It started with the all important question – “Can gay men be hairy?”
According to a colleague of mine, not so. See, every gay man he had ever seen was an effeminate, smooth-skinned, pretty boy. The kind you could take home to mother post her celebratory you-coming-out-of-the-closet stroke. My question, naturally, was “So how do you know they were gay?”
“Well, they were pretty effeminate”
“So you assume they were gay because they were effeminate, and you assumed they were effeminate because they were gay?
Isn’t logic wonderful?
It’s amazing, the sheer amount of misconception there is about homosexuality in this country. Sure, the whole article 377 bruhaha helped, but not much in terms of raising awareness. After all, the day the law was repealed, I spent the evening trying to explain to a colleague that no, this did not mean that gay men now had free reign to jump him in the streets and violate him. I don’t think he believed me.
I don’t know anyone who is gay. Or at least, I am not aware of anyone in my circle of friends and family being gay. I imagine the situation is the same with many people, because even though we live in “enlightened times”, there’s a pit of poisoned spikes right in front of the every closet - step out and getting shish-kebabed is a distinct possibility, sometimes not even just metaphorically.
So middle-class urban kids learn about homosexuality from hushed whispers and mumbled answers, or at least the ones who muster up the courage to ask the questions do. The others get their information from giggled jokes and porn-savvy classmates, and grow up with an idea of sexuality, specifically homosexuality, that is as warped as its source. They go through life not really knowing about an entire subculture of people, and their “knowledge”, grows, like branches of a gnarled, twisted tree from the barren soil of their ideas. Myths become reality, facts become fiction, and “they” are not treated as people anymore, but rather a collection of half-baked idiosyncrasies and quirks. Good for a giggly joke (even outside the school premises), but unnecessary for consideration otherwise.
The decriminalization of homosexuality was a giant, and an important step. But the law cannot change people’s attitudes. At least, not immediately. The first step to educating people about homosexuality has to start by explaining the very simple fact that they are human beings. Sure their biological urges might not match mine, but otherwise they feel the same way as I do, have the same virtues and vices and laugh and cry when they are happy and sad. Respectively.
Even the most cursory Wikipedia search (and if you can’t trust Wikipedia, who CAN you trust), told me much about how lenient India has historically been towards homosexuality. Four hundred years of rule by two very sexually repressed cultures has taken the edge of understanding somewhat, but I really believe India is an inherently understanding, accepting nation. It just wouldn’t work otherwise. It’s too splintered, too culturally and linguistically diverse and just too damn different everywhere to work. Sure, you could point to our horrible history of the caste system as contrarian evidence, but which nation doesn’t have it’s own scorch marks in their history? No, I chalk most people’s attitude towards homosexuality up to laziness.
To live with misconception can be a comfortable existence; after all, who want’s to ponder on life’s bigger mysteries when food needs to be put on the table and the kid’s school fees need to be paid. So the misconceptions that we grow up with never have the chance to be washed away by knowledge, but rather breed and fester until in the minds of people, “the others” become symbols of immoral, corrupt behaviour. And thus, they are hated, because why SHOULDN’T you hate something immoral and evil? Too much knowledge may sometimes be a dangerous thing, but no knowledge can be deadlier.
PS: As I have already mentioned before, I have never had the opportunity to converse with someone who is gay. Because of that, if I have peddled misinformation, or have otherwise spoken out of my backside.....well what do you expect? It’s a freaking blog!! Correct me in the comments.