Hello blog’s followers, the poll launched few days ago in this blog was already answered by about 100 visitors. The first result is that 34% are willing to see more Indian Men, this is an encouraging sign which shows the interest on the gaylife style from men (and women) of this large and important country.
The today post will respond to the request by showing more attractive Indian Hunks and for the one who would like to know and share more about the gaylife in India, for this purpose I have included an interview with Parmesh Shahani which was published in the Henry Jenkins ‘ blog in 2008. (source: Confessions of an Aca-Fan). As the interview is very long, and the answers very comprehensive, it will be break-down into several posts. This is the first one.
Parmesh Shahani, a recent alum of the Comparative Media Studies Masters Program, now consulting for some of the leading magazines and media companies in India, has published an exciting new book, Gay Bombay: Globalization, Love and (Be)Longing in Contemporary India. The book, which was adopted from his thesis, is a tour de force which manages to apply multiple modes of analysis — ethnographic, historical, institutional, and autobiographical — to explore a moment of change as his home country adjusts to what is at once an economic, a sexual, and a media revolution.
INTERVIEW BY HENRY JENKINS (Part I)
Question: You write, “Gay does not mean what it does in America, or in the west at large. They have creatively played with it, modified it, made it their own.” So what does gay mean in an Indian context?
Answer: Homosexuality isn’t an alien concept in India. A brief flashback. Ancient Indian texts from the Vedic period and the Kama Sutra all indicate that ancient Hinduism had place for a ‘third sex’. Even pre- colonial India was generally tolerant, but things changed under British rule, and in 1861, the British legal system was imposed on to India as the Indian Penal Code. Section 377 of this code was an offshoot of the British 1860 anti sodomy law, and thus male same sex acts were criminalized. The British also collected, translated, rearranged and sometimes rewrote Indian history … part of their rearrangement included eliminating or marginalizing all traces of positive same-sex references.
Flash forward to today. In contemporary urban India , while there is no guilt-based taboo against homosexuality, being gay has its own unique set of connotations and experiences because of the cultural and social structures, and family pressures that insist on conformity to traditional patriarchal, heteronormative values.
Family, social and community connections are the primary ties, and gay people do not want to let go of these at all. People hardly come out, and even if they do, they want to accommodate their gay identity within the established framework. In the west, if families are un- accepting, then gay men often move away and form separate communities but almost all the people I interviewed for the book who were living in India were adamant that they were very connected to their families and did not want to move away from them at all.
The second aspect is the institution of heterosexual marriage. It is almost like a compulsory stage of life, and for many gay people, this is the biggest challenge that they have to negotiate. Sometimes they manage to avoid it, but many times, they don’t, which creates a whole new set of problems. The pressure to conform is even more intense when the gay person is effeminate and thus visibly marked different. Rebellion against this pressure can sometimes mean banishment but in most cases, the gay person is not thrown out, but pressured to change his ways in order to maintain the family honour.
The third aspect is the law. The Indian penal code continues to criminalize same sex behaviour, and this is really problematic in several ways – in terms of the limitations to health and safe sex outreach, in terms of the restrictions to same sex partnerships in terms of cohabitation and planning a life together, etc. At the same time, there are also so many global influences, whether it is the coverage of gay marriage in the US that gets reported on regularly in India, or films like Brokeback Mountain, or gay dance parties and so on.
When urban Indian gay men construct an idea of their gayness, they draw upon all of these different components and create an imagination with global influences but rooted very much in the local realities. I think that to be gay in Gay Bombay signifies being ‘glocal’; and gayness here stands for Indianized gayness. So, one might dance in a Western style disco anywhere else in the world, but one can only munch on a post-dance jalebi sweet in India. The online-offline group Gay Bombay, around which my book is based, is certainly inspired by Western notions of what it means to be gay – its dance parties, PFLAG style meets, website, etc, have all drawn from Western experiences; but they have been customized, glocalized, and made uniquely Indian. For example, several support group meets take place around uniquely Indian festivals such as Holi (festival of colours) and Raksha Bandhan (which celebrates brother-sister love), and the festivals are appropriated to meet the needs of the group. …… (to be continued)