Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, writers Oscar Wilde and Hans Christian Anderson, artists Leonardo da vinci and Michaelangelo, actor Neil Patrick Harris (Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother) and the like have two things in common: They are all popular and thriving and they are all gay. Now, remember that I am not mentioning the fact that they are gay because I want to attest that they are ‘different’ than the common lot; I am writing about their sexuality because I want to establish that they belong where we do. In the past few days, I read expansively on the subject of gays, gay rights, their apprehensions and their opinions. I studied about thousands of people who are attracted to persons of their same sex but are living under a veil because the idea of ‘coming out’ before the society makes them anxious. Being an Indian, I can picture how it must be for these countless people to talk unreservedly about their sexuality and preferences in a society where conservatism and insularity rule the mindsets more than ‘the right to live’ does. About a week back, the Indian Supreme Court put a vast majority of the population in awe by upholding Section 377 of the constitution which manifestly affirms that ‘gays are criminals.’ Yes, that’s what they meant; isn’t it? This section prohibits carnal intercourse on the grounds that it is against the law of nature. What truly dazed people is the manner in which this court overturned the ruling of the High Court which repealed section 377 in 2009 wherein the gays were given the right to exist, to feel at ease about their sexual orientation and to come out of the closet. So, how do they work around things now? Do they go back in or do they battle for their civil liberties?
In 2009, when the High Court decriminalized homosexuality and sodomy, it came about as a triumph for the largest democracy in the world. For me, victory is that moment when you recognize that you have every right to yourself, your body, your existence and your thoughts. For a number of people, the 2009 verdict was nothing less than a sigh of relief because it gave them the hope that they can have a constructive future, that even if the society, their families or friends turn their backs on them, the law and the government would nonetheless acknowledge them. Four years ago, after the landmark judgment, about hundreds of homosexuals must have gathered the courage to come out of the closet and to lay bare in front of the world and facing those they care for. Many men and women daringly exposed that their sexual orientation, though dissimilar from the mainstream, is something innate and it does not change the real people they are. Isn’t it just okay to be a good human being, work conscientiously, spread goodness, struggle with life’s ups and downs and be in love with someone from your own gender. How can a person’s sexual preferences define who he or she is? How can a person’s ‘notion of love’ characterize him as a ‘criminal’?
Furthermore, my exploration about homosexuality in India led me to read about Manvendra Singh Gohil. Manvendra is a prince who belongs to the royal family of former princely state of Rajpipla. In 2007, he came out and revealed that he was a homosexual. His family disinherited him; his community abhorred him and this disclosure brought about riots and turmoil in the region where people had once honoured and appreciated him. Manvendra appeared in Oprah Winfrey’s show where he shared his account and how daunting it was to come to terms with his sexuality being born with a golden spoon. Over the years, people have come to accept him and the liberal populace of India root for him. He has been involved in several societal activities where the paramount concentration is on homosexuals, wives of gay men, AIDS education and prevention and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. In the same league is founder of the Hamsafar trust, Ashok Row Kavi who is a journalist and the first man in India to talk openly about his gay stature. Kavi has been creating a stir since 1986 and is one of the most prominent Indians working for the LGBT community. What sometimes perturbs him is that he isn’t seen as the man who covered important events or worked for high-flying newspapers; the most significant idea they associate him with is the fact that he is a homosexual. Didn’t I do the same by writing about him here? These are the people who have been scuffling for their privileges to an equal opportunity towards life. The Supreme Court’s decision unnerved many such men and women eventually giving a spark to their activism yet again. A vast number of LGBT activists are staging protests another time for the reversal of the latest sentence. Moreover, the ruling government (Congress) also opposes the Supreme Court’s decision. Nevertheless, it’s a letdown for the people who once believed they were liberated and now come under the broad classification of being ‘illegitimate’ and scandalous.
Perhaps, I can’t comprehend too much of it because I can’t sense how they feel and how their lives have been influenced just because of this one facet of their individualities. But, this turnaround of a four-year old judgement and this resolution of criminalizing a natural phenomenon does bother me. Most of the homosexuals in India lead a double life. They rarely divulge their truth and act like any average heterosexual person would do. They fear the upshot, the consequences and the tragedy that might smash their lives. Many gay men sooner or later get married to straight women and it does look ‘typical’ to the outer world but leads to broken marriages, clandestine lives, depression and dejection. As a result, in actuality, criminalizing the subsistence of gays would not shrink their numbers or wipe them off the nation; it would just mess up more lives, intimidate more people and shove thousands more of them into the closet that they have perpetually wished to come out of. It would seize their independence and I believe that’s a greater offence So who’s the criminal now? The Homosexuals or the Supreme Court? That’s for you to decide.