[Editor’s Note : When we called for submissions for the third edition of Gaysi Zine we received a lot of short stories from writers all over the world – unfortunately, far more than we are able to feature in the zine. Therefore, we are delighted to be able to publish the best of those stories here on the blog.]
When the ‘Baby’ song played in my school function for the first time three years back, like many others, we thought the beautiful voice belonged to a cute American female singer. Over the next three weeks, we realised that the owner of the voice was a young teenage boy who was even younger than I. Justin Bieber was an overnight celebrity, and he was the next Hannah Montana in my eyes. Finally when his photograph appeared in one of the newspapers, my girlfriends and I decided he was cute, just like a Disney prince. He seemed to be a nice guy with a pretty smile, and I always had an inclination towards effeminate boys and athletic girls.
But in the last three years, this pretty boy of mine has seen a lot. He has become the face of effeminacy as well as the victim of verbal shaming. He is mocked as a girl, accused of domestic violence, and openly called gay despite dating a hot Selena Gomez. He has been disliked not only for his music, but hated by many because of the looks he was born with. One particular guy called him ‘not-man’ and a shame in name of man. Most of the time we overlook these comments, as Bieber is not among our favourite icons either. But I have been constantly fighting these comments which get published from some desktop in some cyber cafe in the world. I am not a Bieber fan, but I am an exponent of equality and respect to individual.
Most people cannot accept the pretty boy, as he is opposite of what we sell as ‘Manly’ and ‘Alpha Male’. Our ideal Male is Tall, Dark and Handsome, but now it’s more like Tall, Fair and Handsome. “Cute” is associated with chubby boys with sweet smiles, while “good looking” is for guys hanging between threshold of “Cute” and “Handsome”. Nonetheless, these men are acceptable as they show the traits of being emotionally tough, physically strong, and mentally prepared for action and critical to situations. However, when stereotypical Gay Men or Bisexual Men are projected, they have delicate hands, soft feminine nature, and higher voice. The idea of a Gay guy actually being manly is not acceptable for many in our society. The same happens when people learn I am bisexual, and the first thing I hear is “You look decent enough to have a guy, so why do you hanker after girls!”
At times female are accepting about xxx, as closeness among girls is seen as normal behaviour, we girls are born touchy and most of us are comfortable with others. I have two friends, one of them is a stereotypical gay man who loves decorating his room, wearing colours, and showing good taste in fashion. His boyfriend is nothing like that and prefers all black and blue, loves riding bikes, and hates pink. The idea of a non-manly man being gay is so widespread that it creates an unseen homophobia in the world. Those hate comments for Bieber about his looks represent that wide scale unconscious fear and disgust in many people’s minds. They don’t dislike him because of his music, but because he is so different and not-manly. Sexualisation of women as a commodity sets standards for beauty. But likewise, sexualisation of men as a commodity means only manly men are acceptable, nothing more or less.
Many in society consider it shameful if a man behaves like a woman, being concerned about his looks or displaying ‘womanly’ emotions. For example, the advertisements for Head and Shoulders shampoo suggest it’s a sin to have few feminine qualities. Wildstone’s ads consistently champion the idea that a man needs to behave like ‘The Man’. Society seems willing to watch girls grow up like boys, but if a boy has interest in things beyond the stereotypical aspects of being masculine, he becomes a laughing stock of family and society. The trends and ideals in women’s beauty have changed over a period of time, but the trend in men’s beauty has been stuck to the age of chivalry. Sadly we find most Indian men taking pride in being so manly and hence exempted from household work, whereas men who help with household work are looked down upon by family as not masculine enough.
Calling effeminate men gay and threatening them is unacceptable. This is what I call Bieber Phobia. Many would accept to watch Neil Patrick Harris as the womanizer Barney, while rejecting him as gay with a partner who is less masculine. We will accept that Arjuna was cursed to transform into a eunuch or Trans man-woman for one year, but we cannot imagine him with the physique and looks which would have let him pass as a beautiful woman. When I see hate comments and abuse that a single picture of Bieber gathers on internet, I fear for all of those teenage boys with pretty boy looks around the world.
What should we do? How do we educate these people who are unwilling to accept change or diversity? Newspaper articles, speeches, films and books can help provide diverse images of gender identify, and many community leaders are asking people to accept individuals as they are. But how does one eradicate the innate fear from a person meeting s someone “different”. The ‘Baby’ song is played in every other Puja Pendle or festival, with enthusiastic youth singing along at top of their voice. But when you approach them and ask what they feel about Justin Bieber, they would laugh meanly and quickly dismiss him as ‘Ladki Kahika’.