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Gay and Guilty?

Hate mongers are at it again!

As you all know, the Supreme Court of India is currently hearing appeals against the Delhi High Court 377 verdict that decriminalized homosexuality in India.

Homosexuality is all over the news in India, once again. The national media is watching the trial closely. They are publishing articles, writing editorials, and conducting interviews around the issues of homosexuality and Sec 377. I am flooded with links to these stories from my friends, social networking sites, mailing lists and tweets from @BombayDost, @ChennaiPride, and other sources.

Every time I click a link, I tell myself “Don’t! Don’t look at the comments”. But I can’t help it. I read most of the comments and, at times, respond to some of them.

One would be naive to expect a civil discourse on Internet forums. People who post comments on these forums mostly don’t want to hear what others have to say. They don’t want a discussion and don’t want to hear different opinions. They don’t want to listen to facts. They just want to condemn things, ideas and people they don’t like or they don’t agree with. For them it is yet another platform to release their stress, vent out their anger and spread hate. When it comes to homosexuality, there is no scarcity of hate. It keeps on coming!

The funny thing is most of these hate mongers don’t know anything about homosexuality! They have never directly interacted with a person from the LGBT community: this is obvious from their comments. This, however,  does not stop them from pronouncing judgement on the LGBT communities and accusing us, especially gay men, of a laundry list of wrong-doings. When one posts responses based on facts, personal experiences, and evidence, they get even more furious!

Instead of responding to the hate mongers individually, I thought I would write a post here.

Image Source: thepeoplescube.com

Gays are charged with so many things. But are we guilty?

Allegation: Gays convert other people (including children) to homosexuality:

I have been out as gay to parents, family and friends for six years now, and have known I was gay since I was a teenager. I have never attempted to convert a straight person – man, woman or a child – to homosexuality. But, believe me when I say this, every other straight person to whom I came out, including my parents, family and close friends have tried to make me straight!

“It is just a phase.”
“How do you know you are gay, if you have never slept with a woman? Try it!”
“Let’s go to a psychiatrist. I am sure they can make you straight.”
“Just get married.You will be fine.”

I have never said “Try it” to a straight person. It is the mostly the ‘other side’ that is guilty of the conversion attempts, not the gays.

Allegation: Gays are against family values:

I love my family. I always have. I have been a dutiful son and a caring brother all my life. I have stood by my family through thick and thin. After I came out, nothing changed from my end. But from my family’s perspective, I was not the same son, brother or cousin anymore. Some in my family have stopped talking to me, some talk to me, but completely ignore the fact that I am gay, some have conditions to maintain a relationship with me (“as long as you don’t talk about your sexuality, or your relationship” etc.). There are so many permutations and combinations, honestly I have to maintain a list of what I can talk about with each family member.

This is true for many in the LGBT community. Many of us are disowned, ignored, ostracized and condemned by our own families because of who we are. So, if family and family values are all about unconditional love, being there for each other, supporting through thick and thin, are the gays guilty? You decide!

Allegation: Gays spread HIV/AIDS:

This is simple. HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) spread because of unprotected sex. Gender, race, sexuality are all irrelevant. This is a scientific fact! You try explaining this to the hate mongers, they simply won’t listen. They keep on flogging a dead horse. I mean, how difficult it is for someone to understand this? Really?

True, there are certain high-risk groups. For example, in the US the African American community is considered a high-risk group, but that doesn’t mean if you are black, you will be infected with HIV/AIDS. In the same way gays are one of the high-risk groups. That’s it. And how on the earth is stigmatizing a high-risk group is going to help any of us?

For the record, 85% of HIV transmission in India is from men to women and vice-versa.

Allegation: Gays are sick. Homosexuality is a disease:

APA, WHO and many leading mental health professionals in India don’t think so! But that is simply not enough for these self proclaimed scientists and doctors. “Mental disorder”, “Hormonal malfunction”, “Psychological problem” – hate mongers come up with different terms to brand gay people as sick. Ignorance is bliss! Isn’t it?

A friend of mine was taken by his parents to a psychologist, when he came out as gay. The parents thought homosexuality was a disease and their son needed to be cured. They were hoping the doctor would prescribe medicines and treatments and cure their son. Guess what? The doctor did prescribe a treatment, not for the son, but for the parents. He asked the parents to attend parents counselling. The counsellor explained to the parents about human sexuality and how homosexuality is a difference not a disease. It took several sessions, but the parents finally came to understand the truth and accepted their son for who he is.

The fact is homophobia is sick, not homosexuality.

Still not convinced? Well, if you think you know better than Narayana Reddy, Vijay Nagaswami, KS Jacob and others, who am I to burst your bubble?


Do you have something to say to the hate mongers? Please feel free to post a comment here.

Comments

7 Comments. Add your own »

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  1. The concern is that nobody really understands what it means to be gay and the likes. Somebody tells them its wrong so its wrong, they dont really care to use their brain, and they strictly dont want to stringing it with culture, family, values, etc, they are comfortable living vulgar lives in their heads and to hide their own guilt pose a very pure picture. Even to be straight and honest… or even to be a person of your own to express ideas is not acceptable to those conditioned minds, to India this will be accepted only in certain sections. sa

  2. Very well written! I get so tried of typing up rebuttals to the rants I see on reader response columns. Now I can just paste the link to this article wherever I see a flood of hate!

  3. Excellent article. Don’t know whether I should congratulate you for writing it or Orinam for publishing it. I thought the “My Son is Krishna” article excellent too.

    Thank you for pointing out some of the salient facts of the case. As so often is the case, people accuse others of what they do themselves. Beautifully brought out in this article.

    Send it to the New York TImes!

    Cheers,

    Ranjan

  4. The article is very well written.

    More often than out, homophobia arises due to lack if understanding and individualistic thinking. I have had people tell me that, they support gays and such but not in public, because it against the norm and they don’t want to classified as a “queer”. hmm. maybe they are the worst kind. But there is hope. There always is. Someday, people will wake up it. Once india and indians become open about Sex. Once they stop classifying sex as a taboo, then slowly but surely people will open up. Well acceptance is long way behind, but fear can be curtailed sooner.

  5. Well written article shri.

    But i wouldn’t personally care about the internet hate mongers.

    reason,

    well because it’s the internet and it filled with people who argue for the sake of arguing.

    This is not something specific to LGBT issues alone. Even if i make a post about nightwish changing their lead singer there would be 100 negative comments and the worst part most of them don’t even know what genre of music they play.

    The Final lesson learned from all this: Most negative comments are not worth our time and effort to be perturbed. since most of them are clueless about what they are talking about and the best part they don’t really care about the original issue.

  6. Well said Shri, i just wanted to share one of my personal experience when i came out to 2 close friends…Before that whenever there is a topic on homosexuality these 2 friends made some homophobic comments which took me a while to come out to them.

    But when i did, they took me to a beach started asking plenty of questions, they even wanted me to pass comments about guys who are passing by us. Finally they said ‘We cant believe you have kept all these feelings to yourself all these days when we talk about girls and sex etc and we are sorry for that…from now on you can talk whatever you think to us, as a friend we are here to listen to your true feelings.’

    Friends like them are very rare, when i came out to remaining people including my family…they wanted to remain ‘Dont ask, dont tell’ policy.

    cheers
    Vikranth

  7. Shri, I posted elsewhere, in another context, that perception counts more than facts in the real world. Gay people have to deal with all the misperception that has built up among the straight community over the centuries. When you tell the average straight person that you are gay, his mind immediately starts to recollect everything that it “understands” about gay people. He then views you from that light, and starts to re-interpret your past actions with this new knowledge about your being gay. So, for instance, if you used to put your arm around your friend in the past (something which is very common among Indians both gay and straight), after you tell him you are gay, he may “understand” that you were “hitting on him” in the past. And that is what we really worry about: “if I tell my friend that I am gay, in what way will he understand it”.

    Your friend may not question and reject his own past perceptions of gayness based on what he knows about you as a gay person and a friend. Instead, he may try to re-interpret the facts to match his (mis)perceptions of gay people. That is, instead of thinking, “My friend is not at all like what I used to believe about gay people, and so my past beliefs about gay people are wrong”, he could think, “Oh, so this is why he was doing all those things: he is gay, and so he was trying to convert me”, etc.

    Now, there will ALWAYS be a number of straight people that cannot accept gay people under any conditions. We need not waste our energy on them. Rather, we should first target those large numbers of straight people that are ambivalent in their attitude towards the gay community, and help them re-form their perceptions.

    What I would like to suggest is, instead of spending your energy providing explanations and justifications, just ask simple questions in a non-threatening way. You can try to help your friend understand the inconsistencies in his own perceptions, by making him explore the issue in different ways.

    For example, regarding the point that gay people “convert” straight people — Instead of trying to refute this allegation, you can ask questions such as:
    “Can you explain how this conversion takes place?
    Is there a conversion ceremony, some rituals, etc.? Have you attended any such conversion ceremony?
    If I ask you to lose interest in girls and be attracted to guys, will you do it? Can you do it?
    If I ask your father to become gay, will he do it? Can he do it?
    How about other men that you know? Which of them would agree to get ‘converted’?
    So, when you say that gay people ‘convert’ straight people, which straight people do you refer to?
    What makes YOU so special that you think you cannot be ‘converted’ but that other straight people can be converted?” And so on.

    Regarding the spread of HIV and AIDS, you can ask your friend if he knows how these diseases spread so rapidly across India. It has been researched and determined that the main reason for this rapid spreading was that heterosexual lorry drivers had unprotected sex with prostitutes at their rest stops along their route. Since these drivers travelled all across India in their trips, they managed to spread the disease very effectively. Ask your friend why those victimised women and their children are stigmatised by our society when it is the heterosexual male who insists on unprotected sex and is therefore responsible for spreading the disease.

    What about gay men working as teachers in a boys’ school? You can ask your friend to explain how it is different from straight male teachers teaching in a girls’ school. Ask him to tell you from newspaper reports who faces greater sexual abuse in India: girls or boys. Ask him about the proportion of female rape to male rape in India. Ask him to explain to you what level of female rape he would consider “acceptable” and “normal”, and whether he considers the current levels of female rape in India as “acceptable”.

    What about gay men “choosing their “filthy lifestyle” because they want to “enjoy more”? You can ask your friend to explain why you are not seeking sex with BOTH girls and boys if you just want to “enjoy more”. Why would you reject girls and only be interested in boys? If he thinks that “enjoying more” means rejecting girls and having sex with boys, why is HE not doing it? Why doesn’t HE want to “enjoy more”? What makes him different?

    And so on. Help your friend explore the issue in depth, from various angles. Let HIM provide explanations; let HIM trip over his own inconsistencies. What you achieve here is planting the seed of doubt in your friend’s mind regarding his own perceptions. When your friend is forced in this way to articulate (put into words) his vague feelings, he moves from emotion-based right-brain thinking to fact-based left-brain thinking, which makes it easier for him to understand where he is going wrong. Whether he likes it or not, these questions will churn around in his head every time he thinks about or meets gay people, thereby helping him re-shape his own beliefs over time.

    However, we need to be aware that some straight people do NOT want to change their perceptions at any cost. Some of them play the “Yes, but…” game very well: they pretend to be very reasonable, apparently agreeing to what you say, but then sucker-punch you by adding “but” followed by a vicious and unjustified attack from a competely unexpected and unjustified direction: “Okay, I understand you saying that gay people don’t convert others, BUT why are so many of them having sex with dead bodies”, etc. You need not waste too much of energy on such people. You can just toss a few questions at them and walk away with a smile.

    All we need is for the majority of straight people to feel comfortable with us. The minority of homophobes cannot attack us when the majority of the straight community will not tolerate it. It is the indifference or latent hostility of the majority that encourages the minority. We need to target our messages at this majority and help them get rid of their latent hostility, even if they cannot come around to actually loving us. To achieve this, we have to help them understand that while we may be different in many ways, we are also similar in many ways. Differences can appear threatening, causing fear, which in turn leads to hatred. We need to understand that much of the hatred comes from fear, which again comes from ignorance.

    To eliminate their sense of fear, we need to demonstrate our similarities; it is not enough to just talk about it while showing them something that is completely different. We need to find ways and venues through which we can create this sense of oneness.

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