Barack Obama recently risked political upheaval by rooting for the LGBT cause. Surely, this ushers in a new era of social acceptance, but when will we get there?Faustina Johnson firstname.lastname@example.org
First conversation of the year with Isha, my erstwhile best friend, sole witness to all that I was in school. After ecstatic minutes of squealing and our voices have more or less settled into a normal pitch, we move onto the mundane subject of our college lives. ‘My best friend is gay,’ I mention casually amidst descriptions of my classmates. “Oh my god! I want one too,” she says, and I can’t help but be reminded of the gorgeous off-shoulder Armani LBD she’s always lusted after. Since when did gay men become hot property?
“Isn’t that heaven? Does he like pink? Do you go shopping with him?,” and other wince-worthy clichés follow.
My mind wanders, her questions lighting the path.
A hundred years of the gay liberation movement, and this is what it has achieved? Inane stereotypes and the vacuous insistence to
establish sexuality as an identity defining status? Two weeks ago, US President Barack Obama’s announcement signalled a paradigm shift in social perception. Nevertheless, the general acceptance is but congested and arrested by ignorance.
Responding to the predictable accession of interest in the gay community, here’s one or two things
everyone ought to know about the homosexual. Sexuality has as much to do with personality typology as having curly hair does— it is not a generalisation of the person’s tastes or character. We seem to have switched from terrified taboo to stunting focus-ignoring all other dimensions of the
homosexual. How many queer artists have longed to achieve
Kaki King’s (American guitarist and composer) distinctiveness of being recognised for her work and not her sexuality? Too many people know Adam Lambert as the queer Fashionista rather than as a vocal virtuoso.
‘Gay’ in such a context should rightly not be more than an adjective. “Acceptance is subjective. Too many are ignorant concerning the issue,” says Anil Mehta*, a gay man in the city.
Baseless stereotypes still clutter the horizon. A good number of my female peers seem to pride themselves on their ability to detect Sapphic persuasion from the smallest outwardly “hints”. I recollect a conversation with a cousin about hostel life, which turned into vignettes of uncultured females in shirts and baggy shorts with imagined “lesbian tendencies”.
I listened incredulously as she cautioned me to beware of “those types of people”, a hint of a patronising elder sister ‘I’ve-seen-more-of- the-world’ in her tone.
“We are essentially perceived as being…strange. It is obvious even in the most general allusions. Sadly, we are looked often looked upon as a potential threat,” says Shwetha N*
Mainstream cinema reduces the gay man to comic relief, with blatant associations to the ridiculous. Images of a nauseatingly ‘feminine’ Abhishek Bachchan running towards John Abraham and his waiting rose in Dostana still evoke the reflexive wince. “LGBT portrayal in films is poor, ill-informed, ill-intended, and dangerous to my community,” says Adhithya S, a student. One also cannot help but notice that the majority of gay-themed movies revolve around coming out. While it is a significant milestone, I expect there are more exciting things in a lesbian’s life.
Liberation, expression and equality are essential to live a whole life, but the contemporary version of the LGBT movement seems sadly disoriented. Hate also exists within the community. Effeminate men, who are a small percentage of gay men, are discriminated against.
“I believe the other men feel masculinity is degraded by people like us,” says Adhithya. Gay pride would, in the last century, have meant a declaration of self-affirmation and a celebration of personal autonomy but in today’s context seems only to deepen the line of distinction. Professing a separate identity is hardly an egalitarian approach. Proud of what? One might as well hold up banners declaring allegiance to the shape of one’s little toe. Even so, gone are the
days when a gay man was subjected to self righteous rejection on all sides. Barack Obama risked a political upheaval to confess his personal support. Surely, this ushers in a new era in social acceptance. Normalcy seems far yet, but the change is well directed. “Time is the answer”, says Anil, who recently came out to his parents, “I was well received, so I take this as a sign of positive change.”
*Names changed on request