marriage whether through sex outside marriage or any of the other modes of transmission? Ok, forget HIV, what if A has Hepatitis B which transmits even more easily than HIV and can be fatal as well? While we are testing, we might as well test for STIs. And tuberculosis as well, which most of us carry anyway. The Sindhis, Kutchis, etc. test for thalasasemia. Heck, let’s test the genes of all brides and grooms as well and evaluate whether our babies will be super-babies with the right genetic mix. At the end of all the tests, we can double-check against the horsoscopes to see that a disease-free future’s guaranteed for the couple.

As Osho would have said – he should have if he didn’t – life holds no guarantee. Not even the guarantee that your spouse will remain faithful and honest to you – of course, that brings in a lot of awkwardness and unpleasant questions about marital relationships. So let’s just say that the only certainty in life is death.

But there are still some prospective couples (and this applies to positive gay men as well) who want to ensure conjugal bliss even if HIV is their soul mate. (I am not saying the virus is a death certificate but at least a reality check is in order.) So witness the matrimonials in some pockets of this country (which The Indian Express gushed about on its pages a few months ago), of HIV positive spouses seeking mates similarly qualified. IE should have also warned them about possible superinfection and its yet unknown outcome. In our example, this happens when A who is already infected with HIV, gets infected with one of the many other strains of HIV. This kind of superinfection is old news, by the way. If you are US-based and you do have a superinfection, you can now consider enrolling in a study being planned to understand its effects. So far, it seems there is even a “window of susceptibility” to a superinfection.

So you see, if you are starting out on the road to a ‘happy married life’, an HIV test is not the answer. If you are insist on an answer, all I can simply say is: trust in your spouse and leave the rest to God/Higher Power/Destiny.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I have no words for this kind of torture

PageoneQ reports on the ugliness that's happening in Iran. Question: What can we in India do to help the queer communities in Iran? Write to the Iranian embassy/consulate and India's ministry of external affairs at the very least?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Outlook wags a finger at women?

The cover of Outlook India's latest issue screams "Women buy men for sex" as if no one knows that or it's a new trend. The story and its tone are predictable.

But as a sort of disclaimer/apologia for it's story and findings, there's an accompanying, rambling, fence-sitter article by Jaslok Hospital's (Mumbai), neuropsychiatrist Dr. Rajesh Parikh, and here's an extract:

"One unintended consequence of such research and of its interpretation and dissemination on a wider platform such as a newsmagazine is that individuals tend to use it to validate their own behaviour. We are, after all, amongst the most social and imitative of animal species. The awareness of a trend sometimes causes it to feed itself and swell into tsunami proportions.

Kinsey's data triggered research that helped reduce the stigmatisation of homosexual behaviour. In a span of half a century, homosexuality went from being criminal to a mental disorder to deviational behaviour to a form of sexual variation and finally being accepted as normal. Such are the enormous consequences of researching human behaviour."

Words that can be interpreted for and against homosexuality, wouldn't you say?

Anyway, there are somewhat positive aspects to the cover story. Although the survey does not talk about homosexuality, there is a piece by the author of The Last Song of Dusk, Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi, where he argues that Section 377, which criminalizes homosexuality (and "unnatural sex", i.e., anal and oral sex by anyone) is all about power play:

"Section 377 needs to go for several reasons. Because we don't want the government in our pants. Because it interferes with the tasks of aids outreach workers. And because it is anti-democratic. In a nation where democracy is reduced to an item number, a law forbidding a particular sexual liberty is patently inhuman and shockingly regressive."

The other thing: I did a quick 'analysis' of the survey results and found that 57% of all respondents claimed to always have safe sex although half of all respondents also say that they do sometimes the "break the rules" of sex. And 2% of all resp. say they know more than 10 bisexuals with 35% of total resp. saying that they know one or more bisexuals. And guess what, 31% women would have sex with someone other than their spouse or a sex worker if their spouse were to refuse to give them oral sex!

Another fact to note is that the cover story has photos by Anita Khemka. According to the magazine her "oeuvre has largely been defined by social documentary work; people living with HIV, the mentally challenged, child labour etc. Her current work dealing with alternative sexuality has been made into a German film, Between the Lines: India's Third Gender, which opened at the recent Locarno Film Festival."

Talking about surveys, blogger Andrew Sullivan posted recently (15 Sept.) about the results of a survey by the American CDC:

WE ARE ALL SODOMITES NOW: The latest data on American sexual behavior and identity from the CDC has some interesting nuggets. Money quote: "90 percent [of adult males aged 15 - 44] have had oral sex with a female, and 40 percent, anal sex with a female." If sodomy is defined as non-procreative sexual intercourse (and that is the basic definition), then it is now practiced by 90 percent of heterosexuals. So on what rational moral basis do we discriminate against gays - who, according to the CDC, make up around 3 percent of the population?

Meanwhile, mixed news on the safer sex front: Among men 15-44 years of age who had at least one sexual partner in the last 12 months, 39 percent used a condom at their most recent sex. Among never married males, this figure was 65 percent, compared with 24 percent of married males. Among males who had ever had sexual contact with another male, 91 percent used a condom at their last sex, compared with 36 percent of men who never had sex with another male.Of course, this requires honesty on the party of survey respondents. But it's encouraging nonetheless, with gay men understandably far safer than straight men in their sex lives.

(End of Sullivan's post)

An aside: As an ex-Marwar staffer, I couldn't help noticing that both Shanghvi and Khemka are usually Maru last names. (Dr.Parikh are you Marwari, as well?)    

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Why not Gay India

Some people have asked me about the use of the word "queer". Recently, I also read two messages (extracted below) on a Ryze Network (my Ryze page is here) I am on, Bindaas Bol that raised similar questions. So this posting is in response to the use of the word "queer" and other terms often used, sometimes pejoratively, for gay people and homosexuality.

Message 1 was:

Just an observation.

Why does the GLBT community use terms such as Queer?

Is the word Queer derogatory towards Gays? I have heard it used as a defamatory or derogoatory remark towards gays, so why do they use it?

I see it in the url why not

Message 2 was:

A lot of the gay people I know use words like queer and queen and faggot and dyke as descriptors when referring to other gay people. When someone who is straight uses the same words, they risk being branded homophobic.

Any thoughts or explanations?

My reply:

You might find these extracted list of terms from a manual on diversity at the workplace useful (my comments in brief at the end):
Queer: There seems to be a split between generations on the acceptability of this term. Many younger gays, lesbians and bisexuals feel the term is refreshingly broad.
Gay: The umbrella term for homosexual persons, although it most specifically refers to men who are attracted to and love men. It is equally acceptable and more accurate to refer to gay women as lesbians. Appropriate, recommended.
Homosexual: People who are attracted to members of the same sex. This is a term invented by psychiatrists around 1890 to describe what they saw as an illness. Most people today are choosing to use gay and lesbian instead. Appropriate, but not preferred.
Lesbian: A woman who is attracted to and loves women. Appropriate, recommended.
Dyke: Derogatory toward lesbians, and at the same time, in-group language for many lesbians. Of uncertain origin, although thought to come from Boadiccia, a woman warrior who allegedly had many woman lovers. Not appropriate for use by straight people.
Fag: Derogatory toward gay men. Leigh Rutledge, author of The Gay Book of Lists, suggests that fag comes from faggot, a bundle of wood used to light fires for burning people. Faggot came to mean the bodies of gay men when they were burned to death in the 14th Century. Used as in-group language among some gays and lesbians. Not appropriate for use by anyone.
Sexual Orientation: –Describes everything that goes into why people are attracted to each other. Sexual orientation takes into account past experiences, current situations, and self-identification. This term is usually preferred to sexual preference because it conveys the fact that most people feel they are gay by nature, not simply by choice. Appropriate, recommended.
Affectional Orientation: Some companies and groups use this lighter-sounding term to mean sexual orientation. Appropriate.
Straight: Common term used to mean a heterosexual person. Although some people of all sexual orientations take issue with the term, there is no better term in common use. “Straight But Not Narrow” reads a popular T-shirt slogan that many heterosexual allies wear. Appropriate. Be sensitive to those who might object.

[end of extract]

I don't consider myself as a "younger gay" and I personally prefer calling myself gay than queer because "queer" is more vague--"queer" could be anything but heterosexual--homo, bi, trans....

"Queer" was (probably still is) used pejoratively to refer to us but LGBT communities in many places have by appropriating the term taken the sting out of it. :-)

For me, "Queer" serves as a broader term, especially in writing, when referring not just to individuals but also discussing subjects like politics, culture, health, films and the queer "community" in general. That's why I write on Queer India and not Gay India.

PS. I don't like the term "straight". I don't know if there's a term to describe words that are derogatory by implication (doesn't straight imply that non-straight people are well, crooked?)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Queers Gossip

I don't care for achievers and celebrities who are ashamed of their sexual orientation and hence in the closet. Many gay men speculate about the famous, especially about actors, even getting a vicarious pleasure out of such gossip. One has heard so many names of people from Bollywood supposedly queer that sometimes one wonders if there are any heterosexual men in the film industry at all (comparatively far fewer names have been taken in the case of women; I guess, because lesbians are even more closeted than gay men).

There has been speculation about Shah Rukh Khan's sexuality for years now, and as I mentioned in my post of 19 September 2003 at my earlier blog site , India Today even quizzed Shah Rukh whether he's queer. Shah Rukh never gives a 'straight' answer to such questions and his choice of friends, roles and words and more words only fuels more speculation.

But, at least here in Mumbai, there's practically no gossip about the sexual affairs of politicians.

Yes, one has heard the occasional generalized remark about the Sangh's bachelors (so were the protests over the movie, "Girlfriend", internalized homophobia?)

The only time I heard some queer juice about powerful politicians was on a foreign junket with some journos a year ago. It came from the mouth of the editor of a language newspaper, apparently leaked to her by an intelligence source: she alleged that a young man from the services was specially flown down from Delhi to be with the Mantriji when the latter was recuperating from surgery in Mumbai. Further, Mantriji was supposed to be having an affair with a junior protege.

It was a surprise though to read two recent posts (here and here) on the same blog about some famous Delhi politicians. But then the blogger is a full-time journalist from Delhi (apparently he has moved to Mumbai recently) so he would have more access to gossip on politicians. The blogger's remarks indicate his own discomfort with homosexuality (why does he keep proclaiming his own heterosexuality?) or else he is being plain cussed.

We may gossip endlessly about famous people, but what good does it do to us, as individuals, or to the queer cause? In fact, as long as these folk themselves don't state their orientation in the media, no matter how out they are in their own society/industry/politics, they remain bad role models. Most of them are not only closeted but also married. When I first came out to my parents, outing celebs to them only seemed to work against me. Very selfishly, mom and dad would argue that if so-and-so can be gay and married, then you should get married as well.

There may come a time though when some closeted queer people, especially politicians, may actually hurt the queer cause actively, by their statements or actions. In fact the time may already be now. I would be more than happy to out the RSS chief if there was the evidence to prove that he's gay. And even happy to an extent if the following were outed: Karan Johar (it takes more to redeem oneself for a 'Kal Ho Naa Ho' than promoting 'My Brother Nikhil'), Niranjan Iyengar (who is credited with the dialogues for KHNH) and Apurva Asrani (for co-directing 'Out of Control'). Someone should plan a sting, what do you say?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Main aisa kyon hoon? Ami jani na!

While the New York Times reported on genes and sexual orientation (log on to the Bombay Dost Yahoo group if you don't have a NYT subscription and read the story pasted in this message), I found a Mumbai-based blogger's entry (thanks to a comment by BomGay) quoting a Hindi dictionary which defines a 'gandu' as someone addicted to getting fucked in the arse (or to quote "being sodomized"). I was surfing the blog and came across another entry that asks whether the Bengali phrase "alur dosh" ("fault of the testicles"?) has a homosexual connotation/gay community slang, among others. Perhaps our Kolkata friends will enlighten us. :-)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Ten Tips for Parents of a Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Child

For interesting tips, especially if your parents (or parent-figure/siblings for that matter) are English-speaking and net savvy click here. The website is home to "Advocates for Youth" which is focused on youth sexuality issues and should be a useful resource for everyone interested in the subject. Note: I am yet to explore the site further.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Savage Pope bashing

Dan Savage at his ferocious best:
"...What's maddening about this pope's signature gay bashing is this: When the pope—the dead one, the next one, the one after that—says something stupid about homosexuality, straight folks take it to heart.... But when a pope says something stupid about heterosexuality, straight Americans go deaf. And this pope had plenty to say about heterosexual sex—no contraceptives, no premarital sex, no blowjobs, no jerkin' off, no divorce, no remarriage, no artificial insemination, no blowjobs, no three-ways, no swinging, no blowjobs, no anal. Did I mention no blowjobs? John Paul II had more "no's" for straight people than he did for gays. But when he tried to meddle in the private lives of straights, the same people who deferred to his delicate sensibilities where my rights were concerned suddenly blew the old asshole off. Gay blowjobs are expendable, it seems; straight ones are sacred.
So I can't get behind this orgy of cheap and easy piety. Watching the talking twats on CNN pay their respects to this "universally beloved man of God" (how many of them have had premarital sex, I wonder?), to say nothing of the suddenly reverent assholes on Fox News (Bill O'Reilly didn't have many nice things to say about J.P. II when he opposed the invasion of Iraq), makes me want to throw a bottle of lube through a stained-glass window.
I'm sorry the old bastard's dead, I'm sorry he suffered. But I'm not so sorry that I won't stoop to working John Paul II into a column about zombie fetishism...."

God, the smoke's all black! Defrock the Vatican at the UN

What do you make of Ratzinger as the new pope? The Catholic Church's view on homosexuality is well known as also it's condemnation of its own sheep to death because of its stand against condoms as protection against HIV (a stand that puts the Church's own survival in peril--a good thought, but at what cost!).
Ratzinger and every Catholic (for that matter, anyone at all) in the world is entitled to their views on homosexulity. As long as they are themselves not gay (especially closeted) or they don't put other people's lives in peril. I can imagine the torment gone through by young gay Catholics who are yet to come to terms to their sexuality and find the balance between their personal convictions and the Church's beliefs (here's a 1986 publication drafted by Ratzinger and approved by John Paul II). Undoubtedly, many contemplate suicide. Some commit it. We can only pray that the tortured souls find the right help, in time. (As an aside, here's an encounter of one of my favorite writers with Ratzinger.)
Here's a well-written article by Richard Cohen, a columnist with The Washington Post, which covers the Church and homosexuality, condoms, AIDS, etc. and Ratzinger's so-called Nazi past.
What I don't see discussed anywhere how the Catholic Church is the only religious organization that has a United Nations membership (not like the countless others which are merely heard on the UN's many sponsored organizations). I believe the Vatican has statehood and as such equal status as any other country. This gives it even more power and this has been abused (in cohorts with some Islamic nations!) to block the "Brazil resolution" at the UN (the latest is that the resolution has lapsed, in spite of intesne lobbying by activists). Shouldn't we debate why Catholicism has this special right at the UN? Shouldn't stripping the Vatican of its membership also be part of the imminent reforms at the UN?

Surprise balloon

Surprise baloon
Originally uploaded by nitinkarani.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Sexuality Highway

The link has an interesting pic! (The text on the site is Indonesian but the picture says a lot about the blog's owner.)

Sunday, March 13, 2005

An appeal to legislators in India

"It is the responsibility of Parliament to ensure that minority rights are uniform across the country. The government cannot, and should not, pick and choose which rights they will defend and which rights they will ignore."-- Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler as the government introduced legislation in Parliament Feb. 1 to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. Courts already have legalized it in eight of Canada's 13 provinces and territories.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Gay historians: Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai

To many Indians the idea of same-sex relationships is unknown, even alien. Forget the idea of homosexuality having a history in this country. This has been just one outcome of British imperialism and Victorian prudery; they obliterated our indigenous cultures and histories.

Fortunately, Indians like Ruth Vanita, Saleem Kidwai and Ashok Row Kavi have been helping us rediscover our lost gay heritage. Vanita and Kidwai have together and individually produced seminal works on "same-sex" relationships. At the end of this posting, you'll find a link to a recent interview with Vanita in Ego magazine, USA. Before that, here are brief sketches of Vanita, Kidwai and one of their books, which is the subject of the interview--the sketches were put together by the 'Bombay Dost' team for their traveling poster exhibition on gay Indian icons: "Queers Like Us".

Ruth Vanita

Ruth Vanita was educated in 1955 in Delhi, and taught at Miranda House and the English Department, Delhi University, from 1976 to 1997. Vanita has been professor of Liberal Studies and Women's Studies at the University of Montana since 1997.

She was founding co-editor of 'Manushi: A Journal about Women and Society' from 1979 to 1990. Vanita was also active in the Indian women's movement and human rights movement during those years. She has written widely on Indian women's issues, and has translated many works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry by and about women, from Hindi to English, several of which were published in Manushi. Among her translations are 'Strangers on the Roof' (a Hindi novel by Rajendra Yadav; Penguin India, 1994) and 'Dilemma and Other Stories' (fiction by Vijay Dan Detha; Manushi Prakashan, 1997). Vanita presented papers on same-sex love in Shakespeare's 'As You Like It' at seminars held in Delhi University, which were well received by her peers.

Vanita is author of 'Sappho and the Virgin Mary: Same-Sex Love and the English Literary Imagination' (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996). This book argues that far from being marginalized, lesbian energy and creativity figures centrally in the English literary canon, in works by both men and women, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With Saleem Kidwai, she co-edited 'Same-sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History' (NY: Palgrave-St Martin's Press, 2000; New Delhi: Macmillan, 2002) More recently, she has also edited 'Queering India: Same-Sex Love and Eroticism in Indian Culture and Society' (NY: Routledge, 2002), a collection of interdisciplinary essays by different scholars.

Vanita married Mona Bachmann in June 2000 in Jewish and Hindu wedding ceremonies in New York. It was followed by a reception at India International Centre, New Delhi, in July 2000.

Saleem Kidwai

Saleem Kidwai is a scholar of medieval Indian history, and an activist. Born in 1951 in Lucknow, he completed his schooling there, and went to Delhi to study History in 1968. He took up teaching at the Delhi University in 1973 and took leave to study at McGill University between 1976-80.

With Ruth Vanita, he co-edited 'Same-sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History' (NY: Palgrave-St Martin’s Press, 2000; New Delhi: Macmillan, 2002)

Kidwai is also an Islamic studies scholar who undermines any straight monolithic view of Islam as homophobic and sex-phobic. He shows that there is a tension, sometimes creative and sometimes unbearable, between the censorious Islamic texts and institutions and the open same-sex celebrations of many Islamic poets.

Retiring from Delhi University in 1993, he has since been pursuing individual research and writing in Lucknow.

Same-sex Love in India
Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai have co-edited a momentous book titled 'Same-sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History' (NY: Palgrave-St Martin's Press, 2000; New Delhi: Macmillan, 2002). This is a collection of translations from texts written in 15 Indian languages over a period of more than 2000 years, accompanied by editorial essays analyzing and contextualizing the texts. This "enchanting collection is a tribute to an ancient civilization which has always cherished love that defies conventional ideas of sanity and normality." (Ashis Nandy). Vanita's and Kidwai's essays in the book have been hailed as works of outstanding scholarship by historians. The book challenges the cheap stereotype that Indian tradition has always been too conservative/puritan to allow any homoerotic exploration. Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai have done an exceptional job in uncovering gay texts throughout Indian history, from the ancient Hindu shastras to the present.

Here's the link to the Ego magazine interview with Ruth Vanita:
EGO Magazine: Love/Friendship/Desire

Thursday, March 03, 2005

People grow up!

This is one of the 'crazy' things I have done in life.

I was about 24 but still going through the tough times that every young adult goes through--career decision, dealing with your sexuality, asserting one's individuality to your family, etc. Only in my case, I was also coping with: the burden of responsibility that comes with being the only child (in terms of being heir to the family business, having progeny, blah, blah...); and my sexual orientation.

I chose to take a big risk--I decided to leave dad's practice (I had worked part-time through college and the journalism course until I took up my first journalism job). I quit studying for the Chartered Accountancy qualification, even though I had already cleared one group of subjects at the Inter. CA level. And choose a career 'not-as-respected-as-CA'--journalism.

After much agonising over these decisions, going through an aptitude test (at 24!!), talking to a vocation counsellor and shocking my parents, I finally decided to place my bet on a career in mass communication. I enrolled into the part-time course at Xavier Institute of Communications. This is not the 'crazy' decision I referrred to at the start. The setting for that was a 2-day workshop at Lonavla for XIC students on media and ethics. I suspect it was more of a bonding workshop for students. What Aradhana Sethi nee Jyoti recalls below happened on the second day (if memory serves me right). A few thoughts on Aradhan's description of the events after you have read this, but just a little more essential background: In one of the sessions, the students were divided into groups of 5-6 and were given two (hypothetical?) cases to discuss and state their stand on the question posed. The second question was on the death of a few well-known men from the 'respectable' class who had died in a fire at a theatre infamous for playing gay porn. While one newspaper decided not to publish the names of the victims for fear of bringing disrepute to them and their families, another decided to follow the usual practice of publishing names of victims in such accidents. A student from each group was asked to come forward and state whose decision they supported--newspaper A or B. And I was one of the students...
“I am gay,” – I clearly remember those words you uttered in presence of all the journalism and public relation students of Xavier Institute of Communications. Not just your words, but even the impact they had on our lecturers and some of the fellow students.

Silence followed by hushed ‘Did you know?’s and ‘Really?’ A puzzled lecturer of media and ethics (Nitin, I forget his name now!) dispersed the entire batch for a tea break. As we moved out of the room, I said to a fellow student, “I think he ‘IF’.” “No Aradhna, he said, ‘I AM’,” she responded. That was it for me. I heard. I didn’t believe my ears. A friend confirmed. And a quick thought flashed through my mind, “He’s a nice guy. Being gay doesn’t matter. Had he not told us, we wouldn’t have figured it out. And now that we know, it doesn’t matter to me – it’s not as if he was my boyfriend!” I had it settled in my head, but suddenly I realised there was a low toned buzz going on.

You were walking towards the tea tables set aside for the students. One lecturer was looking at you intently. I wondered what he thought. Then, I noticed many of the guys were moving away. Some wondered whether the other guy who used to sit next to you was your partner. In our group, he said, he wasn’t. Another friend of ours questioned as to whether you may have just said it to create a buzz. No, that couldn’t be true. The thought was dismissed. The hushed whispers of disbelief then led to talk about how brave you had been to come out of the closet in presence of all your fellow students and teachers. They gave you credit for your honesty and your courage.

Finally, most of us came to one conclusion. Being gay was not a communicable disease. Gays or heterosexuals – none of us carried our sexualities on our sleeve. Within a few minutes, I can confidently say, we all accepted the fact and it didn’t bother us.

For me, it was fun to work with you in our group – doing the photo essay, radio programme, etc. Your being gay never did bother me or even cross my mind.

Through my tenure of working as a journalist in India, I did come across a few gay men. It didn’t seem to bother me, though. But yes, had I been going out with a man, who were to suddenly tell me he was gay, I would have certainly blown a fuse. Then, that would have bothered me. That would’ve been my business!

At times when we spoke about your relationship on the phone, I wondered how many people – men and women – had ever really given a true thought to their preferences in life. I wondered if society was just moving with the norm of heterosexuality because that’s what the way of life had been, and that’s what was acceptable.

And when you shared your worry about your family wanting you to marry a girl, your concern about how your dad may react to knowing about your sexual identity, and the fact that you couldn’t be untrue to yourself or to another girl by bonding her in matrimony for the sake of your family – your thoughts, your concern for the others, and your firm conviction to being certain of who you are and what you want, led to a new sense of awe and respect for you.

I thought, “Here’s one guy who’s more a man than many others I have known. He believes in himself, respects others’ sentiments and stands up for himself .”

Aradhna says this is straight from the heart. I believe she has been somewhat generous in the appreciation of her XIC classmates--including me.

However, I did not feel the negative vibes around me probably because 1) I can be naieve and 2) I was still feeling the rush of blood in my head at what I had done, but trying not to show it and pretending nothing unusal had happened. Later, I did feel upset with the students as a whole for supporting newspaper A's homphobia--which I felt reflected their own phobia--and wrote about it in 'Bombay Dost'.

The wonderful piece of news is that people change. One classmate whom Aradhna remembers as being very uncomfortable with my gayness (I like the word--rhymes with 'royal highness'!), has now become a good chat friend (he stays in the US). People grow, they change--for the better. There's hope for more understanding, tolerance, even acceptance.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The most important tool

"[B]eing open about our lives is the most important and powerful form of activism at our disposal. Lecturing our friends and family about gay marriage isn't nearly so important as letting them see that our relationships are as important and integral to us as theirs are to them. If we do not treat our relationships as equal, how can we ever expect others to do the same? 'Coming out' isn't a one-step conversation; it's a lifelong commitment. And it isn't just about activism and civil rights. It's about living your life with integrity and honesty and, to use an overused word, it's about pride."
--Washington Blade Executive Editor Chris Crain in a Jan. 7 editorial.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


The last book I read was Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Alblom. Two quotes/aphorisms I feel like sharing--these may have been said by Morrie Schwartz in a general context but seem just as relevant for queer people everywhere--

"So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they are chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that give you purpose and meaning."

"The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn't work, don't buy it."
The latest issue of Tehelka (dated February 26, 2005) as usual has a celebrity on "sex/what we think of it." On the question of homosexuality, Jackie Shroff, says: " each his own end." Was the extra "end" an addition by the writer/copy-editor or can Shroff play with words too? :-)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Mediaah! on 'outing'

Mediaah! The Media's Media Brutally Unbiased. has made a short comment on outing in response to the link of a Michelangelo Signorile article (published on I had forwarded to my ex-boss Mr. Pradyuman Maheswari. As a journo, Mr. Maheswari, has been sensitivite towards LGBT issues, and I have discovered recently he is even keen to understand them better. Hence, the forward and the resulting comment.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Watch this space!

Coming soon! Watch this space! In the meantime, please visit earlier posts by clicking here