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 queerindia.com why not gayindia.com?

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?)


Asha X said...

Hello from Halifax, Canada! This is the first time visting your site. As a bisexual NRI I'd like to thank you for creating Queer India. In many ways NRIs in Canada are living in a cultural bubble with the culture and values of the India our parents left over 30 years ago. Gender and sexuality issues are still quite taboo to talk about openly within the Indo-Canadian culture. I hope to learn more about the Gay Rights Movement in India and would appreciate any info you can provide.

ramo said...

Nice to find a gay blogger from India!

JORGE said...


Im write your from Madrid, Spain. I like your blog


Nitin Karani said...

Thank you, Jorge. I visited your blog but unfortunately I don't know Spanish. But I liked the pics. :-)

Anonymous said...

I am a young homosexual man who prefers to use the word "queer" at times, rather than "gay", as I find it more expressive of my non-conformist sexuality. If it is used by a heterosexual person who is not my close friend and who uses it as an insult, then of course I would find it offensive, although it wouldn't bother me too much. But I feel that the intention behind a word is more important than the word itself, and that if homosexuals and their friends want to use this word in a positive sense then they can do, without being sensored by more political correct gay people.

Jim said...

I am a happy world citizen who likes to go to spa pampering- I went to an ayurvedic spa once, but now I am looking for a more "gay friendly" or "notorious" ayurvedic massage / detox/ yoga spa- Somewhere like Rishikesh or Dharamshala- would someone make a good suggestion to where I can try out later this year? My E MAIL is:
shukria / nandri / dhanya bhat

angelswan said...

True. In my entire life I have called myself and friends by all sorts of names. But when a straight guy ever said any of those words... well it was all so different. Queer and gay go hand in hand and do not seem derogatory. Homosexual seems more of a medical term and is typically shortened as "Homo" by common straight ppl here in India. In fact there are more Hindi slangs used then the typical English ones!
Good observations though.

angel swan

Anonymous said...

This is a bit of a long shot i know but my 22 year old girlfriend who is sikh is looking for a gay sikh guy who is intrested in marriage purely to satisfy her's and the guy's parents.
Once they go through with a divorce this will (hopefully) prevent her's and the guy's parents pressuring them into finding new partners.
We have been together for two years and with me being a white english guy they would never accept me as a suitible partner for their daughter.
Any suggestions or advice would me extreamly appreciated in what seems to be an impossible situation.

Nitin Karani said...

Hello Anon. Thanks for visiting this blog.
IMHO, why complicate one's life with a Marriage of Convenience. As if a divorce and/or coming out later will be easily accepted by one's folks. The sooner one faces the issue, the better. It's slim chance your folks will not accept you for what you are (given time and well handled, they probabaly will if they love you). But even if they don't they'll appreciate and respect you for your honesty. Just my opinion.
Hope that answers.

Leon said...

Happened to surf into your blog randomly..nice postings...I really enjoyed your blog.

I dont think queer really sounds rude or inapproiete for gay people.. I suppose queers includes people who are mis orientated.. while gay sounds really out and spoken :)

I’ll come back to see what you post next!

Greetings from a fellow blogger

Leon Koh
visit my blog http://hanleong.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

THanks for your blog. I am gay, and travel frequently to the region. I have benefited enormously from reading your blog.

Luke Obrock