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The Intolerance Debate – From the Perspective of a Gay Man

Over the past 48 hours the heavens have been breathing fire on India, all hell has broken loose on this country. During a one-on-one interaction at the Ramnath Goenka Awards for journalism, Aamir Khan decided to speak his mind on the topic that has been the topmost concern now in the country – intolerance.

For those interested, watch what Aamir said here (not for the outrage-happy generation that does not read beyond headlines)

This post is not to post a defense of Aamir’s stand – that’s done and dusted; Aamir himself has issued a statement. What compelled me to write this post were some thoughts that crossed my mind while reading the vitriol against Aamir online.

I was reminded of two dates – very significant ones, for a gay man in India – 2 July, 2009 and 11 December, 2013. The former was like a day of emancipation for the LGBT community in the country, freedom 63 years after independence. The latter when the highest judicial body of the country forced many like me into tears, ending the hopes of equality for many.

Having grown up in an environment where effeminate behaviour was mocked, laughed at and called an aberration, it was a welcome relief to finally breathe in free air. After July, 2009 a silent social revolution was brewing. There was open talk about alternate sexuality. Films, for a change, were taking the subject seriously. The population at large was coming to terms with the idea that some people may have different choices.

In 1950, the Constitution that was passed vouched to protect the diversity of India. We are a nation of myriad languages, cultures, traditions. We may be Bengali, Tamil, Punjabi or Marathi – ultimately we are all Indians. Similarly, we all have different biological make-up. I am a man who seeks love (and lust, if you may) in another man. I have friends who believe they are women trapped in a man’s body. I know others who are women who seek solace in females. Needless to say, vast majority of my friends are heterosexual (like the society is).

In 2009, we were successful in dispelling the notion that majoritarianism is “normal”. Justice AP Shah (God Bless Him) chose to uphold the diversity of India instead of giving in to those sought to establish uniformity in choices. Sadly, this was all undone in 2013. After the pronouncement of the deadly blow on 11 December, 2013, most political parties, barring one or two, supported the rights of LGBT community.

The party that stood out in its vociferous opposition to alternate sexuality is currently in power and the man who was mostly giving bytes against homosexuality is sadly the Home Minister of India now. And this is why I feel insecure in India. Living in India feels like Orwell’s worst nightmares coming true. You must hail the Führer or be doomed. It is stifling.

India celebrates Unity in Diversity. Uniformity would kill the spirit of India. If I do not like a channel on TV, I would switch to another one instead of throwing a stone at the TV set in a fit of rage. My personal choices – what I wear, what I eat, who I sleep with – are best left to me. We elect governments at the age of 18, surely we can handle these trivial decisions in life.

This is my country and I refuse to live here like a criminal. Love for country does not make one a blind nationalist. A true patriot would speak out when the State commits a wrong. Differences of opinion, like different choices of sexuality, must be allowed to exist freely, without fear. Stifling the voices who refuse to be counted in the majority (and I do not mean religion here) is against the idea of India.

Although I voted against the party in power now, 31% of my countrymen did; their verdict needs to be respected. The government must respect the office it holds. With so many issues facing the country, this mindless obsession over controlling personal liberties is baffling. Few call them the fringe; sadly the fringe has taken over while the mainstream is a mute spectator.

If things go this way, I am afraid the day is not far when IPC Section 377 will be used against us ruthlessly just like POTA was once used against the religious minority. Let us hope my fears are unfounded and the leader of the nation takes over the reins with renewed zeal and lives up to the erudite speeches he makes abroad.

Proud to be gay, proud to be a criminal

On the morning of 11 December 2013, I woke up with a hope that history will take a new course that morning. Excited and charged up for a celebration, I stared animatedly at my Twitter feed, waiting for the news to break. Two tweets appeared on my TL back to back. The fact did not sink in. By 10:45, i was unable to read my Twitter feed, eyes moist with tears. From a respected citizen of India, who in his smallest capacity had been contributing to the cause of nation-building, was now a criminal! Supreme Court had recriminalised Section 377, finding no “constitutional infirmity” in the draconian law.

What I was not anticipating was the huge outpouring of support for equal rights movement for gays and outrage against the irrational and incompetent (with shades of homophobia) verdict of the Supreme Court. Unlike 2009, when the landmark judgment of Retd Justice AP Shah was jeered, the queer taunted, and supporters of gay rights mocked on and off social media, for the last three days, the extent of support has been overwhelming, to say the least.

Gay and Proud

Justice Singhvi, who delivered the regressive judgment annulling July 2 2009 verdict by the Delhi High Court, hid behind a slew of procedural walls, which he himself chose to demolish in the past, when he bypassed the legislature and executive to frame public policy for telecom in the aftermath of the 2G scam. The judge who takes the liberty of unsettling the balance between the three wings of government in fiscal matters, giving the excuse that it is the legislature’s job to make amends to laws, is downright hypocritical.

The judiciary is the custodian of human rights, and has the mandate to make decisions in the interest of the public. But Justice Singhvi thinks annulling Section 377 of the IPC for a “miniscule minority” in improper. Well, Justice Singhvi needs to be reminded that any minority, no matter how miniscule needs to be protected and their rights secured – the Constitution of India warrants that.

Scrap 377

Interpretation of statutes is another mandate of the judiciary in case of conflicts. By declaring that the Section 377 suffers from no Constitutional infirmity, the Supreme Court has put its stamp of approval on treatment of about 100 million (figures stated by top media houses) citizens of the country as criminals. A law drafted in 1860, to preserve the Anglo-Christian morality, got a thumbs up from the supreme judiciary in India in 2013!

Away from the legal debate, a social debate was raging on social media platforms. The army of homophobes were out in full force, led by the Commanders Subramanian Swamy and Ramdev, who deserve Nobel prizes in Medicine for the absurd claims they made regarding homosexuality, without bothering to provide even a shred of credible evidence. Three years back I would have engaged in Twitter battles with these dolts, arguing my case from Biological, social and psychological points of view.

However, my patience has thinned in the last 5 years of handling Internet Hindus, and I didn’t want to waste my energy on them. Fighting the Supreme Court is more important at this juncture. All those who are interested to read about the Scientific evidence that homosexuality is NOT an aberration, fully natural, genetic and hereditary, please do read my blogs on the subject (published in Gaylaxy).

Abolish 377

A battle lies ahead. India is in need of a Stonewall moment. The LGBT community has never felt more galvanised. The entire media has thrown its weight behind us. There’s no stopping or looking back. 2009 empowered us. The SC setback has strengthened our resolve. Ladke LenGAY Hindustan.

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Own Copyrights

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