Will Homosexuality Get Social Acceptability in India

Decriminalization of Article 377 may have made same sex relationships legally acceptable but finding social acceptability is a much bigger challenge. Alternative sexuality is a fact none of us, in Indian mainstream culture, want to deal with.

We all know Hindu scriptures have mythological characters with alternative sexual orientation, a fact that RSS has been attributing its support for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) rights to, but that is just academic knowledge for most and doesn’t colour our attitude to people with alternative sexual orientation. (Other religions are completely closed to the idea of same sex unions, a fact that’s partly responsible for the lack of social acceptability same sex relationships have – it goes against the notion that sex should only be for procreation; else, it becomes pleasure.)

They are seen with loathing and kept at a distance, as far as possible.  In fact the aversion for them is so much that it is difficult to capture in words.

There is considerable fear about them. It is believed they are sexually promiscuous and therefore are potential carriers of sexually transmitted diseases, that if they find you within proximity they may ask for sexual favours, that they are creatures coming from some dark, unknown place, that they are completely beyond the pale.

These notions come from two things: one is we don’t come across many of them in our day to day lives – or maybe we do but we don’t know because the stigma attached with alternative sexuality pushes some of them into closet – they pass themselves off as normal fellows; ignorance about them, which you would have understood from some of the points above; the most ubiquitous members of this community are the ones who accost us on Indian roads – the hizras (transvestite). And frankly speaking, there is very little reason to like them – not so much for how they look but what they do – extorting money, making lewd remarks.

Some would say this may be how things are generally but there are islands of tolerance – places where it doesn’t matter whether you are a gay, lesbo or straight. And one of those places are the IT companies. Yes, maybe some companies have clearly defined policies against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, where tolerance is induced and not natural. But in most IT companies there aren’t – you are expected to avoid discriminatory behavior in general.

But the question is not so much about whether or not there are policies but whether there is an environment where they don’t feel excluded. The general culture in IT companies is very regressive. Informal conversations, jokes and jibes in most IT companies reflect the popular street culture preferences where any discussion even remotely related to sex or gender is on binary lines and there is aggressive disapproval for anything that doesn’t fit in.