Miscellany

Gay arranged marriages on the rise in India, really?

American pre-eminent LGBT magazine Out seems to think so.

 |  Miscellany  |  5-minute read |   18-02-2016
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The best of them get it wrong some times, and so it happened with Out, America's pre-eminent LGBT magazine which recently ran a story titled "Gay Arranged Marriages Are On The Rise In India".

Take a moment to let that headline sink in. The story is based on, and only on, the matrimonial ad placed by equal rights activist Harish Iyer's mother in Mid-Day last year. It offers some generic statements on how India is marching towards a "love marriage" revolution, which may well be true for straight couples, and segues the statistic into pronouncing how a little bit of that stardust is falling on the gays too, only this time via the arranged route.

Also read: Harish Iyer on why his mother chose a 'Groom Wanted' ad to find him a husband

The story quotes Iyer and Parmesh Shahani, who runs the Godrej India Culture Lab, to bolster its central idea. Most of their statements, however, are centred on the changing profile of gay men in India today, the greater openness in the face of an antiquated law, the caste controversy surrounding Iyer's matrimonial ad, and so on.

There is little by way of evidence for the story's grand title, and less still by way of any impending change in mores suggested so breathlessly by it. Even the newspaper that ran Iyer's ad has since changed its policy on running gay matrimonials.

Coincidentally, on the day the story was published, the queer blogosphere was abuzz with news of a gay man in Mysuru posting an ad in Queerala, an online LGBT community with a focus on Kerala. The man sought a partner for himself through the ad, without indicating what this alliance would be called in the absence of any marital provisions for homosexuals in Indian law.

Also read: How gay matrimonial helped me find a match but not the one

So, is there an arranged marriage movement among gays afoot in India? The question itself is laughable, and not merely because of this cute tendency on the part of some to imagine that if alliances between gays are called marriages, the magical thinking so undertaken will usher a utopian ideal with godspeed.

The more urgent problem is the crying need among gay men for long-term, stable relationships, and the lack of suitable avenues to meet that need. The matrimonial ads will not have us, and the queer forums address only a certain segment among us, those who are out or at least have a foot in the door.

Anyone who is willing to show his face on Planetromeo or Grindr, traditionally known as hookup apps, knows everyone else who is game. By game, I mean an interest in taking the conversation beyond a sex date, one of those de rigueur encounters whose fruition does not even call for the presence of a face picture. (Abs and pecks will do, thank you!)

Also read: Section 377: Being gay does not make you a child molester

(There is a vast section of men who have sex with men but who would be damned if they were called gay. I used to think that was impossible, to sleep with a man and yet not be gay. But I don't think so anymore. Gayness is as much, if not more, about accepting oneself in that identity as about having sex with another man.)

It takes work to rid oneself of the pernicious pull of online seduction. You can pass your 20s lulling yourself into the notion that sex too is a form of love (and it can be, yes). The idea is intense and intensely individualistic, burning in your eye with all the passion of youth and freedom and damn-this-and-damn-that. It is attractive also because it is underground. Nobody talks about these things. Love between men, at the best of times, is a hush-hush topic.

If after the crash and burn you manage to find someone who will love you for who you are, who will wake up next to you and make you coffee and wolf down the breakfast prepared by you, and do all the other things that make up a life, you are plain lucky. All of us gay men have these giant hopes for this ideal man, especially because our real lives are wastelands of emotion punctuated by the occasional thrill of intimacy. What are we supposed to do? Where are we supposed to look?

The artless gay man. Is there such a thing? We know so much, we have seen and suffered and lived so much that we feel we are carrying several lifetimes' worth of baggage on our young shoulders. We are scared of and for ourselves, of the intense pain we have undergone and how it has changed our minds. We search for a partner, then, in the sedentary columns of a matrimonial ad or a queer forum where our words drip with straight respectability. We want something new and clean and shorn of grief to save us from ourselves.

Also read: Gay or straight, India: It's time we all come out

So dear people at Out, India is not passing through an arranged marriage revolution for gays. Hahaha. It cannot. Society won't allow it. Gay men might, but they will come to it after having lived the circle.

After passing through the four stages of denial, anger, sadness and acceptance, which are really the four stages of grief. No, they are not homophobic, but all love is hard, and loving one's gender is harder still. They are just searching for a crevice of hope in the giant wall staring them in the face. That is the real story of our lives, which you seem to have missed in your quick scheme to bracket us.

Writer

Vikram Johri Vikram Johri @vikramjohri

I write for a living. Sometimes the words comfort the heart too.

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