In Conversation: Being Gay and Vocal in India

Interview by Natasha and Chandni for Department of Journalism, Lady Shri Ram College for Women.

Written and Compiled by: Chandni

Ram and Prince, both work at Naz Foundation, and fit into the archetype narratives of homosexuals in modern India. They provide two starkly contrasting pictures. Ram- the upper middle class, well educated gay who leaves India, only to come back a few years later, more liberated and more resolved to work for the Indian LGBT community; and Prince- the confused village boy who takes more than a quarter of his life to reach the conclusion of his identity, and who faces more hurdles and pressure to ‘come out’ before moving to a metropolitan city.

Chandni Ahuja and Natasha Ahuja, from the Department of Journalism, LSR, have a heart-warming chat with them over some piping hot Green Tea.

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Chandni (Extreme Left) and Natasha, in conversation with Ram

‘The root cause of this aversion towards gays is the patriarchal nature of the society,” says Prince. “Look at any household, the kids are always taught to behave in a certain manner. A boy with effeminate tendencies will always be chastised, whereas girls are taught to be rough and tough like boys. That is why gays, many of who have effeminate characteristics, are looked down upon. We are made fun of, called ‘Chhe Number’ (referring to the ‘Chhakka’, a North Indian slang used for both Transgenders and Gays).”

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Prince (Left) with Natasha

What does he then think of the mainstream Bollywood cinema, which has glorified machismo since the yore, with the types of ‘Angry Man’ Amitabh Bacchan, Vinod Khanna and Dharamendra, along with the farcical representation of the LGBT community, from Bobby Darling to Dostana?

“Well, we can’t really blame the film-makers. They need these masala elements. But we would like if they portray not just one type of gays- that is the effeminate ones like Bobby Darling, and that too in a negative manner. Many gays like Ram and me, are absolutely like other men. No one can judge our sexual orientation on the basis of our mannerisms and dressing.”

Adding to it Ram says, “Actually, it’s a good thing that they are at least portraying us. We are being included in the mainstream. Because of Bollywood, people in villages know that there is something like homosexuality. It’s a positive step forward. Also, some great art films have been made in India on the subject.”

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Prince feels frustrated when hears that parents force their homosexual children into heterosexual marriages, and believe that homosexuality is curable. “Why don’t they understand that it is biological? If a 17 year old boy ‘comes out’, his parents refuse to accept it, and try their best to persuade him. 10 years later, when they see their efforts turning futile, they have no other option, but to accept him. Just imagine the mental turmoil the young boy must have gone through in those 10 peak years of his youth. The age where most people enjoy their lives, he was engaged in an excruciating dilemma, of either being himself or making his family happy. His parents could have saved all of it by accepting him 10 years earlier.”

How much of an impact does law make into their lives, with the archaic section 377 and the entire debate around it?

Prince responds, “I don’t think the law is that important. Law is essentially a regressive apparatus set up by the state. And what law should I comment upon? The one that the Delhi High Court gave (decriminalizing homosexuality in 2009), or the one which the Supreme Court gave (scrapping Delhi HC’s judgment)? Law doesn’t matter as long as it doesn’t cause an impediment in my life.”

Ram feels that is the society and the mindsets that need to change, rather than the law, and the law shall follow. “After the Delhi High Court’s ruling in 2009, you did not see people coming out on the roads and saying we do not have any problems with gays and lesbians. Even though the law decriminalized homosexuality, the society did not. The stigma continued.”

Where do they see the future of the Indian queer community? Ram says, “Undoubtedly, things are getting better. This new generation is more accepting of alternate lifestyles, even though there is a long way to go.”

Prince echoes Ram’s feelings. “Earlier, the people from our parent’s generation, spent their entire lives without revealing their identity. They got married, had kids, and never uttered a word about their actual desires. So even if we are not accepted today, at least we have gained that much of a confidence to assert ourselves.”

As Jawaharlal Nehru said, ‘We shall overcome some day’.

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