It was one of those godforsaken afternoons where you’re all you’re trying to do is keep up with the world, unwittingly digging deeper into the grave of constant lack of productivity. I’d convinced myself to go through Twitter’s “trending” page; it’s something that’s become a part of my daily ‘keeping-up-with-the-world’ routine. Apparently, the displayed ‘trends’ are supposed to mirror what “my country” has been thinking, and what it has decided to deem important enough to articulate on the web.
Despite my misgivings, Twitter hashtags do a pretty good job in feeding my info-hungry brain. The losses aren’t lost on me: from highly sensitive, privacy-infringing information on a celebrity’s “package” to regular doses of venom that reflect the pervasive phobias and isms that riddle Indian society. It’s a toxic web. But, occasionally, there are campaigns that call out wrongs and, more recently, that demand justice for activists arrested under draconian sedition laws. On this particular day, I had no expectations. Until I saw the flurry of tweets about the ‘same-sex marriage’ petitions.
I like to think that my relationship with my sexuality (and society’s relationship to it as well) has given me a vantage point to look into others’ needs and desires – an ability to somewhat put myself in their shoes, and get a glimpse of what they’re going through. This openness doesn’t come from nowhere; it’s a result of the collective anguish that my community has experienced. Trauma, as so many of us have learned, is a fantastic catalyst for maturity. These chains hold us down, and this oppression literally and figuratively compels us to stay grounded, constantly looking up and around to keep our queer sensibilities in check.
So the question begs to be answered: When the chains seem to disappear, will our sensibilities too?
A spate of petitions have drenched the halls of various Higher Courts of our country. They carry within them hope for change, but also elicit other peculiar emotions within. This portentous event promises a plethora of possibilities, but not all of them seem good. If parts of the community do get the right to marry, what then? There’s relief, but there’s also fear.
Is the path ahead one that will branch out to include those whose priorities are different, whose chains are heavier and molded to hold them down longer? Where other oppressed communities are recognized and fought for, with all the intersections that embody. Where a diligent fight for one cause translates to a new and improved strength – a strength to fight for, among other things, casteism, classism and gender equality for all.
Or will the path mirror our communities’ history (and present)? Where the privileged rush ahead, ignoring, and even trampling over, the interests of others in order to assimilate to the heterosexual fold. Oppression has layers, with even the oppressed oppressing others. Cisgender, gay men have historically gobbled up community spaces. Trans people are still othered within their own community. Different facets of oppression still manage to make their way through. We’ve been through hell. But somehow, that still doesn’t stop so many of us from putting others through it too.
This is my greatest fear. The sense of communion being shredded to pieces. When some of the demons torturing us disappear, will we also become the devils we so despise?
For now, the demons that hover over us still remain. Forget about laws dealing with discrimination, protection and conversion-therapy (which are arguably the primary concerns) and marriage (which to some of us at least, is secondary); the establishment doesn’t even seem to be interested in accepting our existence. Our experiences – the colorful thread in our community’s tapestry – still renew themselves and continue to grow. But for now, our vantage-point seems firmly fixed in place for us. I’m reminded of what Blanca is told in Season 1 of “Pose”: “Bitch, it was over before it started. Everybody needs somebody to make themselves feel superior.”
It is depressing, disgusting, and exhausting to think of the catch-22 our community (and humanity) seems to continually be caught in. Do we really need to constantly experience pain to be able to redeem human emotions? I hope not. If tomorrow we are finally able to wrest back what is rightfully ours; to reclaim enough space to spread our wings, remember what we’ve been through. The denial – from ourselves and others – the pain, the torture, the misery. Not just ours, but of those before, who had it so much harder. Of those residing in foreign lands, who aren’t as lucky as we are. Remember the less privileged. Remember what they stand to lose.
Despite not really being a fan of the institution of marriage – and all the very valid arguments placed against it – I’m not arguing against the petitions. I’m just asking for a little compassion, a little perspective. I’m fairly sure that at one point or the other we shall receive these rights – or take it, if it comes to that. Unless the country slips further into absolute anarchy, our case in court has it’s legal merits. Just remember not to lose your humanity or forget the shadow weight of those chains, when this victory is ours. This especially pertains to the Hindu, upper caste, cisgender, gay men, who are positioned at the absolute top of the Indian LGBTQIAP+ hierarchy. We’ve seen it happen before, like in the USA, where cis, white, gay men continue to reap benefits of progress that tends to be specific for them. Our community has been through, and continues to go through, unimaginable horrors. Horrors that need to be remembered. Horrors from which inspiration for compassion needs to be drawn. When the change finally pushes its way through, let it not displace the empathy, the fully emboldened queerness that makes us who we are. Our tapestry is still being made. Our tapestry is beautiful. It should remain so.