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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.

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