On February 4th, Postnoon, a Hyderabad based daily published a biphobic and a transphobic piece on Hyderabad pride, written by a journalist named Dean Williams.
Dean Williams wrote:
“First up let me say that I am all for gay rights. In fact, I believe that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry and adopt children (or have them through surrogacy) and the fact that Hyderabad celebrated its first ever Queer Pride parade is truly something to rejoice. Now I have nothing against the transgender community, but unfortunately they are so far behind in their quest for equality that they will hamstring our nascent gay rights movement…”
“As for bisexuals, I’m with Woody Allen, it merely doubles your chances of getting a date on a Saturday night. In India it’s time LGBT lost the B and T, for its own sake.”
Orinam members L.Ramakrishnan and Vijay Mogli responded to this phobic article.
Equality for G and L people cannot be attained unless our B and T sisters and brothers are equal too.
Dean Williams’ opinion piece ‘Time to drop the B and T from LGBT’ appears to be based on a flawed understanding of bisexuality and complete ignorance of the transgender community’s successes in the struggle for basic human rights in India.
- Consistent with Woody Allen’s quip, bisexuality (only) refers to the potential to be attracted to men and women. It does not imply that a person HAS to be simultaneously involved with men and women to actualize his or her bisexual orientation. Thus either or both partners in what Williams refers to as a ‘gay’ couple may, in fact, be bisexual. Similarly, either or both partners in what may appear to be a ‘straight’ couple, may be bisexual. One cannot infer the sexual orientation of a person solely from whether their partner is of the same or other sex. Further, sexual orientation exists independently of practices of monogamy, open relationships or fidelity. One can be monogamous and anywhere on the spectrum from heterosexual to homosexual. One can be promiscuous and anywhere on that spectrum, as well. The author would do well to educate himself on basic concepts in sexuality and gender identity before making pronouncements of this kind.
- Transgenders, who are among the most marginalized of the LGBT communities, are the vanguard of the struggle for equal rights in India. Thanks to the efforts of passionate and articulate transgender community leaders, addressing transgender equality in access to education, employment and healthcare is now a strong recommendation in the 12th Five Year Plan of the Government of India. Transgender individuals are included as OBC by the Karnataka Backward Classes Commission, are entitled to social welfare benefits and free sex-reassignment surgeries in Tamil Nadu, and can indicate their gender identity separately from ‘male’ and ‘female’ in Indian passports. There is still a long way to go, obviously, in respect to freedom from violence, harassment and exclusion. We – L, G, B, T and allies – are all united in this struggle.
Vijay Mogli says:
The queer rights discourse and movement are deeply rooted in certain core democratic values like liberty and equality that form the bedrock of its advocacy. These core values are safely enshrined in our constitution. Interestingly, both these values are placed one beside the other and not one above the other which means that liberty is not preferentially offered to some chosen few but to everyone with no exceptions. In the same strain, equality is not the prerogative of a privileged few but the right of all, all and all for all times to come. While there have been some cases where these two principles have been in conflict, they have been the rarest of the rare.
While the author of the above article may have earnestly intended to advance the cause of gay and lesbian rights, it is quite not about gay or lesbian rights in isolation. It is about ethically positing our rights as gay and lesbian people – and I speak here as a gay man – in the large scheme of human rights. The rationale on which we demand our fundamental rights as gay or lesbian people is that all that is offered to our straight brethren be also allowed to us. If they are allowed to us why then can’t all those who are denied these rights viz. bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual and queer folks have them? In the course of this struggle for acceptance and justice, we have found enormous and huge support, and courage from our bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual and queer friends by synergizing our efforts and celebrating our myriad hues of gender identity and sexualities. Our movement should, in my view, never stand on a lopsided bias against some who are actually equal social constituents and partner in our progress. Let us not knowingly or unknowingly advance our rights by relegating theirs. It is against the very cause that we espouse.
The author spoke of the transgender community being far behind in its quest for equality. With all respect, this is not factual. Among other things, transgender people in the state of Tamil Nadu are getting formally recognized as a separate gender and are getting their identity and ration cards issued. I do not know of any such progress in terms the receipt of state benefits enjoyed by a single gay or lesbian person in India. The author also spoke multiple reasons like middle class morality, religious dogma and tokenism of closeted celebrities, the indifference of the business community and vote bank politics of politicians as cases in point to advance his argument. But none of them offers us sound logic or a fair reason to exclude our bisexual and transgender fraternity from our journey. His suggestions seem to be based on apprehensions of contemporary social biases and a limiting approach based on fear of failure and not a de-limiting perspective and will to build an equitable and fair society. Yes, in this way that we chose, we will have some difficult, tiresome and vexatious questions to answer from many ill-informed people and loads of discrimination to overcome. Aren’t we doing that very beautifully and confidently – at some levels if not all – already? Most, if not all of our goals as the LGBTIAQ brethren, remain common and hence it makes more sense to rally forces than to part ways. Also, there is no empirical data from statistics or scholarly sociological evidence that establishes the merit of the author’s argument but I respect it as his view point.
Now coming to his Woody Allen view of bisexuals, the Kinsey scale and KSOG should shed light. A very careful reading of his argument should only convince us that he has actually offered more and more reasons for us, the LGBTIAQ community to stay together.