The Great Divide: Being LGBT In India

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For long the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community has been suppressed. They have been denied the basic human rights and opportunities. Basic dignity is a far-fetched dream for them. Why this discrimination, is beyond logic. That too in a country that has innumerable references to same gender sex in its glorious past. Unlike most civilizations of its time, the Indian society during the Vedic age and even before had an open mind-set on matters of homosexuality and “queer” issues. The relief works of different temples justify the presence and acceptance of homosexuality in ancient India. Khajuraho temple in Madhya Pradesh, the Shiva temple in Bagali, Karnataka, the Rajarani temple in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha are a testimony to this fact.

While no one dares to deny the homoerotic stories of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, people very conveniently dispose off any possibilities of a similar relation being established between two individuals. Lord Vishnu in the avatar of the seductress “Mohini” saved Lord Shiva from the demon Bhasmasur. It is also believed that when Lord Shiva and Parvati went to thank Lord Vishnu, Lord Vishnu upon Lord Shiva’s request transformed to Mohini. Upon seeing Mohini’s beauty Lord Shiva “mated” with Mohini as a result of which Lord Aiyyappan was born. Lord Aiyyappan is also referred to as “Hari-Har Putra”, meaning son of Lord Vishnu and Shiva.

There are very many instances of same-gender copulation and frequent gender transformations in Hinduism. The androgynous form of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati better known as “Ardhanarishwar” is worshipped in full galore.

We should have a better understanding of our cultural history before raising fingers at the sexual preferences of others. And it is not just because our history allows it that we should accept people as who they are. It should be because they too are individuals and we must respect their choices. Recently the television show, Satyamev Jayate, showed the need to bring about a change in our society and our mentality. Aamir Khan, actor and show host asked people to ring a toll-free number to support their cause. According to reports at least 1.05 million calls were registered. The team of Satyamev Jayate hopes to compel the government to amend section 377.

We Indians, who were once in the forefront with our acceptance of LGBT, freedom of expression, speech and sexual preference, find ourselves amongst laggards in the present day scenario. While many nations have showed significant improvement in their view towards the LGBT community, India has failed to show any change of attitude. The reason being: Lack of representation of the community. There is a need of a leader who can represent their concerns and address their issues. And this is where India has failed miserably. Xavier Bettel became the first openly gay Prime Minister of Luxembourg on December 4, 2013. Benjamin Medrano, took charge as the first openly gay Mayor in Zacatecas, Mexico on July 2013. Even in Peru which is considered as one of the most conservative nations in terms of acceptance of the LGBT community has seen gay politicians like Carlos Bruce, a 57-year-old member of the Congress and a former minister has also declared that he is gay.

It is shameful that India has nothing to offer to the LGBT community. And so it is the responsibility of every one of us to take a stand for the group. It is not just a matter of acceptance and tolerance. It is bigger than that. It is a fight for human dignity and equality. Not to say, India has however, witnessed a few activists in this regard. Vikram Seth, Onir, Firdaus Kanga, Saleem Kidwai, Agniva Lahiriare a handful of them. But they have not been able to deliver to the community to the extent that they would have otherwise liked. And this is because it is not a one-man fight. These activists need our support too. Many activists face discrimination themselves for supporting this cause; many people dismiss them as homosexuals themselves. Such naïve mentality has to be done away with. Just because one fights for the equality of homosexuals doesn’t make him or her one too.

It is a long way and the road is rough. But the time is ripe. It is now or never. We must stand for what is right and make this fight for equality, our own fight.

Rizwanur Rahman

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