Monday, May 11, 2009

Closed Door Crossroads

Yesterday S and I happened to be talking about this guy we know - he is maybe late twenties/early thirties, small town, close knit family, typical Indian upper middle class, defence kind of background. His family is on the quest of suitable bride for him – and nothing to stop him from getting a “good match” – he is reasonably intelligent, educated and good looking.

However, his peers are fairly certain that he is a homosexual. He has never dramatically “come out of the closet” or anything like that – but the indicators are there.

I was just musing to S wondering what fork would he chose in life – would he get into the societally conventional marriage with some girl, and live a life as per the “acceptable” norms and thereby probably living a confused and conflicted life ( not to mention the wife’s!)?
Or would he choose to tell his parents and family, face opposition, ostracization, guilt and heartache – and yes, the burden of disappointment of breaking radically away from the life he has led so far – as the doting beta and the ‘good Indian boy’.

Either ways, a terrible choice.

It takes tremendous amounts of courage in India for anyone to “come out” (As an aside, why on earth are the terms aligned to homo-sexuality so shifty sounding – “coming out” sounds like someone is crawling out from some dark underbelly, then you have the “straight” folks as opposed “queer”)

But why it is that people are so homophobic and so quick to condemn and deride homosexuals?

S hypothesized that even educated people still think it’s a condition that is catching and contagious – hence it’s much easier to revile than accept. Because something that is despised holds a lesser lure. Could be a possible explanation, yes.

Could be the crass media and societal caricatures- – the insensitive Kantabai and variants. The only half sensitive movie I recall was probably “My brother, Nikhil”. And the stereotypical imaging of a gay guy being less than a man and a lesbian woman being less than a woman – both occupying that gray zone between the genders is such a farcical, nay, hurtful fallacy.

But I would have thought most people (at least the so called educated folks) know it’s say like being left handed – you can force someone to write with the right hand, but doesn’t make it easy or smooth or well, right.

I think about this bloke, and I wonder, that if because of the taboo he does chose to get married to a girl – what kind of life they will lead. The constant senses of being trapped in the wrong role in a play – where you are acting out something but don’t really know the lines, don’t belong to the character, but cannot get out nonetheless. And the tragedy for the spouse as well for being forced onto a stage, mouthing words which lose their meaning and their relevance.

Or the alternative, where he will be definitely splintering (if not breaking) his family’s heart by choosing to live his life on his terms. One could ask whether the parents will not find happiness in the child’s happiness. But the reality is that happiness is a composite of so many things – and it’s really not as self-denying as one would like to believe. Parents have a lot of emotional investment in their kids – and the payoff ( though many would hesitate to label it as such) is in the child living the perceived right life – (study well, get a good job, marry, have kids, take care of parents etc etc). So something like this perceptually reflects on their self perception of having raised the kid right.

Coincidentally, after this discussion, today’s Sunday times carried an article on Gay marriages – and how it had been celebrated with family and priest and the trappings. I think most of the examples were in the US. But a heartening read for all that.

Maybe, just maybe, that will be the norm in a few years.And kudos to the people who have had the courage to come out - it cant be easy.

Ed Note: I thought many times about whether to post or not to post this . Because the fact is while I do know a few homosexual people, none of them actually shared the problems/issues . So whatever I write is the outsider perspective – which might be completely wrong and completely biased. So if I tread on any toes, apologies in advance - that was not the intent


litterateuse said...

From what I know, people - and esp. families of gay individuals - are becoming increasingly more aware and tolerant of homosexuality. The initial shock/denial is probably expected, but apparently they do come around.

Of course, we have a long way to go before we could say India is tolerant in this regard, but well, this is a start.


Meena said...

Very true - your lines on the emotional investment parents have in their children. If one lives the life they have envisioned, they are happy, but what about being true to oneself? Very difficult choice, especially for a "well-brought up" middle-class Indian.

Nandini Vishwanath said...

Hmm...if I were him and I was not bold enough to 'come out,' I'd probably want to stay unmarried. You know?

But its a tough decision to make even in the US, frankly. The only difference here is that people let you be, but do make fun of you. A was telling me that a guy from Alabama - a student along with him told him once that vegetarians in the South are considered gay. Can you believe that?

Aquarius said...

Inspite of education people still behave so ignorantly. And true I would blame media for making fun of Homosexuals and lesbians and typecasting them more as buffoons rather than people with feelings and emotions just like us.

Silvara said...

Great post cynic - it's still a difficult decision to make either way.

People are just afraid of the unknown, the different to what they have always percieved as 'normal'. It goes for many forms of discrimination like race as well (and in our culture more subtlely with our obesseion with being fair).

I'd like to believe that being true to oneself would win in the end, just as much as true love...but reality is usually a lot more heartbreaking.

You should send this post into Gaysi ( :)

Epiphany said...

C'mon cynic...we as a society are not even mature enough to handle issues of straight people like single parents, divorce and dowry...I think we are a LONG way away from "accepting" people who are not "normal". I can't really relate with what they may face as I don't know anyone who is gay but I think their "movement" needs an in your face kinda person to just hammer the people around with the message...eventually people will just get used to it and let them be...

Reluctant Warrior said...

Most people in conflict zones live their lives normally, knowing well that they can continue living normally by side-stepping a few landmines.

That's not denial of the conflict, simply an acknowledgement of the fact that it may not end and doesn't necessarily need to be fought.

A lady contained her live-in relationship by simply wearing a mangalsutra.

Agree with Nandini Vishwanath, sensible thing would be to stay unmarried.

In love with my life said...

While acceptance is gaining, it is largely restricted to the metro's a cities.

Last year, i overheard several discussions about a cousin whose marriage was getting delayed. They felt he has different tendencies. What was appalling is the fact that everyone whought that it is a disease/ condition, one which can be cured by a doctor/ phsychiatrist.There was a plan drawn out to put him through treatment, and then have the marriage.

AmitL said...

Hi,Cyn-well,that's a toughie,specially in our country's context..where the family's attention is always focused on the son-their hopes,aspirations,dreams..everything..and,to find out that the guy is gay probably shatters their dreams...ah well,traditions are hard to get rid of.Frankly,I think people should believe in the dictum of 'to each his or her own'-even where such 'prefences' are's too short to let it affect one's own happiness or anyone else's,isn't it?
Incidentally,on the flip side of this topic,what do you think reactions would be to a female behaving 'gaily'?(I don't want to use the word'les..', coz they're banning sites with such 'smut'words out here shortly..hehe)

Drenched said...

Our legal system is still way too immature to handle such an issue, let alone our society. I remember the recent furore over deletion of Section 377 when a lot of senior politicians had argued against it and said that it was needed to stop "unnatural" practices. How the hell is it unnatural? And I suppose it is VERY natural for random people to poke their noses into what people do in their bedrooms.
As a society, we're still a long way from the stage where we'll accept anyone who hasn't followed the "right" track - proper college education, "good" career, marriage, kids - as someone just like us. Till then, we'll keep inventing imaginary diseases and will continue to whine about "unnatural things" to keep our perspective on top.

Trauma Queen said...

the term 'queer' is considered politically incorrect by many factions - GLBT is more acceptable. but 'queer' is still used by many GLBT groups the same way african-americans use the term 'nigga' between each other.

'coming out' is hardly creepy - it's to show the opposite of 'being in the closet'. You either stay there or you come out of it...

He should either come out and deal with his family, or marry someone who is willing to let him be - a marriage of convenience if you may...

Trauma Queen said...

I did a little more investigation on this topic and thought i should post an update..

the term 'queer' has recently been 'reclaimed' as an acceptable word to described people of alternate sexualities. It is thus NOT politically incorect as stated in my previous comment.

I personally do not like using the word queer (vis a vis 'straight') - I prefer to use the GLBT term.

rehab said...

Have similar situation with a friend who is dating a guy for the past 4 years. Of a different religion. They are considering a breakup to avoid parental disapproval and the taunts that will follow.