The Third Kind
Her stints in notable TV shows such as the popular talk show Ippadikku Rose (Yours truly, Rose) in Vijay TV and Idhu Rose Neram (This is Rose Time) in Kalaingar TV where she starred as the show’s host has given Rose Venkatesan immense recognition. She is a familiar name in Tamil Nadu. Rose moved towards Radio in 2011 and her show Rosudan Pesungal (Talk with Rose) aired on weekdays on BIG FM 92.7 further catapulted her to household recognition. She is currently planning to direct a movie on India’s common religion: Cricket.
Ashok Row Kavi, in a splendid 18 year old Journalism stint has worked in famous newspapers and magazines like Malayala Manorama, Sunday mail and The Daily that need no introduction. For six years he was the senior reporter covering Science and Technology for “The Indian Express”. Ashok is the man who gave us Indians Debonair they have a Playboy in the West) and much as we like to cringe in person a bit anxiously and somewhat coyly, we are all thankful to him for that.
There are many like Rose and Ashok who have made a name for themselves upon fighting it out in the immensely challenging turf of Mass Media. And, while they have taken giant strides, those being fiercely independent and creative– they have kept their sexuality aside.
Oh! Did I forget to mention? Rose Venkatesh is a transgender and Ashok Row Ravi is gay. (For those pseudo evolved minds among us who claim to be non-judgmental but would only judge the likes of Rose and Ashok whilst conveniently keeping their heads hidden at all times)
And no, he doesn’t stand with his forearm raised and his hand hanging by it.
Ashok and Rose belong to the LGBT community. LGBT isn’t the acronym for Let’s Go Bananas Tonight. LGBT community is the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community. A gay is the one who walks around femininely wearing tight jeans, lesbians are all the girls who say no to your proposal, bisexuals have sex twice a day and a transgender takes a knife and post chopping off takes the occupation of dancing and singing in the trains. Take a deep breath and if reading this description which plainly hinges on physicality incites you- then we are on the right track considering the soul of this article.
Why did I have to write a rather pronounced description of these sexual orientations that are nearly as perfect in their very being and as perfectly natural as is rain during monsoon and soaring temperatures during the blithe of summers?
I am sad to note, that this is so because that’s how the majority of India thinks. Yes, the youth and most of us despite the biases surrounding the existential realities of gay people- are understanding and caring. But, will that do?
We must delve deeper into a dangerously flawed minefield of our acceptance of the other with regards to the subject matter of sexual orientation. This way we can unearth some moving observations about gays and lesbians that perhaps slow down the process of an India attempting to emerge unbiased and free from the holds of its past.
Firstly, that person who you often pin down for being gay is much better dressed than most straight men. There’s Neil Patrick Harris, Matt Bomer, Elton John, Rickey Martin, Sushant Digvikar (Mr. India Gay 2014 and Mister Congeniality, Mister Art, People’s Choice Award and Team Sports Award in Mr. World Gay 2014) and many more to boot.One has come to notice that the way they dress has got nothing to do with their sexual orientation. A girl can dress in dirty jeans and loose t-shirts and still be straight. So how can a person’s sexuality and their dressing sense being two separate areas with little co-relation be co-related and drafted so to sound like a story?
Playing Scramble with the phrase “bisexual” for a breather reveals:
Bi meaning ‘two’, sex meaning ‘doing it’ and ignoring ‘ual’ still doesn’t mean that bisexual means having sex twice a day (that would make me un-sexual). Bisexuals are attracted towards members of both sexes. Nothing could be as envious if seen from a non-discerning eye as the realization that a particular soul not only attracts but gets drawn to and, assimilates oneself with best of both worlds.
When we think of the transgender community, we are often instantaneously struck by the lament our not so “Head-over-sexual hearts” dispels that does no better than labeling them as a bunch of ugly looking people who make our train journeys and other commutations both- difficult and scary. Would you believe me if I shared that I’ve even seen people run to the toilet the moment a rather distant sound of clapping becomes unavoidably and rather, uncomfortably near, emanating fromthe adjacent coaches.
I was quite young when I first came across the transgender community. A transgender to me was Ashutosh Rana, from the movie Sangharsh.
But as I grew, so did my understanding towards them. Not to suggest that in my impressionable age I pulled out a hammerhead of ill-informed judgment about such fine and happy go lucky people!
Transgenders do not find their assigned sex in accordance with their sexual identity. It’s like waiting for a sports shoe and being handed out a sandal instead. What does one do? Return the sandal and get the sport shoes, right?
Our friends can even be categorized as MTF or FTM (Male to Female or Female to Male). Bailian Buschbaum, the former German Olympic pole-vaulter is a good example in this regard. He was born female, as Yvonne Buschbaum.
But in an India bolstered in spirit and brand equity by sparkling developments on Entrepreneurship, technology and engineering fronts – a dark reality persists. There is hardly any acceptance of the others’ sexual orientation if it doesn’t conform to a straight line of mental and emotional equanimity. Even if that person private life is not specifically meant for public consumption in the rational sense of the word!
Yet, as rigidity continues to make love to a certain hardline in thinking, the likes of super talented souls like Rose Venkateshan continue to “progress”; a word by which India often conveys that thing called commercial success, even though it conveniently overlooks the other in totality.
I must submit that optimism is a potent tool provided it is consumed rationally. We are waiting for the day when it will flood us with a happy and accepting shower. It is heartening to note that change is happening. A lady called Manabi Bandyopadhyay is the first transgender college principal who was also the first transgender in India to complete her Ph.D. She belongs to Tamil Nadu, which was the first state in the country ever to introduce a transgender welfare policy.
Roles played by Government Hospitals
Transgenders, it seems have had instances that have helped ease the pain of their social non-acceptance. Especially, in the context of Government Healthcare. Whether it is a free housing program; various citizenship documents; admission in government colleges with full scholarship for higher studies and many other special facilities, constructive inroads are being made to ease off their ignominy of being themselves as caused by our society’s shallow thinking.
The above instance elucidates as to why the number of hijras in the trains reduces to almost none when the train enters Tamil Nadu (speaking out of personal experience) even though there are more than 60,000 transgender people in the state according to recent census. The T.N. Government has worked towards upliftment of the transsexuals in the state and it has been immensely successful so far. Maharasthra is another state, which has its own well functioning transgender welfare board.
On one hand there is a government taking slow but re-ssuring steps to ensure equality for the discriminated community, there is an evil half of the split personality in our government that doesn’t recognize the rights of the LGBT community at all.
According to a ruling by the Indian Supreme Court, decisions of a High Court on the constitutionality of a law apply throughout India, and not just to the territory of the state over which the High Court in question has jurisdiction. However, even there have been incidents of harassment of homosexual groups.
On 23 February 2012, the Ministry of Home Affairs expressed its opposition to the decriminalisation of homosexual activity, stating that in India, homosexuality is seen as being immoral. The Central Government reversed its stand on 28 February 2012, asserting that there was no legal error in decriminalising homosexual activity. This resulted in two judges of the Supreme Court reprimanding the central government for frequently changing its stand on the issue. “Don’t make a mockery of the system and don’t waste the court’s time,” an apex court judge told the government.
On 11 December 2013, the Supreme Court set aside the 2009 Delhi High Court order decriminalising consensual homosexual activity within its jurisdiction. The bench of justices however noted that parliament should debate and decide on the matter.”
For the piece, “In 2009, the Delhi High Court decriminalised section 377 stating that it is against basic human rights. The Supreme Court applied this decision throughout the country on the grounds of constitutionality but on 11th December 2013, the Supreme Court set aside the order of decriminalising consensual homosexual activity rendering the homosexuals in the country vulnerable to police brutality and discrimination.
We may have walked barefoot toward a thorny path to economic progress and worldwide financial success, but at our hearts, we are yet to open about our own selves. I picture this to myself in the light of my being amidst some moving images that look the part of a jukebox that asks limitless questions!
Would you say that coming out of the closet and opening up to our own folks who gave us birth carry any weight? Further, imagine having to tell your parents that you are gay or lesbian? Firstly you have to explain to them what you know being a gay or lesbian doesn’t make me cool or hip. It’s just the way it is. And, one can’t help it!
A Society heaped across in a parallel narrative that runs low on mind stuff plays an important role in influencing a person’s decision on our country. You cannot not be honest about yourself on social media without gearing up for the lowly highs and modest positives you are going to be bombarded with.
Like if I plan on marrying someone outside my caste, the society will have a field day, Brahmins aren’t supposed to marry those low caste women. Really, are you telling me that, after hearing, reading, arguing and asserting such finely decorated arguments that salivate of “intellect” that is how far we’ve reached in mortal forms of our being and receiving?
Not all can take it and go quiet
Disha Ganguly, an Indian actress who couldn’t tolerate societal pressures inflicted upon her for her relationship with another actress committing suicide. There are many Disha’s who fight everyday battles against self-created stigmas.
Indian culture rants against homosexuality. It is believed, “in being gay we are regressing, going back to when we were almost like animals”, according to Om Prakash Singhal, Vice President, Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Wait, there’s more.
“Homosexuality is a crime according to scriptures and is unnatural. People cannot consider themselves to be exclusive of a society…” Maulana Madni, Jamlat Ulema-e-Hind. If you couldn’t have had it enough, “Spiritually, human sexual relations are identified as those shared by a man and a woman.” Reverand Swarup, Cathedral Church of the Redemption, Delhi.
Since when did we all drink the pseudo Socrates bowl of wisdom and began digging religious grounds to unearth any possible linkage of Homosexuality to Religious prescription?
“It’s unnatural,” this is one of the most frequently used terms by a homophobic when asked why they are against homosexuality. That’s what most holy books claim, that homosexuality is against the rules of nature…THE RULES OF NATURE… Sounds so official, doesn’t it? Since when has parity in every natural pivot of life existed in the universality of our very being?
Anything that isn’t normal is unnatural. But, isn’t that what one implies in everyday life?
Here is a fun fact: 1500 animal species practice homosexuality. All these species should be killed, this is against our Indian culture. It’s unnatural. Bro, this is nature giving you the middle finger, don’t malign the natures name to satisfy your propagandas. So when are you tweeting against animal making out with others of their own gender and winning brownie points in an inebriated school of thought, one plied not by alcohol but by rustic, self-created indoctrination?
Awareness can play a major role in solving this issue of disregarded identity. Next time you hear someone rant saying,” Sharmaji ka ladka is gay”, tell them that you are happy for Sharmaji ka ladka. Tell them that there is nothing wrong about his sexuality. Talk to the conformists and lovers of what “they say is right or what elders state is right” notion and inform them that how their misconceptions about gays and lesbians are hindering mental progress.
The LGBT community has been tirelessly working for the rights of LGBT folks to be themselves, how difficult is that for a start? They’ve been successful in raising awareness among the Indian society. A tough battle is being fought. Not with any weaponry on a battleground but with the aim of defeating evils that born on a rather thoughtless turf of the mind.