What is Homosexuality?

The issue of homosexuality of late has been a much debated topic associated with a lot of mistrust for the community, even hatred, fear, prejudice, disgust all in varying degrees and continues to be a legal issue in many countries where it is still thought of as a violation of civil rights.

To define Homosexuality - It is a type of sexual orientation characterized by sexual desire or romantic love exclusively or almost exclusively for people who are identified as being of the same sex. People who are homosexual, particularly males, are also known as ‘gay’ and female homosexuals are known as ‘lesbians’. It can also be defined as sexual relations with another of the same sex regardless of one’s sexual orientation, self-identification or gender identity....

Although there is a lot of attention ( mostly negative ) given to this particular issue now, with some people openly showing their resentment to homosexuals on the one hand ,whereas on the other hand amidst all this ,the community seems to be growing day by day. Every fashion designer seems to be a gay person and it is considered fashionable to be one and even thought of to be an added advantage since the belief is that people with homosexual orientations are supposed to be very creative !

We also see that the attitude of the more educated and literate people changing with regard to the issue and people are slowly beginning to realise that no matter what their sexual preference is they are still an integral part of the society, not outcasts like before when they were shunned. In fact I was surprised when I heard that according to a poll conducted through SMS by Voice of India poll, the report found that almost a third of Indians in cities like Bangalore and Mumbai were in sympathy and support of the same-sex partnerships. Could we have even thought of such a scenario a few years ago ?

National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights Button 1

Puranas and vedic times

The major argument that Homosexuals have for themselves is that they are made that way and even scriptures have made a mention of it. However according to many vedic scholars the issue is mentioned as an unnatural or deviant behavioral pattern and not as an accepted form of sexual behavior, but at the same time they also point out that, this 'against the natural order' argument also does not stand , mainly because every aspect of human life, as it is today is against the natural order—from clothing , housing , food, life style etc, so one cannot hold sexual preference of an individual against him.

Another argument is that since Hinduism is about liberation of mind , where gods and their consorts and the goddesses freely romanced and procreated sometimes even with their own kind ( this was although done in the larger interest of humanity ) how can a mere human being withstand such urges? According to accounts there were also bisexual behavior seen in some of our gods, all in the name of safe guarding man kind and protecting them from evil forces that were bent on destroying good human beings.

According to our scriptures and Hindu concept , a man’s thoughts and actions with regard to his betterment as an individual counted more and his physical life and its nuances counted less, so sexuality was not a great issue then, goes on to say that ‘in an imperfect world we should at least try and maintain the highest Dharmic standards in all our relationships with whomsoever they may be ‘ .We also realise that in some respects ancient India was far healthier than most other ancient cultures while dealing with the issue of homosexuality, since it was either totally ignored or was considered as an issue not worthy of debate. However it became a major issue in the middle ages probably with the influences of the other religious beliefs and cultures which were to shape the status of homosexuals throughout the world.

Bible and Homosexuality

Most of the hatred for homosexuals seems o have developed after christianity became a leading world religion. Bible went all out to condemn homosexuality ( the very fact shows that it existed then and again gives credence to the theory that homosexuality is a natural deviation may be, but not cultivated as it is being presumed by many now) . According to bible homosexuality is a chosen sexual behavior which is unnatural, sinful, amoral, and abhorrent to God and it also said that punishment for homosexuality is death !

In most catholic countries this belief is still prevalent and gays don’t have an easy life and often carry on with their love life with a lot of secrecy. So it is not really surprising that in Indian society , which is still eons behind in many ways gays have it really tough unless they stick with their own kind and draw comfort and safety in numbers. The term homosexuality and the laws prohibiting what was termed as 'unnatural' sex were imposed across the world. But we have to remember that most people especially the religious leaders were of the opinion that 'sex is sin' which is often mentioned in Christian Bible ( old testament). So homosexuality was not only looked down but also persecuted and punished all over Britain and Europe. Since bible was the Law all other theories and attitudes were totally disregarded, as to how this sexual activity was perceived in other cultures.

512px-Gay marriage protester outside the Minnesota Senate chamber

Modern Times

Modern views In fact things dint change much in the attitude even during the modern days with even psychiatrists like Sigmund Freud considering homosexuality to be a form of mental illness. When they came across such ‘ Abnormal pattern of sexual behavior’ they were treated making use of aversion therapy . Apparently, in this kind of treatment pictures of young men were shown to the “patient” while at the same time administering mild electric shocks. The final effect of this so called treatment which was supposed to convert the ‘patient’ to heterosexuality was to turn them off sex altogether because of fear. However, with more researches carried out by the behavioral psycho analysts homosexuality was finally removed from the list of psychiatric diseases 3 decades ago. Later Homosexuals began to find a voice and have become a political entity now demanding equal civil rights and freedom from oppression and discrimination along with women, blacks, Jews and such other oppressed minorities in the western countries.

Here we have to remember that sexuality itself is a very complex issue and according researches everyone is found somewhere deviating either this way or that. On one side, there are the heterosexuals (sex between man and woman) and on the other side the homosexuals and lesbians. The vast majority of men and women are found somewhere in the middle. However, sex is a powerful drive and when deprived of female company some men are capable and do engage in homosexual acts, while others will not. What is even more surprising is that apparently women are more likely to experiment with lesbianism than are men.However, one thing is clear – both male and female do have a tendency towards homosexuality when the need arises.

Some relevant points

All over the world in every society there is a class division or caste division and the moral codes, duties and expectations of each social group differ from each other and sometimes are contradictory. Although things are a lot better now and people by and large mingle with each other without any bias at least in larger cities – here I am not speaking of any specific country but being general. But in India caste and religion does play an important role even to this day in the smaller cites and villages. The attitude towards anything that is not the norm is very negative.

While discussing matters of sexuality in our society , although the scriptures were far more open and liberal in their views, the modern day society tends to have a very narrow view of the issue. As in most societies, heterosexuality is regarded as the general norm , this in spite of the fact that our society is filled with instances of multiple marriages, adultery and the Hijrah culture. But according to sociologists the tension or the hatred in Hindu society is not between heterosexuality and homosexuality, it is between sexuality and celibacy. In a culture where procreation is considered to be the ultimate goal, it is but natural that a union of individuals which produces no such result is frowned upon.

Right until the nineteen sixties and seventies , homosexuals were too scared to openly show or indulge in their sexual preferences. But later we got to know that many of the top Hollywood stars like Rock Hudson,Montgomery Clift,Marlon Brando(Bisexual),Dirk Bogarde and many others were all gay.But does that make them less masculine or less macho? it is just that they have different sexual preferences. Coming to the issue of Lesbianism, I remember a well made hindi film called Suabah made in the eighties , where late Smitha Patil gave an award winning performance as the warden of a remand home. The issue of Lesbianism was dealt in a very sketchy manner which was actually the true depiction of how it is being viewed by our society. We prefer to sweep it under the carpet and pretend it does not exist.

There are many activists belonging to India who are placed in very high positions,intellectuals and also we get to hear about top Industrialists having such preferences.With the world opening up and merging one can see an attitude change to a certain extent at least in the upper crust of our society . At least in some circles like in the fashion world , people are more open about their leanings.

I was reading an article about homosexuals and the various problems they face. They also have problems within their own group. Apparently, there are over 17,000 men who were ex gays in America alone and more are joining the ranks as they find that they are unhappy and unsatisfied with the homosexual lifestyle. There are groups and organizations willing to help such people. However, those who change their sexual preferences ( from homosexuality to heterosexuality) are often maligned by their own former friends and partners.

Rock Hudson in Giant trailer

Conclusions

Personally speaking, I prefer to take the views expressed by our puranas - not to make an issue out of something that is far too personal to an individual. Homosexuality is neither a disease nor an acquired or cultivated preference. In some cases people may be driven into it , more so when they are in the fashion industry, but , they also tend to get over it after they grow  mature in their thinking. But for homosexuals life is not easy since they are mocked at and targeted by others all the time and this to me seems very unfair and unnecessary. There are far more serious issues that need to be changed in the society rather than change someones sexual preference.

In 2009, an Indian court overturned an old colonial law implemented by the British that banned homosexuality. As per the statement issued by the judge- "In our view Indian Constitutional Law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconception of who the LGBTs (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) are. It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality which will foster dignity of every individual," .

They are not criminals and may indulge in alcohol or drug abuse like other normal people nit because of their sexual preferences. Most of the homosexuals are sensitive and very talented individuals and are contributing a lot to the society. It is only fair that we  leave them alone to lead their lives the way they want to and treat them as individuals rather than as special cases and object of fun and ridicule!


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