(Based on a true story)
I once got to know two women, both young, and in their early twenties. Let’s just call them A and A.
When I first came to know about their being lesbian, I was in shock. I took it upon myself to try and talk them out of it. I felt like it was my moral responsibility to show them the light. Feeling virtuous, I thought I would speak to them face to face. No back-biting from this girl!
I knocked on A’s door and was immediately invited in. The other A was there too. The rumours must be true, I thought. My mind was flashing all kind of images in corroboration to the tales circulating about the two of them. Being of a delicate disposition I asked them point blank if they were a couple. Their faces went white. They didn’t know what to say. Who would, in a similar circumstance? Imagine an interfering old aunt asking a heterosexual couple something similar. That’s how I must have come across to them.
(Of course, the recent case of the Mumbai police barging in on many heterosexual couples who had checked into hotels, and carting them off to the chowki for questioning, making them pay fines to boot, defies every premise of a free society and consenting adults. Let’s leave police being leveraged by leaders to ‘mind our morals’, for another day)
That the two As and I were more than just acquaintances meant they must have responded politely. I don’t remember the exact words we exchanged, this was long time ago, sometime in the seventies. I do remember entreating them earnestly, not to deny two wonderful boys the opportunity of a lifetime of happiness with two such wonderful beautiful girls.
I still remember being nonplussed by their simple and eloquent response. “But we are happy.” Their answer was not in an affirmative to my question. It was a defence of the doubt they saw flashing on my face.
My mind couldn’t take that in. The argument went round and round. As far as I remember, they weren’t rude, nor were they angry. Hopefully, they sensed an absence of hatred or anger in me, too.
I was concerned and eager to make them see what I sincerely believed; that only members of the opposite sex could make them happy. That it was unnatural for them to break the law of heteronormativity. I wanted to help cure them.
I HAD NEVER HEARD OF, LEAVE ALONE SEEN, OTHERWISE.
In other words, mine was conviction born of ignorance and it made me incapable of listening. I couldn’t see beyond my parochial understanding of sexuality and love. I know. I agree. I was dumb, foolish, young, ignorant and steeped in stereotypes.
They based their arguments on feelings of deep love that they had for each other. They talked of their free spirits and uninhibited souls.
I went away, disappointed that I hadn’t convinced them. I had failed to make them see things in accordance to the rules of the society.
There is a glut of information that is easily accessible now. Yet, ignorance persists. Why? Not many people wish to go near that information. They don’t want to know either through a lack of interest or through a fear of reprisals.
This is what I feel – the more engagement there is between people of various sexual orientations, the less homophobes and their phobia will affect he lives of many. The engagement could be through a movie or a book, an article, a Youtube video or a comment. It doesn’t matter. It is time we join in the conversation.
In some countries, people fear political parties that whip up sentiments against the LGBTQ community. Fear keeps them quiet. They know individuals belonging to these parties believe they are above the law. They are capable of violence if their will isn’t done. As for those vocal homophobes, they have kept easygoing, non-interfering Indians mum for far too long.
In India, I’ve seen a mix of all. The best are the ones to whom someone’s sexual orientation doesn’t matter. They like people for their sense of humour or their thoughtfulness or knowledge of a particular subject or any number of reasons. In short, for who they are. The worst are the ones who feed on their ignorance and fear, not only to whip up ugly sentiments against the LGBTQ community but to justify violent actions against them.
A and A, I am not as ignorant as I used to be. I know people fall in love with each other irrespective of their sex. I remember you to be lovely, inside and out. I remember you to be kind and generous. That is all that should have mattered. Forgive me.