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Homosexual priests not acceptable, say India’s Anglican churches July 15, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Gay & Lesbian, Hindustan Times, Homophobia.
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From HT: Homosexual priests not acceptable, say India’s Anglican churches

Protestant church leaders in Mumbai have likened homosexuals to people “not of sound mind” as the Anglican Church thundered towards a schism between liberals and conservatives.

Both the Church of North India (CNI) and the Church of South India (CSI) are supporting a conservative breakaway faction of the Anglican Church, called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, on the battle over allowing gay clergies.

The Fellowship, which was at odds with the Anglican Church over the issue of ordaining homosexuals as clergy and blessing same sex unions, was set up at a conference held in Jerusalem last month. It effectively meant a split of the Anglican Church.

The Church faces another summit at the Lambeth Conference to be held in London on July 16, at which global representatives will decide the future of the faith of its eight crore followers.

Both CNI and CSI did not confirm if they would join the Fellowship, but said the issue would be on top of their Lambeth agenda.

“We are not comfortable with the idea of gay priests,” said Reverend Prakash Patole, Bishop of Mumbai, CNI.

“CNI and CSI have accepted women priests but we haven’t got to the stage of welcoming homosexuals,” said Reverend K.I. Dyvasirvadam of St Stephen’s Church, Bandra. “The Bible talks of eunuchs, lepers and people not of sound mind and homosexuality being accepted by Jesus… but there is a big difference between a gay man coming to church and having gay priests.”

Similar views were echoed by the CSI. “The Bible does not recognise gay marriages or gay priests,” said Reverend Benny Thomas of CSI, Mumbai.

Gay Christians in Mumbai have reacted strongly to the news that their church has lurched further to the right, and pointed out that King James of England, who introduced the modern Bible, was a homosexual.

“Indian Church leaders should place King James under the ‘not of sound mind’ list and stop using his Bible,” said George Thomas (26, name changed), a designer from Andheri and member of CSI. “I never divulged my sexuality fearing backlash. But church leaders should encourage more tolerance.”

Agrees gay activist Ashok Row Kavi. “The church should come in line with the Church of England and allow gay priests and marriages.”

Lesbian deserving enough to get child’s custody: NGOs July 15, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in dnaindia, English, Lesbian.
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From DNA, 2 July 2008: Lesbian deserving enough to get child’s custody: NGOs

They say if she is capable of looking after the baby, it does not matter whether she is her biological father or not
Maulik Buch. Vadodara
Several NGOs have expressed their support for Pintoo, the woman auto driver, who wants the custody of the test-tube baby of Binal, the girl with whom she was living in a lesbian relationship. Binal committed suicide on June 17.
“If Pintoo is capable enough to look after Khushi, the baby, then she shouldn’t be denied her custody only because she is not the girl’s biological father,” said Indira Pathak of Vikalp, an NGO working for the uplift of lesbians. “There are many couples across Gujarat, but this case is unique indeed,” she added.
Talking to DNA, Pathak said, “This is for the first time in Gujarat when a quarrel has taken place over the custody of a child after the death of one of the lesbian partners.”
Maya Sharma of Perma, an NGO working for lesbian and homosexual community, said, “We support Pintoo whether she is a biological father or not.”
“It has nothing to do with the biological status of the father. We are planning to rush to Ramol to meet Pintoo personally and extend her all help, whether legal or psychological. The custody of Khushi should be given to Pintoo and not Binal’s family members.”

No Pride But Gay – India’s Gay Parades July 15, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Gay, Online/New Media, Pride 2008.
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From Desicritics.org:
July 01, 2008
Sakshi Juneja

While the three other metropolitan cities of India had the Gay Pride, Mumbai’s non participation was definitely a subject of much debate and bewilderment.

I mean, if Delhi could have it, then how come the most recognized city on the Indian map, the city of dreams, the fabled city of chill and chic, didn’t?

‘Hypocrisy’ is the one-word answer I got when I posed this question to a Gay friend. Apparently, there is much infighting and lack of unity among the various Gay groups and NGOs in the city. The divides runs deep between the classes and the masses, and never the twain shall meet – or so he said.

The white-collared lot happily goes about its business without caring about ‘burning’ issues like rights or laws, said another Gay friend. In Mumbai, it seems, not many can be bothered enough to dress up and walk the streets the way they did in Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata. But the same does not hold true for parties, I recently discovered.

Boy do they dress up there, and boy, do they party.

In snooty South Mumbai, I experienced my first of such parties. As a straight person, one doesn’t often get to see this side of Mumbai, and my Gay friend was only happy to take me along to one of the dos. Us three straight chics and five strapping Gay lads.

They say that first impressions are the lasting ones. Well I had more than my share of first impressions:

  • I often wondered where all the cute men have gone. Now I know.
  • Indian men can dance. Rephrase that – Gay Indian men can dance – the pelvic thrust being an extremely popular move.
  • Swapping partners, a common thing.
  • Several men. Five women. Not one got a second look. (I’m talking about the women.)
  • The ladies toilet isn’t just for the ladies. If you know what I mean.
  • Makeshift bedrooms, the restrooms.
  • Celebrity spotting. No Karan Johar though. Or his better half.
  • And… the best bit… all of the above happening on top of a family restaurant.

The pride may not have happened in Mumbai. And it’s probably more than just lack of unity between Gay groups. After all how can we forget our political mai-baap also play moral police at the drop of a hat.

But, who says the pride in their identity isn’t there?

Saakshi O. Juneja is an active blogger, feminist and overboard dog lover. Currently working as a Business Development Manager for a sportswear manufacturing company in Mumbai, India. Did graduation in Marketing & Advertising from Sydney, Australia. As far as blogging is concerned…is a complete Blog-a-holic.

Reverse swing: It may be an open affair for gays, lesbians July 15, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Pride 2008, Section 377, Times of India.
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From Economic Times:

2 Jul, 2008, 0231 hrs IST,Vikram Doctor, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: Was minister of state of labour and employment Oscar Fernandes influenced by India’s first national gay and lesbian pride celebrations which had taken place, just the day before, on Sunday (June 29)?

Because on Monday, at a function to mark the release of a report on the impact of AIDS in Asia, produced for UNAIDS by an independent commission headed by C Rangarajan, ex-governor of RBI and current chairman of Economic Advisory Council to the PM, Mr Fernandes made the most categorical statement in favour of decriminalising homosexuality ever to come from a member of the Indian government (in the presence of the prime minister as well).

“Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (which criminalises homosexuality) needs to go,” said Mr Fernandes. “It is time for India to move forward on this.” Mr Fernandes perhaps felt emboldened to make this statement because he was sweeping after two speakers, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mr Rangarajan, who in less dramatic and specific, but no less a firm way, had made the point that the legal restrictions that came in the way of combating HIV/AIDS, of which Section 377 is a prime example, need to go.

“Laws and public policy should not stand in the way of efforts to provide prevention services and treatment where it is most needed,” said Mr Rangarajan.

And he was clear where this was. For the last year-and-a-half, Mr Rangarajan, who is more known in India for monetary rather than medical policy, has been immersing himself in the hard realities of how AIDS spreads in Asia and its current and potential impact.

From this, he learned that high-risk groups like commercial sex workers, injected drug users and men who have sex with men are the main vectors, but “it does not mean that it is contained with this group alone,” he cautioned.

What these high-risk groups represent are the opportunity to control the epidemic. If it was allowed to spill over into the wider population the costs were going to be high. “Unless we provide immediate and effective services, AIDS will remain the highest disease-related cause of death and workdays lost for adults below 45 years of age,” said Dr Rangarajan. “Without concerted responses Asia can expect an annual economic loss of $2 billion by 2020.”

The one good sign, he said, was that if the disease was immediately tackled there was a chance of stemming it. Comprehensive and coordinated HIV/AIDs policies were needed, to be undertaken by commissions chaired by heads of government (as is the case in India).

At least 50 cents per capita per annum had to be invested to ensure that the majority of people receive services for prevention and treatment of the disease. And since the high-risk groups were key to the disease in Asia (as opposed to Africa, where it spreads through more general unsafe sexual practices), they must be engaged with and helped to control the disease, rather than criminalising them and driving them underground and dangerously out of reach.

The prime minister’s views were, not surprisingly, the most restrained, but not without substance. He welcomed the report he said, not least because it validated much of the way in which the Indian government tackled the epidemic. Yet he said there were no grounds for complacency. The disease had to be combated on all fronts, including dealing with groups who have faced stigmatisation.
“The fact that many of the vulnerable social groups, be they sex workers or homosexuals or drug users, face great social prejudice has made the task of identifying AIDS victims and treating them very difficult,” said Dr Singh “If we have to win this fight against HIV/AIDS we have to create a more tolerant social environment.”

The prime minister noted that one did not have to condone a group’s practices in order to seek a tolerant solution to the problem of AIDS. Such epidemics affected society as a whole, and should be answered by society as a whole.

This, Dr Singh said, was the essence of the ancient Indian principle of Vasudeva Kutumbakam, that we are all one family. As a recommendation for social change this sounded less dramatic than Mr Fernandes’ statement, but in its characteristically understated way, it was no less radical.

Homosexuality: Nature or nurture? July 15, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Gay, Section 377, Times of India.
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Homosexuality: Nature or nurture?  TOI

29 Jun 2008, 0005 hrs IST, Divya A,TNN

Does homosexuality arise from nature or nurture? It’s an argument that has raged around the world for a long time. But scientific research increasingly seems to be tilting the debate in favour of nature.

In case of male conjoined twins, if one is homosexual, the other is likely to show similar tendencies, although the same may not hold true in case of females. In 1991, Boston University psychiatrist Richard Pillard and Northwestern University psychologist J Michael Bailey found that in identical twins, if one twin was gay, the other had about a 50% chance of also being gay.

In 1993, Harvard-trained researcher Dean Hamer found that gay brothers shared a specific region of the X chromosome, called Xq28, at a higher rate than gay men shared with their straight brothers.

Shortly thereafter, Newsweek ran a cover story on the subject, ‘Gay Gene?’. Then, in the midst of a landmark legislation battle in the state of Colorado which raised the question of whether homosexuality was normal, innate and unchangeable, a prominent researcher testified, “I am 99.5% certain that homosexuality is genetic.”

In 1994, two Canadian researchers discovered a statistical relationship between the number of ridges on men’s fingertips and homosexuality, contributing additional evidence to the theory that sexual orientation can be influenced by biological events that occur at conception or early in fetal life.

J A Y Hall and D Kimura of the University of Western Ontario examined the fingerprints of 66 homosexual and 182 heterosexual men, comparing the number of ridges on the index finger and thumb of the left hand with the number of ridges on the index finger and thumb of the right hand.

If the number of ridges on the index finger and thumb of the left hand exceeds the number of ridges on the index finger and thumb of the right hand, one’s fingerprints are said to exhibit leftward directional asymmetry. Hall and Kimura found such leftward directional asymmetry in the fingerprints of 30% of their homosexual subjects versus 14% of their heterosexuals.

“Some may refute such theories but they essentially point to the fact that homosexuality is, to some extent, determined even before a child is born,” says gay activist Ashok R Kavi, who runs Humsafar Trust.

“Another study has found that in case of males, if there is less testosterone (male hormone) secretion during the development stage, they may have some girlish traits, and could even be attracted to boys. Daryl Bemm, a psychology professor at New York’s Cornell University, had propounded a theory that hormonal levels are the causes of homosexuality,” adds Kavi.

Interestingly, zoologists have discovered that homosexual and bisexual activity is not unknown within the animal kingdom. Experts say that all in all, as many as 1,500 different species of birds and animals are known to have displayed homosexual behavior.

Researcher and author Bruce Bagemihl documented such characteristics among birds, mammals and insects in his book Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity, published in 1999.

“No species has been found in which homosexual behavior has not been shown to exist, with the exception of species that never have sex at all, such as sea urchins and aphis. Moreover, a part of the animal kingdom ishermaphroditic, truly bisexual. For them, homosexuality is not an issue.”

That was the verdict of Petter Beckman, academic adviser for the ‘AgainstNature?’ exhibit – an exhibition on homosexuality in animals in The Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, Norway to illustrate that it is not unnatural.

So, if homosexuality can be the result of genetics, and if it exists throughout the animal kingdom, logically it cannot be unnatural. But the Indian legal system thinks otherwise. As per section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, any intercourse which goes against the “law of nature” is illegal.

But what exactly does the term mean? Some would argue that it is adapted from the religious belief that intercourse that doesn’t lead to procreation is unnatural.

But by that definition, apart from homosexuality, all other forms of non-reproductive sexual activities become unnatural, including contraception.

Says gay activist Lesley Esteves, “We are born this way, we are not perverts. People have to understand that it’s not a matter of choice to get attracted to someone from the same sex or from the opposite sex. And it doesn’t have only sexual connotations. The relationship between two people from the same sex could be equally romantic as that between a man and a woman. So classifying us as criminals and penalizing us under section 377 is very unfair to us.”

An 18-year-old, who has “just discovered” his sexuality and found out that he gets attracted to “his types” more than to girls, says: “I am feeling very apprehensive about my future. If society and laws don’t penalize someone born a eunuch, why are people like us singled out?”

EPW editorial: Gender Rights July 15, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, EPW, Transgender.
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Tamil Nadu takes the progressive step of explicitly recognising transgender as a third gender category.

http://epw.org.in/epw//uploads/articles/12364.pdf

The government of Tamil Nadu has taken the bold step of officially recognising transgender as a separate sex. For the first time in the country, a government order has been issued by an education department of a state government creating a third gender category for admission in educational institutions. Government and aided colleges will have to admit transgenders (‘hijras/aravanis/alis’) and they will share 30 per cent of the seats reserved for women. A newly-designed application form for the undergraduate courses will include transgender as a separate category, thus permitting these students to join any college of their choice – co-educational, men’s or women’s colleges. This is in tune with the Tamil Nadu governor’s address in the legislative assembly in January 2008 expressing concern about the welfare of transgenders and announcing a number of welfare measures like the issue of ration cards, free surgeries in government hospitals and the establishment of a welfare board.
Until now transgenders could enrol in colleges but only as males. Not wanting to go through the trauma of being forced to study in a men’s college, where they are routinely harassed, a number of them have been waiting for this opening. The inspiration came from Rose Venkatesan and a few other “she-males” as they are often referred to. Venkatesan’s story exemplifies the struggle the community has to face to be in a mainstream vocation. The host of a controversial talk show that has hit the tv screens in south India, Rose Venkatesan is a 28-year-old transgender who was forced to grow up as a boy, and struggled with discrimination and stigmatisation before building a career. Unable to face a gender dilemma, Venkatesan spent adolescence immersed in books and in due course became a mechanical engineer with a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from the Louisiana Tech University in the United States. Rose Venkatesan has been campaigning for gender justice in education, highlighting that education alone can change the outlook of transgender people and empower them economically. The personal struggles of transsexuals like Rose Venkatesan are slowly acquiring a political dimension and the transgender community has been able to mobilise and empower itself, finding a voice that can be heard.
Transgender culture has been part of the Indian community for centuries with an estimated million transgender people (there is no database that maps them) in the country today. Due to the relative prevalence and also the acceptance of transsexualism, they cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, they face extreme discrimination in health, housing, education, employment, law, etc. Facing severe harassment, with little or no opportunity for conventional jobs, most of them earn an income by performing at Hindu religious ceremonies and celebrations, or by begging and also in sex work.
It is the livelihood issues of transgenders that need focused attention. Indisputably the most marginalised and ostracised community, transgenders need special quotas if they are to emerge from the shadows. Unless they are able to integrate with the mainstream social order and share experiences with the general community, the current stigma will not disappear. Being a visible minority and a part of India’s backward group of people, there are attempts to get them into the other backward classes (obc) group. As the general obc category can now have subcategories, this seems a viable proposition and is one way of facilitating the social integration of transgenders. In an age when the boundaries of sexual tolerance are shifting, the time is opportune for an active involvement of and collaboration with the transgender community. Although much remains to be done before the line between acceptability and ostracism is finally removed, Tamil Nadu has shown the way by taking the first step in this direction.

Mumbai’s gay community rallies for freedom July 15, 2008

Posted by qmediawatch in English, Pride 2008, Pride 2008 - Mumbai.
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Source : http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1177555

Keith J Fernandez
Tuesday, July 15, 2008 03:54 IST

August 16 will see Mumbai’s largest gay pride parade ever
Weeks after three other metros stole a march on Mumbai to commemorate the anniversary of 1969’s Stonewall riots in New York, our own city’s gay community plans to come out in a show of national pride on August 16.

Singing, dancing and walking under banners screaming Queer Azadi, gays, lesbians, eunuchs, bisexuals, kothis, transsexuals and a several others of alternative sexual orientations will don pink Gandhi topis and other fabulosities in their own long walk to freedom.

The event kicks off at 4pm at August Kranti Maidan and ends with a candlelight vigil at Chowpatty. It is being described as an attempt to cast off the shackles of an outdated legal system. Queer is an inclusive term that unifies people of alternative, or non-heterosexual, sexualities, and this event brings together nearly a dozen disparate human rights and advocacy organisations towards a common goal.

“This is pride as it relates to India’s freedom struggle,” says gay activist Ashok Row Kavi, of the organisation Humsafar. “We may be free from the British, but we are not free from their outdated laws.”

The timing of the event and its route – August Kranti Maidan is where Mahatma Gandhi launched the Quit India Movement in 1942 – have been specifically chosen to highlight the fact that India’s queer community is still largely marginalised.

Even as the story of a resurgent, booming India gets retold time and again, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code punishes those indulging in carnal intercourse ‘against the order of nature’ with up to ten years in prison. “This is purely a British law, the British corrupted traditional Indian culture by introducing homophobia into our society,” adds prominent gay blogger, Nitin Karani.

A petition by NGO Naz Foundation to declare the statute unconstitutional is currently being heard by the Delhi High Court.

Organisers hope the Queer Azadi event will serve to raise awareness and sensitise the community at large, says event co-ordinator and lesbian rights activist Geeta Kumana, of the organisations Aanchal and Infosem. “We want to show we are visible and to send out the message to people in small cities and towns that they are not alone,” she told DNA. “We’re also going to be talking to heterosexuals about the problem homosexuals face.”

Besides queers from across the country, Row Kavi says some heterosexuals will even be lending their support, including trade unions and workers’ groups.

The date is already prominent on the city’s gay calendar: Humsafar and other organisations have been holding similar events, albeit on a much smaller scale, on August 16 every year for the past four years.

Mumbai’s queer leaders have supported and even helped kick-start pride events in other cities, says Row Kavi, who promises that from next year, the city will host two pride events.

The writer is a Gulf-based journalist

Unfurling the rainbow flag July 9, 2008

Posted by qmediawatch in English, Lesbian, Pride 2008 - New Delhi.
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Unfurling the Rainbow Flag

Paromita-Chakrabarti

Posted online: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 at 10:37:53
Updated: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 at 10:37:53

Coming out in movies, plays and literature is no longer as difficult as it once was. Ask Amruta Patil who drew a lesbian protagonist in Kari or Sameer Thakur who staged a gay play

When Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra rode a 1939 Norton, singing Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge, 33 years ago, they didn’t realise that one day its YouTube clip would get a response, “Is this a gay Indian movie?” After the macho men became the unwitting heroes of male bonding in prudish India, it took decades for Karan Johar to even joke about homosexuality with Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan in a bedroom in faraway New York. Now in Miami, Tarun Mansukhani is busy shooting Dostana, produced again by Johar. The film, which has Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham in the lead besides Priyanka Chopra, is a slight deviation from the usual candyfloss romances Dharma Productions is famous for. It focuses on the bond the two men share, and a gay subtext ripples through the film.

Something has changed. And it is not just the Gay Pride Parade that happily moved on the streets of Delhi. The closets in mainstream art and literature are slowly being opened — and the public is not nonplussed.

A couple of days ago, when Sonali Gulati, a gay activist and professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, US, screened five of her films on queers at the India Habitat Centre, they had a full house. On Thursday, filmmaker Sridhar Rangayan, will finally screen his feature film 68 Pages at the India International Centre. “We have received invites from smaller cities like Vadodara and Surat, which means we are penetrating deeper into the heterosexual psyche than before,” says the IIT-Mumbai alumnus.

In the bold and brilliant lines of her graphic novel Kari, Delhi-based Amruta Patil has drawn a lesbian protagonist. Released a few months back, the book has become a hit, at least for a graphic novel. Patil says she is hardly surprised. “I never thought it necessary to pitch Kari as a queer book. I know she will find her people, regardless of their sexuality. We undermine people’s ability to understand and identify with things. The audience is empathetic and vocal. It must make creative people less fearful of being gagged or lynched by the non-reading, non-moviegoing moral police,” she says.

Thirty-four-year-old playwright Sameer Thakur, whose city-based company Cathaayatra works towards sensitising people on sexual health, recently staged the play Perfect Relationship, on the escapades of three gay characters. And the play, surprisingly, was a runaway success. But Thakur is not sure this is a sign of things to come, a change in mindset. “Just because people like something on stage, it doesn’t mean that they will accept it in real life,” he says. Gulati agrees: “I don’t think that seeing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender representations in art galleries and exclusive theatres in urban cities accounts as mainstream. I will believe it when I see queer images plastered on billboards, on buses, along train tracks through rural India, when we switch on the TV and see a lesbian in a soap opera or an advertisement.” But there’s one thing they all agree on. Coming out in movies, plays and literature is no longer as difficult as it once was, not even in Delhi.

Dissociating queer from sleazy July 7, 2008

Posted by qmediawatch in English, Times of India.
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Disassociating queer from sleazy
7 Jul 2008, 0431 hrs IST, Radhika Oberoi,TNN

NEW DELHI: Park benches and public urinals. Gay life conjures up lurid images of furtive sex in seedy corners. The sexually aberrant have been pushed to the fringes of a society too self-righteous to admit its homophobia.

Delhi’s first gay parade on 30th June was a vibgyor affirmation of alternative sexuality and a tentative step towards eradicating the disease of prejudice. But long before the swooning parade, a brave tribe of filmmakers attempted to disassociate queer from sleazy. Like Sonali Gulati, whose film — a matrimonial ad for a lesbian — was a bid for acceptance by the mainstream. The 33-year old filmmaker and assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University believes she grew up in a society where gay people were considered weird. “I had three boyfriends in school,” she says, recalling her public-school days in Delhi. “One each in class nine, eleven and twelve, (the tenth standard was a Board exam year) — because that was the thing to do!” Her undergraduate years at Mount Holyoke College and subsequent post-graduate degree in film from Temple University led to a spurt of films that were a coming out of sorts — but only to her friends in the US. Sum Total, written and directed by Sonali (no surname in the credits) in 1999, is a 5-minute poetic protest against homophobia and sexism. A slideshow of fragmented images of her body with captions that use mathematical metaphors to drive home the point: ‘One Indian woman, Plus a lesbian, Minus obedient, dutiful wife.’ Her latest project, a short film called Out and About (working title) is also about boldly verbalizing one’s sexuality.

A film that first gave the gay community in India a voice was (the late) Riyad Vinci Wadias BomGay (1996). The 12-minute film was based on a series of six poems by R Raj Rao, whose searing verse ripped open Mumbai’s gay subculture:

You undress underground and find your Garden of Eden

Eden Gardens abounding in Adams and serpents:

Raju, 19, office boy at Bora Bazar

Gulab, 22, waiter at Satkar

54-year-old Sunil Gupta also struggled with the predicament of being both Indian and gay, in the decades preceding the somewhat bolder 90s. “My generation felt trapped — they had to get married. Those who were here felt they were in an eternal exile in their own country.” He escaped to London and graduated from the Royal College of Art, at a time when identity politics, race, ethnicity and homosexuality were beginning to be discussed and the media was opening up to alternative lifestyles. The tumult of the times led to India Postcard, a 4-minute film on gay life in Delhi and Bombay in the 80s. Produced in London in a friendly, home video format, the film focused on real people, rather than intellectual discussions on gay rights.

Real people with an aberrant sexual orientation have also led to Bollywood tentatively moving away from its song-and-dance routine for fresh cinema. Deepa Mehta’s Fire, released in 1998, ventured into forbidden terrain by exploring the sensual relationship of a young bride with her sister-in-law. Mahesh Dattani, whose Mango Souffli (2002) breaks away from hackneyed romantic imagery with an erotic under-water gay kissing scene, believes that a number of Bollywood films caricature homosexuals. As a result, shopping for actors to perform a gay role becomes difficult. Onir, director of My Brother Nikhil, also decries the stigma against homosexuals: “A homophobic community must be fed slowly with important issues, just like one would feed a baby.” The protagonist in his film, Nikhil, is a normal guy,”someone you grow to love — his homosexuality is something the audience is gently made comfortable with.” Albeit not a gay film, it does portray a homosexual relationship with cinematic depth and sensitivity.

Gay lovers, like their heterosexual counterparts, are “normal couples” asserts 23-year-old Shrenik, writer and director of Lost and Found. The short film is a silent, romantic comedy of errors set in a crowded DTC bus. Two men try to steal a moment of passion on a bumpy ride in a DTC bus, by playing with each other’s hands.

The plot, that meanders into mistaken identities when a pickpocket finds his hand in the wrong pocket, makes a serious point about why gay couples in the city can’t express their love in public. “And makes it silently,” explains the young director, for, despite all the slogan shouting, the issue is still not openly talked about.

R. Raj Rao, who currently teaches literature at the University of Pune, believes that in 19th century India, Macaulay’s Minute on Education and his introducing of Section 377 of the IPC, known as the anti-sodomy law, were responsible for the onset of homophobia. “Today, global capitalism has taken over from colonialism to make India intolerant towards its sexual minorities.” An alternative morality must, therefore, find its voice in art and cinema that goes against the grain, to jolt society out of its complacency.

radhika.oberoi@timesgroup.com