What does it mean to be heterosexual? What constitutes the state of being utterly and completely ‘straight’? Having plenty of ‘vanilla’ sex? Arranged marriage? Marrying only within your caste? Bloviating about your sexual conquests (if you are a guy) or coyly understating your sexual activities (if you are a girl) or vice versa? Oral sex? Sex only in the name of procreation? An unshakable belief in your heterosexual identity, because alternative sexualities have no place in India?
What the hell is it?
Hyperbolic as this may sound, the nature of my queries can arguably demonstrate the pervasiveness of compulsory heterosexuality in the Indian Diaspora, a system so utterly insidious in its stranglehold over the general populace that we, as being part of the said general populace do not consider it as anything else but the norm. Even to those of us who populate the outliers of human sexuality, we define ourselves vis-à-vis the working ‘norm’ i.e. heterosexuality, be it consciously or unconsciously.
Frankly, all this is tremendously blood pressure inducing. Implicit in the talk about ‘what does it mean to be gay/ bi/ transgendered/ intersex/ genderqueer’ is the notion that folks who explicitly identify as heterosexual or ‘straight’ need offer no explanation for their orientation, since they are simply acting natural. To those of us who do not identify as heterosexual, we are the ones offering up discourse after discourse, lofty explanations and critical examinations on what it means to be sexually ‘deviant’, while the ‘heterosexual’ experience does not fall under any sort of scrutiny whatsoever, because of its unicorns and ponies naturally occurring in nature force field of patriarchal impregnability, and I’m completely and utterly sick of it.
In order to move forward and take a critical look at the development of sexual orientation or identity, it is absolutely imperative, that one must examine compulsory heterosexuality and understand it for what it is: a glorified social construct.
A performance. For all intents and purposes, that’s basically what heterosexuality amounts to. It takes hard work to maintain a ‘straight’ identity and it takes the piss out of you to keep it up on an everlasting basis, day in and day out. If you slip up and go astray, then woe unto you. Keeping it up becomes nothing short of a survival mechanism, because we all know what the consequences are. And in an intolerably patriarchal culture like India, where the powers that be are still wading through the mire that is the decrepit Indian Penal Code and positing horrendously banal arguments that make you lose your faith in humanity as a whole, you better be ready to whip out your heterosexual ‘get out of jail free’ card at a moment’s notice.
And I haven’t even touched upon the constant and tenuous negotiations involved in maintaining your ‘straight’ identity in conjunction with your family, your peers, your religion, your work, your assumed gender, your caste and on and on and on, the list stretches out, infinite.
But this is not a crybaby post about the ‘heterosexual’ experience.
This is about living in a heteronormative world, this is about playing a part in a play where you (or arguably, most people for that matter) don’t really belong, but you gotta spout your lines and do your ad-libs passably or else. It’s about the fear of transgression, the apathy of those who perform effectively; it’s about all that and more.
And I’m only just getting started.