Dear Chetan Bhagat, you suggest homosexuality must be tolerated. Why?

  • Dhruba Jyoti Purkait, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 11, 2014 02:08 IST

Dear Mr Bhagat,

I was thrilled this week when I saw your article on section 377. Though you aren't on my bucket list of novelists, I think you're an intelligent man with enormous agency to effect change.

But as I read on, sir, I must admit I was disappointed. While you certainly had done your research, I felt a distinct lack of empathy in your exhortations.

You argued that there are 100 million of us queers, which apparently is a compelling reason to give us rights. The Supreme Court, however, recently showed how a question of numbers can be easily subverted to deny a "minuscule minority" its rights.

Surely, liberties are grounded in the doctrine of humanity, not numbers, and even if there are 10 queer people, it is reason enough to grant them their due.

Also read: Chetan Bhagat's article in The Times of India

Secondly, you suggest homosexuality must be tolerated since rights catalyse economic growth. I'm not so convinced, however, that people let go of their prejudices if it boosts their income.

Even in the US, where your example is borrowed from, activists worked for decades in alliance with other movements to bring queer rights to the forefront before companies joined the bandwagon last year.

And in any case, I'm not sure corporate growth is a great reason since queer communities comprise all socio- economic classes and the middle-salaried class isn't the only one deserving of rights.

Moreover, the queer rights movement in India stands in solidarity with others fighting for justice, such as tribals, lower castes, disabled and women, many of whom have been denied rights by the same corporates as there is no "income-growth" involved in letting go of certain prejudices.

Also read: Mr Chetan Bhagat, what really is a Half Girlfriend?

But most of all, sir, what hurts is your condescending advice to the gay community, asking them to not indulge in "western-inspired gay parades". Tellingly, you chose to omit the word "Pride" from your description, hence failing to see the whole point of pride marches.

You see, sir, this is more than just a dharna- this is a celebration of a people who have been discriminated against in the vilest of ways and fought back against oppressive social hierarchies.

The colourful costumes and singing-dancing that 'freak out' the majority laud a rainbow coalition of people- from trans and bisexual to gay and intersex individuals- who aren't going back into the closet, having struggled to be at peace with their own identities.

Some of them face insidious daily discrimination, others unimaginable violence and the rest have own personal battles. Walking along side them are young people, artists, allies and thousands of others, none of whom are ashamed of who they are. I cannot think of a better reason to celebrate.

Also read: Chetan Bhagat calls AAP ‘item girl’ of politics

There is a constant othering in your writing, sir that frames section 377 as a question of the majority tolerating a minority section. In reality, this is a bigger human rights issue, since the provision impinges on basic civil liberties.

That is why it is a collective sin, since it affects all hues of people- cis, trans; gay, straight- and dehumanises people by dictating personal behaviour.

Section 377 is as much about straight majorities as it is about queer minorities. Just because LGBT people are brutalised while straight people escape the assault, one shouldn't overlook that the law criminalises 'acceptable' sexual behaviour of heterosexual people. Or the fact that the sentiment behind the law is the same that indulges in honour killings or caste atrocities.

Sir, one needn't be an apologist to demand one's rights and we queers are certainly not aiming to calmly stand in line for our dole; just as no one asked Gandhi or King to go back home and wait for their time to come, we would appreciate it if no one treated us like a petulant child.

I am sorry to disappoint you sir, but we think being who you are and wearing what you please without judgment is cool and we aren't going back into the closet.

An ex-admirer.

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