Book Review : Because I have a Voice “Queer Politics in India”

chatterjee1Because I have a Voice “Queer Politics in India” voices opinions of those who dare to desire different sexuality. With much emphasis on the word ‘different’ simply because expression of such desires do not fit within the accepted norms laid down by the society we live in. In fact it is a crime. Yes, being a Queer in India is a criminal offence (IPC 377).

It makes one realize how limited and narrow our definitions/views on sexuality are. While attempting to help us understand the complexities of the “Queer” world; which embraces identities and desires of sexuality that go beyond the categories of “homosexual” and “heterosexual”. It talks about the past, present and puts forth the most likely future of the “Queer”movement in India.

The book is divided into three parts; the first part discusses different sexuality related issues with respect to Indian society, medicine, law and cinema. From a personal point-of-view, I found this section to be most appealing. I could relate to it as a woman, a feminist and an individual burdened by the standards set by our society. The first chapter by Nivedita Menon is one of the most interesting and thought provoking piece that I have read till date on Indian society’s perception of excepted sexuality. She wonders if “heterosexuality” is perceived as the ONLY form of normal/natural sexual behavior then why does it have to be protected and controlled by religion, law, etc. to keep it active. Other chapters in this section raise important questions on medical ethics and the existence of outdated law, for example Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

Second part of the book, gives us detailed information on Queer movement and struggle of the past and today. In this section, the writers very neatly explain how the needs and wants of one section of the Queer community differ from the other. Their fight to acquire own “space” and political standing within the Queer movement and the heterosexual society. They also explain how money, class, caste and education play a crucial role in the lives of Queer people. I found it some-what shocking to read about the difference in attitude of (some) gay men towards lesbians and how their male-ego keeps them away from including women from mixing with their kinds.

The last section deals with personal journeys of fear, struggle, pain and liberation. Here the writers talk not only about their fight against the system but also their experience of coming out to their family/friends, most importantly coming to terms with their own needs and desires and lastly having the courage to be bold enough to let others know about it.

Editors Arvind Narrian & Gautam Bhan have done a commendable effort of compiling views, analysis and personal essays by 30 contributors all belonging to different sections of the society; thereby presenting the complete picture of the Queer community.

My opinion is simple and straight forward; the book is of the Queer people, by the Queer people, but written for one and all with an open mind and above all, an open heart.

[Guest Author : Saakshi O. Juneja]

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