Monday, May 19, 2008

My own private IDAHO

"If you wait for someone to give you freedom, that’s charity, permission — not freedom.”

Christy Jayanthi Malar (38) and Rukmani (40) decided there was no other way but death to get their freedom. At the stroke of midnight that marked the beginning of the International Day Against Homophobia, died hugging each other. They lighted their kerosene soaked bodies and escaped the harassment and abuse of society — a society that could only see their physical relationship but not their love for each other.

Christy and Rukmani, both from underprivileged, rural backgrounds, had known each other since school. In the intervening years, they had got married. They met again 10 years ago. Rukmani had been forced by her relatives to move from place to place to keep her away from Christy and was even married off a second time after she separated from her first husband. All because Rukmani and Christy’s was an “unusual relationship” that caused “much consternation” to their families.

On the day before their death they were publicly humiliated and abused—just for loving each other. In fact, not for just loving each other but because they were of the same gender. It wasn’t their caste, class, religion, age—it was because the couple was of the same gender. Society found that so unacceptable that they wished them dead.

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Would you wish your son were never born because he turned out to be gay? I know one set of parents who have uttered these words over and over again for their only son. My ex-boyfriend, H. Yes, there still live people like that right here in our midst, in urban, middle class Mumbai, forget rural Tamil Nadu.

If some parents or relatives think their ideas of caste hierarchy, normality and so-called respectable society are more important than their child’s or brother’s happiness or choice of life partner (or his/her gender), then they are anyway not worth having as parents or relatives. I don’t say abandon them—try to make them see your viewpoint, but if that doesn’t help, do your filial duty, and then leave it to destiny. If you both are lucky, then with time they will come around to your viewpoint. If not, then say to yourself that your karmic account with them is settled and over; you owe nothing more to each other. (I believe in karma and transmigration.)

As children, we don’t owe an extra favor to our parents—and certainly not the favor of getting married to a partner of their choice—just for raising us. Even animals and birds nurture and love their offspring. Probably, their love is even more selfless than the love of human parents because birds and animals don’t expect anything in return from their young — their offspring don’t even look after them!

I believe it’s better one maintain a relationship only with those who respect you for what you are and love you unconditionally. My ex-bf’s parents are traditional Maharashtrian Brahmins, so they would believe in karma and transmigration too. I hope they and parents such as these get their just deserts and remain childless in their coming births. They do not deserve to be parents.

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I do not blame the parents alone. It’s people like my ex-bf who cave into the emotional blackmailing and pressure. Or people such as Rukmani and Christy who may have inspired other women like Deepa to come out and speak up, but in their death they have also become negative role models. I fear more suicides, especially in a state such as Kerala that’s notorious for lesbian suicide pacts. (So much for being a state that is more literate and has traditionally favored women.)

Deepa is one of the few women who dare to speak publicly about her sexual orientation. "We tend to avoid talking about certain issues, which other people find uncomfortable to face," she says. "It just makes it tougher for other women." She believes that talking about the issue openly is the way to get people to understand the issue.

Being gay is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing wrong. This is the conviction gay and lesbian people should have, instead of grasping on to a false sense of honor and pride in belonging to so-called normal society. If some people have misconceptions about sexuality, it is even more important that we as gay people speak up and correct them. We can’t afford to be stuck in this vicious cycle: you feel you cannot come out because you are afraid to face people’s negative reactions, and people react negatively because they don’t have enough information about homosexuality. It’s our own responsibility to break the cycle instead of lamenting about it. How can you sit around waiting for change to happen automatically or someone else to bring it about? If you don’t speak up, you create your own hell.

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And the only respect you’ll get from your loved ones will be after your suicide. They’ll cremate you and your lover together, and they will pretend shock and shed crocodile tears. But as long as you are live and you let them push you around, you will be not allowed to be with the one you love. And after your death, the state will protect your murderous kin. So the Indian Penal Code applies to us but not to them.

A senior police officer said action would not be taken against the relatives. "We can't say the relatives pushed the women into suicide. They might have verbally abused them, but that was to bring them back to normal life," a senior police officer said.

And moreover, the state shall argue in the courts that being gay consenting adults, you should be deprived of the fundamental rights granted to every Indian by the Constitution. (see entry dated Friday, September 26, 2003 on http://queerindia.rediffblogs.com) I say go ahead and ‘break’ such unfair laws. Damn the state, damn society. Long live, we the people.

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The quote at the beginning of this post if paraphrased from the movie, À cause d'un garçon.

5 comments:

Kali said...

Nitin
Bravo for posting this. It is courageous and generous. Shabaash!

Aman Chaudhary said...

Great post. Very informed and also personal. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

hmm..
I came across this one recently..
http://lostlandscape.blogspot.com/2008/05/inhabiting-room-that-didnt-exist.html

Vatsav said...

Well,

I've lived most of my life in India, and I am still not out to my parents.
I have been in relationships and have craved for social support when I saw my sexual identity as a shame.
In India, it is even more so striking, as I was being trained to be asexual till marriage, and forming an identity based entirely on sexuality was something intolerable.
I am now in New York and work part-time as an LGBT activist. I wish to provide a social support group when I go back to India, and more so to the lower classes.
I see gay identities forming entirely in the upper middle class, whereas such identities are not a priority in the lower classes. It's really disheartening to read stories such as these, and to imagine the number of LGBTQ people that are still living in India.
I'm glad that more desi people such as you are openly blogging about this. I've started blogging about sexuality too and it does me good.

cheers,
vatsav

darkgoti said...

Hi
Nice blog.I have always wanted to ask a question to Indan gays but never had the courage,i find peoplefrom other countrieslikeUSA,UK,Singapore so very fiendly unlike Indian men who I find very complicated,have been rejected many times,have given up meeting gays.have been hurt,guy also told me to forget being gay.indians rude while foriegners respect while speaking?they say im handsome.i cant go abroad,i think ill be single.