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Not a Gay Topic

March 2004
Not a Gay Topic

The recent Presidential proposal for a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage has launched a national debate. But are Indian-Americans engaged, or do we continue to pretend that the issue does not exist?


Unpalatable. That's the word that comes to mind when one thinks of how homosexuality has been viewed in traditional Indian society. It is a topic that most of us would rather dodge, if not bury entirely. Indeed, most of our regional languages have not even coined a well recognized word for it. Our popular culture is even cruder about it. Back from my juvenile school days in India, I remember 'homo' to be a slur reserved for your choicest enemies.

With such deeply seated conditioning, it doesn't come as a surprise that the masses of our community continue to treat this as a non-issue. Our failure to at least acknowledge the possibility, if not outright accept it, has a devastating effect on those few for whom it is their biological reality.

It may be time therefore, to stop ducking. We cannot continue to let truth and righteousness be defined democratically. Just because the majority of us may not be afflicted, does it mean we continue to treat the desi gay community as outcasts? We must find it within ourselves to overcome our inherent conditioning and at least come to a place where we can acknowledge the biological truth of the matter. Then at least our antagonism towards the practice can no longer be directed towards the person in question. Then, we only have our creator or nature to pick a bone with!

History is full of examples where what was once considered sacrilegious was later not only accepted, but also held as noble. Jesus Christ was crucified because his ideas (that are central to Western civilization today) were considered anti-social by the Establishment in those times. Socrates too was executed for challenging the status quo. Galileo was condemned to house arrest for challenging that which was 'plainly evident' - that sun moved around the earth!

These examples demonstrate that the majority in the form of the "Establishment" is notoriously intolerant of anything or anyone that challenges the status quo of the day. More importantly, the majority is also often wrong - as it was in the case of Jesus, Socrates, Galileo and many others like them.

"But homosexuality is unnatural" cry the critics. Once again, historical references can provide some illumination. As recently as in the past century it was considered perfectly natural to treat women and African-Americans as second-class citizens. Scholars of the time were pontificating on how the "Negro" was inherently inferior, and how women lacked capacities that had nothing to do with the physical body.

Those concerned about homosexuality often associate it with the "anything goes" kind of indulgence, perhaps because it is often lumped with bisexuality and other fringes of deviant sexual practices. Moreover, for every genuine gay, there are perhaps others who are just experimenting. But just as heterosexuality cannot be held suspect because there are vulgarities and excesses within its context, so too why should homosexuality be singled out as the one that is tearing apart our moral fiber?

- Parthiv N. Parekh

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