The hypocrisy of India's gay community

LGBT are the new privileged in certain circles, I am told. But we are not. We are dying and we are living.

 |  4-minute read |   03-05-2017
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An out gay boy in Bombay kills himself. Another cross-dressing gay boy gets gaslighted and hounded out of Loyola College in Chennai. Neither story really hits the headlines anywhere.

The stories of gay lives and the harassment that young gay people face die with them.

After I was sacked for being a gay man by St Joseph’s College of Arts and Sciences in Bangalore, and kicked up a fuss about it, a young man who was harassed, gaslighted and tormented at the college by the principal for his gender non-conforming behaviour, principally for his long hair, spoke out on Facebook and reached out to me. Soon, his became yet another status message. The ephemeral nature of our lives and our deaths never ceases to astound me.

The "queer movement" and its obsession with stories of triumph, success and mainstreaming that it bandies about, does not want to deal with stories of harassment, torture, suicide. That’s too much negativity in the world. Let’s share pictures of desi boys marrying white boys in Hindu-Brahmin marriage ceremonies in Texas or wherever instead.

gay-rights-delhi-_050317030318.jpg'How do I explain the looks in people’s eyes as I walked through the college?'

Yet it is not like life is all hunky dory there either. A Punjabi gay couple in the UK looking for citizenship write to me asking for the details of my case so they can use it to seek asylum in the UK and UK passports. I don’t know what to say to them as I know that most Western countries think we are a democracy and that gayness is just fine here.

When doing queer immigrant volunteering in the US, I became friends with a Bangladeshi Christian gay man who eventually got asylum because Bangladesh is a Muslim country. He was a minority there and gay. Never mind that as a Christian minority gay man here, I might and have been equally disenfranchised as him. An immigrant lawyer would nevertheless laugh at my bid for asylum in the US or the UK.

I have a long and chequered history of employment-based discrimination here in India. But would it really hold up anywhere in the world as grounds for anything? It barely holds up in my own memory because enough queer men (and it is only men, gay mainly and trans men) attack me for spoiling their party with my misery. It is enough to demoralise the most immutably miserable and I'm among that breed.

LGBT are the new privileged in certain circles, I am told. But we are not. We are dying and we are living. And we leave no marks, no stains, no histories, no geographies. Dead or alive. It is like we never existed. I guess in the world of Arnab Goswami news, we are not shouting and screaming enough. I guess in the world of 24/7 repeat telecast TV channels, our deaths are not gory enough, our harassment not spectacular enough.

Why didn’t the gay boy in Loyola sue, asks another out gay boy from the college. With allies like these, who needs enemies? But not everyone can sue. I am suing and it is bloody hard work. I don’t even know if I have the resources for it, financially, to begin with.

But if and when I do, what part of my experience will stand up in court?

How do I explain the looks in people’s eyes as I walked through the college?

How do I explain the sniggers, the sneers, the nudges and the grins from priests, faculty, students?

What will they amount to in court, when whether I am alive or dead does not even matter to right-wing gay people (and let it be known, once and for all, that the gay movement in this country is right-wing) who ought to be my allies?

I must die and live ephemerally. The queer party must go on.

Also read: What's wrong with being gay: When it comes to sex, we're all perverts

Writer

Ashley Tellis Ashley Tellis @tellisashley

The writer is an LGBT rights activist based in Chennai.

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