A fiesty queer movement has given way to a passive-aggressive plea to be included in the mainstream. KAM satirically exposes that even the prejudiced are not above their prejudices.
What is this story about?
It is about how everyone in the gay community is so righteously indignant when they are more than happy to toe the line.
In June 2015, the US legalised gay marriage nationwide and people everywhere saw it as a personal victory. Rainbow-coloured profile pictures travelled across Facebook, faster than Chlamydia at an after-party.
But prior to this, gays in India felt righteously offended by a matrimonial ad posted by a concerned mom, looking for a groom for her son. The line that caused the outrage–‘Iyer preferred’. People brought into question the seeming casteist tone of the ad; discrimination by the discriminated; while some argued, it was merely a case of a conservative mother’s preferences.
As much as I agree with the latter sentiment, it did set off a train of thought in my mind. I wondered if the gay rights movement was moving faster than the other movements like the eradication of biases of caste, class, religion or gender. What if India did get equal marriage rights before it got any of these other things right? I dared to imagine the possibilities.
The legalisation of gay marriages will result in these marriages being arranged by families again. Parents will be okay with the fact that you are a man dating another man; what they won’t accept is why your boyfriend isn’t a pure vegetarian when you are a Brahmin, or worse – a Muslim. You will have your pick only from the men they have shortlisted for you. The families will sit together matching horoscopes and debate on how long the couple would stay with either family before switching to establishing whose son is more of a top.
Ekta Kapoor will resuscitate her soap ‘Kyunki…’ to have us witness the first-ever gay marriage in a television serial. The innocent, well-meaning bahu will be replaced by an equally innocent, well-meaning gay son-in-law. The friendly devar would be replaced by the gregarious lesbian sister of the husband. The vamp, however, will still be played by a straight woman. Soap plots about amnesia, illegitimate children and cheating husbands will be rewritten to include struggles against homophobia, issues of surrogacy and… well, cheating husbands.
Adoption rights come next; of course, just because we ‘can’ adopt doesn’t mean we have to. Your parents won’t understand this logic. For them not using the right to adopt when it’s been given to you is a crime equally abhorrent to an unused discount coupon. So within one-and-a-half years of your marriage, you will have your first child and another in the next, because you ‘have’ to have one of each.
Sounds like a happy situation, doesn’t it? Well, for many this would be ideal, getting exactly what the privileged majority has been blessed with for so long. But for many, it perpetuates the same vicious cycles that Indians have been struggling with for ages - issues about morality, monogamy, marriage and promiscuity.
Feminism is still struggling to take hold in our society. While many of us, as gay men, enjoy the perks of our gender, we fail to realise that the specific issues that plague us stem from the same sense of entitlement that women deal with on a regular basis.
The rules that keep women from wearing short skirts are the same rules keeping you from wearing that pink shirt you love. The people who jeer at women who want to excel at sports are the same people who laugh at you when you say you don’t like cricket. The mothers who tell their daughters that they need to learn to cook are those who tell you to become an engineer instead of a chef.
The men who let you roam about late at night because you are a man are the men who think it’s okay to rape the women who do.
One doesn’t realise how heavily ingrained these ideas are, much less question them. We’re so busy mainstreaming and telling heterosexuals that we are just like them we forget that, well, maybe we don’t have to be!
We hold up placards saying we want to marry our lovers and raise kids. We forget that there are a ton of men out there who would prefer not to be married, just like we’ve forgotten the many women who have been asked to quit their studies and get married. We constantly deny to the media the allegations that gay men are promiscuous and say that we too want to settle with a single man when we could buck the cliché and tell them that it is not really anyone’s business. We don’t say this, because we still tell our daughters that no one will marry them if they’re not virgins.
In our country, sex is still a moral currency. The idea of having ownership over one’s own body is laughable; it belongs to your parents and then your spouse. The ones committing the heinous crime of premarital sex, have declared themselves unworthy of marriage. This is why a certain Bollywood star can claim to be a virgin at 40, and be held in high regard for it, as opposed to just being a loser who can’t get laid. The Indian gay community is still a subset of the Indian community, after all, complete with its overarching ideals.
When Pallav, a gay rights activist, once told me that he often gets trolled on gay dating websites for his racy pictures and requests for hookups, the irony was not lost on either of us. He is often reprimanded by others in the community. “On one hand we are talking about free and open discussions on sex and sexuality but we wish to curtail its expression as per a mainstream world view of morality. This dichotomy continues to exist within the LGBT space and needs addressing,” says Pallav. A man, who fights for the rights of gay men in the city to have sex, can have none of it for himself. #LogKyaKahenge is always trending in India.
NO SEX SEEKERS – is plastered across profiles on popular dating apps and websites. A sex seeker, as you may have guessed is someone who browses these channels with the sole intention of having sex. Mind you, these are not gay men who are waiting for monogamous relationships to have sex in. ‘Fun and Friendship’ is the mantra they follow, because nothing legitimises the sin of casual sex like the mangalsutra of friendship. The legitimacy of relationships is constantly called into question when someone mentions if they have an open one. Words like ‘slut’ are casually thrown around at parties to insult men who have too much sex. As there is no consensus on what is ‘too much sex’, the rule of thumb is any more sex than the accuser is having at that point. And it’s not just how much sex you have, it’s how you do it too. People with fetishes that don’t fall in the ambit of ‘regular’ intercourse are mocked or made to feel like weirdos. What happened to the idea of personal sexuality?
The queer movement, once at the forefront of sexual liberation and the women’s movement across the globe, has slowly become a parody of itself. A once rebellious movement that told the world that we are proud of not fitting into your boring ideas of what it meant to be a man or a woman, turned into an apologetic rant of ‘we’re just like you’, the fight solely driven at seeking the same rights and lifestyle options as that of the straight majority, complacently resting on one’s laurels, feeling happy to have achieved the same as everyone else. Casting aside anyone who seeks something different or more, to go fend for themselves. So what happens to the ones who are queerer than the queer?
Courtroom battles for gay marriage or adoption rights are not the last frontier of the queer movement. It will only have to be the first steps toward inclusion. The queer movement should be a unified, comprehensive revolt that safeguards not just the rights and dignity of LGBT individuals but also any individual who does also not fit into the boxes of gender and sexuality. We have to stretch our collective imaginations without judgment to include everyone — from monogamous couples seeking legal sanction for their gay weddings — to respecting anyone exploring any other form of relationship not falling within the realm of conventional marriage and even those who choose to not explore any form of commitment.