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Why I don't see myself raising a gay family in India

Vikram Johri
Vikram JohriAug 26, 2016 | 20:55

Why I don't see myself raising a gay family in India

Under its youth-centric banner Y Films, Yash Raj Films has been running a web show called "Sex Chat with Pappu and Papa" in which a young man tries explaining all things sexual to his conservative father and overly inquisitive son. The most recent episode of the show tackled homosexuality:

It's a well-meaning episode, even if it cannot desist from locating its humour in the public shame of being a "homo", or in the protagonist's indelicate attempts to explain homosexuality. Yet, if the thing is not overly homophobic or demanding that we gays be lynched, I guess it passes muster, of a sort.

One of the provisions of the Surrogacy Bill the government has come up with is denying surrogacy to gay couples. I am not going to discuss the silliness of stopping a practice that can be a boon to infertile couples - the bill will only allow infertile straight couples to opt for "altruistic" surrogacy, the kind where no money changes hands, as if that can be monitored.

As a gay man, my problems with the bill are altogether different, and no, this is not another rant about how the government is being intolerant of opposing voices. The gays are the minority beyond the pale, so that irrespective of the ideological hue of the government in power, we have been denied our rights.

Sushma Swaraj said that homosexual couples will not be allowed to choose surrogacy because it is "against our ethos". Very well. I weep when I read a statement like this from her because I am a deep admirer of Swaraj. She is one of our finest politicians and has blazed a trail for women in her profession.

I am also aggrieved because I think this government is on the right track when it comes to development. In spite of all the political turmoil occasioned by Kashmir and the attack on Dalits, this government is working decisively to improve things on the ground.

As someone who considers himself Right-of-Centre, I have often hoped that the economic agenda of this government will unleash a climate that will make gay rights an unstoppable force. Economic liberty and the power of the moolah is a far stronger guarantee of gay rights than protestations and appeals to human rights.

My friends on the Left may not agree but I have come by this libertarian streak after much thought.

So, perhaps, we are in that middle stage where the government, for its avowed development agenda, cannot help peeping inside people's kitchens and bedrooms. The cultural agenda of the BJP, which one had hoped would be diluted as the government focuses on getting things done, has a nasty tendency of raising its head from time to time. It would be easy to pin this down on the personal bigotry of those in the government, but I would not be so quick to apportion blame.

I am not even going to suggest that the anti-homosexual stance of the government is a tired attitude borne of our colonial legacy. I find it highly disingenuous to blame the British for something that has changed in much of the Western world. If we were really so accommodating of alternative sexuality before the British came, how can centuries of openness be undone by 100 years of foreign rule?

And if it was undone, why has the open climate of the last 70 years not caught on with us? So perhaps, there is some problem with our "ethos" and Swaraj is merely laying the blame where it belongs.

No, it's none of that. It's not even a Left versus Right issue. There was a time when an anti-gay soundbite from someone in power got my blood boiling. But now, I just look to Saudi Arabia or the ISIS and tell myself that at least I am alive.

I would like to have better standards to measure my outrage against, but I can't help feeling that denial of surrogacy to the likes of me or to the use of the right bathroom to my trans friends in America is not nearly in the same league of oppression as what is happening to our brethren in West Asia.

So well, I outrage, but with perspective. I appreciate how a show like "Pappu and Papa" - tacky beyond measure - is perhaps essential in our society. I don't personally get the "ethos" Swaraj swears by, but I get them, socially. Even if Section 377 went and surrogacy were to be allowed to the likes of me, I don't foresee raising a gay family in this country.

I don't think we, as a society, have reached that stage. I know it's a chicken-and-egg situation - better laws lead to social change, or social change necessitates better laws? Whatever be the case, I recognise that it's a devilishly complex issue.

My fight is about human rights. It's about denying equality of life and liberty to a part of the population that does not love or have sex the way the majority does. I will continue to shout from the rooftops, but I also understand that this government can do the things it does, not because it is particularly intolerant, but because we all are.

Last updated: August 26, 2016 | 20:55
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