The heterosexual man.
Subject: Nine questions that may help you deconstruct your homophobia.
You represent a community whose hatred, prejudice and stigma have driven people to guilt, shame, depression and even suicides in India. Do you know how? Sample this –
1. Gay people are bullied and ridiculed in schools and colleges; and there is no real difference in the (supposed to be) matured workplaces.
2. They are pressured by your community to enter ‘normal’ relationships, with marriage being just one example.
3. Even if they have a relationship, there is the nagging insecurity that it may not reach a ‘conclusion’, as this country is yet to legalise marriage, and ‘living together’ (the only format allowed by the current law) is a privilege for many.
4. They may fear that their partner may get pressured to enter in a ‘normal’ relationship.
5. They may fear of not finding love again given the less numbers of LGBTQIA+ individuals, compared to the likes of you.
6. They may suffocate while keeping their relationship always hidden, unless with the rare exceptions of their families accepting them.
Now, you have your reasons to reject them. And, you may wonder why this letter is addressed to the straight man (and not the straight woman?). We will address both these pieces. Do share it amongst your straight friends, their families and the wider so-called ‘heterosexual’ community.
Before we put out the nine questions to help you think about ‘sexuality’, let’s put some ground rules:
You don’t have to answer these questions. Many of them don’t need an answer. This letter is not to give you gyan. We will not educate you on the flawed concept of normality. We will not share any instances, stories or individuals, even from our beloved Mahabharata, which point to gender as a ‘spectrum’ (Read: Shikhandi and how Bheeshma was conquered). We will not justify that homosexuality has been removed from the classification of ‘mental disorders’, not yesterday, but since 1980. And we will not, in the least, explain the process of same-sex attraction or how natural it is.
This letter is about you. It is to bring you face-to-face with your own mental process, since you were wired at birth, and as you grew up as a child, and an adult, to think and believe that certain things existed as truths, and certain things will continue to remain true. Not because you ventured to analyse or question them, but you accepted them, effortlessly, or you were made to, and you nicely drew the boundaries of your comfort.
Here are the nine questions for you to ponder –
1. Do you feel threatened by homosexuals? Do you think they disturb some moral order formed by the society? And how? Due to same-sex relationships? What would you say then for domestic violence, marital rape, dowry deaths and killing or abandoning of female foetuses and babies, and much more that keeps happening in our urban and rural ‘normal’ marriages?
2. Do you think homosexuals choose their sexual orientation? How do you think they do? Do they control their hormones flowing in the blood, towards one sex, and let them go on a rampage for the other? Did you, as a father, or a brother, have a conversation with your child/sibling, one fine day, man-to-man, helping them choose their sexual preference, as they would choose a career?
3. Do you think homosexual men can have a negative impact on your children, or worse, convert them to homosexuality? Have you heard about a child’s evolving brain across the generations? How did you assume an impact – unless you assumed that your child will be wired in the same way that the society wired you?
4. Do you think homosexuals reject the ‘masculine’ ideal? So, they are not strong, they cannot fight you physically, they cannot ‘run’ the house, they cannot – well, we cannot think of many ‘masculine’ examples! If so, how come we have homosexuals in the army, in football, in cricket, and in athletics? Oh, you didn’t know? Well, they are closeted, and the laws/norms work against them. But what if a man in uniform told you he is gay, with his biceps raring to tear his sleeves – would you still believe he is a myth?
5. Did you define masculinity in your life so far, by the aspects cited in question-4? No wait, you defined it by the process of having children. Yeah… Okay, what would you say then to sterile, or impotent heterosexual men who feel undying attraction (via, hormones, brain) for heterosexual women? Wouldn’t you call them “men”?
6. Do you secretly have a problem with gays because they do not have to ‘follow’ the man’s social duties? Like enrolling his child in a school. I am sure you know that in countries where homosexuality and gay marriages are legal, they have children (e.g., adoption and surrogacy) so all the duties have to be done. I think you are tired of shouldering these duties yourself, imposed by the society. Totally relatable!
7. Do you believe homosexuals are in it, just for the sex? Maybe the content in most films, or the media have made you think so. Do you know the amount of untapped, choked, repressed sexual energy homosexuals have, when they have to live hidden lives from most people? What would you do if you were prohibited to show affection, nine out of every ten times?
8. Do gays trigger you – is it a knowledge, a self-awareness of your possible ‘feminine’ qualities? No, before you conclude – we mean being sensitive, passive, caring, or appreciating beauty. Do you feel scared that a gay man is opening a window to these qualities inside your head – a window installed in all of us? And do you know why women, therefore, may not get as triggered by gay men, as you?
9. With all these eight questions, have you ever given a thought to how ‘sex’ differs from ‘gender’ and ‘orientation’? There is a certain anatomy that is defined at birth, but the most sexual organ of the body, the brain, is not dictated by the anatomy down there. The dictation happens the other way round. Do you think, gender, attraction, orientation and the need and ability to form same-sex and different-sex relationships therefore, are defined by the reproductive anatomy or the ‘order’ of society?
So, that’s that. You are free to re-read these questions, pick any one or two that may bother you, unnerve you, or make you think the most… and it might just be your first step towards acceptance – no, not the acceptance of the gay community (they are not begging you for it) but the acceptance of your own need for unlearning.
Next time, you feel the disgust, the hostility, the repulsion, the anxiety and the discomfort at the sight of two men (or women) holding hands, kissing or expressing affection, or living in a marriage, you can use a thumb-rule to help your thinking:
Do they disgust me or am I disgusted by the conflict with my own concepts of ‘a man’ and ‘a woman’?
A mix of science & common sense
Dr. Ameya is a public health researcher, clinician and author. He writes on issues of mental health, disability, stigma and gender.
The Analysis (TA) is a research and communication group working on the issues of environment, health, gender, law and human rights. Feel free to share your submissions with us at email@example.com