Let's talk about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender cause beyond discrimination

Vikram Johri
Vikram JohriApr 16, 2015 | 17:55

Let's talk about  lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender cause beyond discrimination

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the Supreme Court judgement that gave legal recognition to the third sex. Since April last year, the transgender can officially exist in this country, a measure that has prompted a number of state governments to launch programs aimed at them. The UGC has directed all colleges under its ambit to offer the option to represent oneself as transgender.


While any progress is welcome, it's a long road ahead for the transgender to attain full social acceptance. Many find themselves without jobs in spite of suitable qualifications. The threat of violence is a real one. Day-to-day problems such as which washroom to use in a public place, a topic currently raging in the US, continue to rile them. Besides, while society might be more willing to accept them on the surface due to their conforming sexual choices (many identify as straight), they continue to invite both scorn and ridicule.

Most transgenders would tell you how they crave a normal life: family, kids, a career. However, since many choose to express their gender identity on their bodies, they stand out as different, a fate not normally conferred on others on the LGBT spectrum. Yes, it is possible to spot a gay man who is deeply effeminate, but that is only speculation. The transgender, on the other hand, must live with the effects of their altered gender expression.

Part of this, to be sure, stems not from bigotry but ignorance. A common strand of humour among LGBT people emerges from the comic possibilities of introducing the dynamics of non-straight sex to well-meaning but confused straight people. One joke goes thus:


"As I show my neighbour, a sprightly 72-year-old woman, the photo of a gay couple, she asks me: 'Who is husband and who is wife?'

I explain: 'It doesn't work like that. Wife and husband are about specific gender roles in bed and, regrettably, sometimes even beyond. So it is wrong to think of gay couples in that light.'She says: 'Oh, they decide there and then, is it?'"

The impact of the joke comes from the gravid middle line where the person relating it launches into an earnest spiel about gender roles, and how those roles need to be seen in a broader, LGBT-specific light perhaps. Of course, the sincerity does not pay, as the joke hilariously proceeds to show.

Because of where we are on the lifecycle of LGBT rights, we find the conversation restricted to issues of equality and legal recognition. And here we have seen the Supreme Court take divergent views on gay versus transgender rights. But if we plugged deeper and related these issues not merely to identity but to how the LGBT fashion new ways of being as they adopt predominantly straight structures such as the family, we would see a remarkably consistent reordering of traditional gender norms across the LGBT spectrum.


Let me explain. As I look towards settling down with a fellow bottom, I, like the harried joke teller above, too get faced with funny conversations about my status in the relationship. During one such conversation I joked with my mother that I would keep the home ready while R, my partner, would work as a professor. We both laughed about it because it mirrored the traditional gender roles that I am otherwise so quick to diss around her.

Later, ma said something which surprised me: "When you are a bottom and he is a bottom why do you see him as the husband? Why doesn't he consider you the husband?"

Her question was, of course, lighthearted, but I felt the need to explain. "Ma," I said to her, "it does not work like that. Both R and I will be husband to one another, and it has nothing to do with how we fuck. Yes, the husband fucks and the wife gets fucked but that's biology. Gays don't have stuff like that to consider. When I tell you I am going to be his wife, I am just messing with you. And even if he were top and I bottom we would still not live out typical husband-wife roles in the house, because we belong to a community that has always questioned the fixedness of straight gender roles."

She laughed again, and I joined in. My mother is a remarkably open-minded woman (that I can have such conversations with her is testimony to the fact) but I was left wondering what she had meant exactly. Had she imagined that as a wife, I would take on some roles in the household that are traditionally wifey, and had she worried on that count? (She had perhaps imagined that I would stop doing whatever little freelance work I got, which itself is a letdown for her since my cupboard stocks, somewhere in its godforsaken depths, an IIM degree.)

My mother has kept home while working as a doctor for 30 years, and the fact that she has held down this dual responsibility with a sense of possession gives us some idea of how she defines the role of a wife. Her definitions of husband and wife, yes, have something to do with sexual roles, which of course is a product of the milieu she grew up in, as well as the milieu that she built for herself after she got married.

For her to equate roles in and outside the bed, then, is a corollary of her own understanding of gender roles. But now she has to wrap her head around new definitions. When R and I start living together she will see how we make our house. I would cook and so would he. I would mow the lawn (if we had one) and so would he. I would earn and so would he. When we raise children, both of us would be "dad". There could be times when I, due to my freelance writer status, do not go out to earn but that would not make me the wife, either in the real (since it cannot - I am a man) or the metaphorical sense. Ma will see this and - I know - come to appreciate it, and perhaps her own ideas about straight roles will also start to loosen up a bit.

Somewhere then, there is a need for a discussion around the LGBT cause that moves beyond discrimination (haters gonna hate) and encompasses the new and shimmering world of possibilities that each of us, due to our different status, is putting in place every day.

Last updated: April 16, 2015 | 17:55
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