Straight talk February 20, 2009Posted by nitinkarani in English, Gay, Movies, Times of India.
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From Mumbai Mirror:
Gay community, Humsafar insisted on a special screening of the film Straight. They wanted to ensure that the film didn’t stereotype homosexuals
By Parag Maniar
Posted On Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 02:51:39 AM
A special preview of Paravati Balgopalan’s Straight starring Vinay Pathak and Gul Panag was organised for Nitin Karani who is the trustee of the gay community, Humsafar.
Our source from the production unit said, “Straight is the story of a man who is confused about his sexuality. He does not know whether he is straight or gay but is averse to homosexual relationships.”
When people from the gay community learnt this, they promptly contacted iDream, the producers of Straight and told them to organise a special screening of the film. People at Humsafar feared that Straight would be yet another film that would stereotype homosexuals.
“The gays also feared that if the protagonist in Straight was averse to homosexual relationships it would only make society more intolerant towards them. What worried them further was a scene in the film where Vinay is shown running away from a man. As the gay community had serious issues about several scenes in the film, they insisted on watching the film. They were anyway disappointed with the manner in which gays were portrayed in Dostana. They did not want to watch the same thing in another film,” said our source.
Nitin Karani of Humsafar confirmed that a special preview of Straight was held for him and a few of his gay friends. “I am glad that Straight does not portray gays in poor light. My community is happy to endorse this film. In fact, a show is going to be organised on March 7 especially for the gay community.”
Director Parvati Balgopalan said, “I have handled the subject sensitively. I did not want to show gays as caricatures and I am happy to have successfully managed that.”
Transgenders get sympathy from SC, but no relief February 20, 2009Posted by nitinkarani in English, Times of India, Transgender.
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From The Times of India:
17 Feb 2009, 0245 hrs IST, TNN
NEW DELHI: An emotional demand by transgenders for notional equality in society through a constitutional compensation package, akin to that for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, evoked sympathy from the Supreme Court on Monday, but it said that the government alone could help them.
A Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam, hearing a PIL filed by a transgender Sonam Singh from Ajmer in Rajasthan, said a representation should be addressed to the government, which was free to take steps notwithstanding the SC’s refusal to entertain the petition.
When Singh, through counsel Santhosh Tripathy, sought an end to the centuries-old gender discrimination against the community, the Bench made an innocent inquiry: “What are Kinnars, a caste or community?”
Blaming the governments for being traditionally insensitive to the pitiable plight of the transgenders, the petitioner demanded setting up of a commission to determine the legislative corrective measures needed for upliftment of this forgotten branch of society.
“The transgenders, reduced to begging in the street, have never got the fruits of the constitutional mandate of democratic socialism, which in the broader sense attempted to bring an end to poverty, illiteracy and inequality of opportunity,” said Tripathy.
The petitioner also had a grievance against the Election Commission for not providing for a gender category in the nomination forms for candidates from among the transgenders.
He had also sought a direction to the human resource develoment ministry to conduct a special education programme for transgenders and the government to announce special rehabilitation packages for them.
When Pink Turns To Red February 16, 2009Posted by nitinkarani in Bisexual, Crime, English, Gay & Lesbian, Times of India.
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From The Mumbai Mirror:
The murder of the manager of Cinemax multiplex brings to light the murky underbelly of same-sex unions, says Vishwas Kulkarni
Posted On Sunday, February 15, 2009 at 02:41:11 AM
It seems like just another day in the lobby of Cinemax, a multiplex in Lokhandwala. Certainly not one to remind you that its 33-year-old manager, Mandar Patil, was found in a pool of his own blood with stab wounds on his head, neck and abdomen, dumped at an ice factory opposite a bus depot in Versova. Homosexual intrigue was the cause. Patil, who was married a year ago, had been harassing a coffee vendor from the food and beverages department of Cinemax. Unlike the exorbitant prices of snacks at multiplexes, the vendors themselves are ironically strapped for cash, poorly paid chaps. “Rs 4,500 is all he got, it’s a measly sum. And he was getting steadily depressed with the sexual harassment being meted out to him at the hand of Mandar. Everyone in the theatre management circuit knew that Mandar was a queen, but nobody expected things to get this bad,” said a source, also gay, from the multiplex industry who wished to remain anonymous given the shroud that already surrounds the homicide.
The coffee vendor, Sreenath Jogi, and a couple of his friends took Patil out for drinks to the shebeen in Versova village where Patil and the object of his affection often downed drinks after work. The intent was to convince him to stop making sexual advances towards Jogi. By the time they got down to explaining, Patil was drunk and raucous, the men armed with weapons; the scene turned ugly. Patil was stabbed, but still alive. Then fearful that they would be caught, the men chose to make the scene look like a gruesome murder with theft as motive, which it wasn’t.
The incident brings to light the perils of internalised oppression and how it can take on a frightening machismo that often brings to relief the fault lines of an unequal society. These blood-stained episodes send tremors through society, and both straight and queer quarters are squeamish when discussing the matter at hand because it reveals the constant tug of war between the haves and have-nots in post-liberalisation India. With gay sex as a steamy backdrop, the topic becomes even trickier. “Rs 4,500 is a ridiculously low amount of money. To succumb to sexual demands for such a paltry sum is not possible, to say nothing of how unfair it is. The incident has sent shock waves in the gay community and while nobody deserves to get murdered, one cannot push the limits with such matters in milieus such as these. This was a poor fellow from Versova village who was being pushed to the wall,” says the same source, who has moved from managing multiplexes to working at a reputed film studio.
If Patil found himself imperilled for demanding sexual favours from colleagues, Murli Gehani, a 52-year-old garments exporter, was a victim of excessive liberation. With his wife and kids in Dubai, Gehani enjoyed unlimited privacy in his apartment off Juhu-Versova Link Road. “The abandon was notorious among the community – gang -bangs, threesomes, even S&M evenings – the kink had much currency in Gehani’s love nest. Men from the slums of Mankhurd and Behrampada were often welcome to add further variety to a cast that changed every night, with ‘Mike’, as was his chatroom alias in the gay world, playing director,” says Dinesh (name changed to protect identity). The drama ended when Gehani’s throat was slashed. He was found almost 12 hours later. Broken beer bottles and condoms strewn on the floor were tell-tale signs of an orgy; the post-mortem, revealing that Gehani had enjoyed some anal sex, made it a definitive case of gay crime, with shantytown inhabitants finding themselves at an orgy that was also meant to double up as a heist.
It doesn’t take strangers to get you to find yourself at the wrong end of a sharp knife though. Cash between contemporaries can also be a killer combination, and casually engaging neighbours from a lower socio-economic stratum equally hazardous in pink Mumbai, if you don’t know where to draw the line. Makeup artist Ruzario D’Souza, who earned his time under the sun for having dabbed on rouge onto Maria Goretti, Malaika Arora Khan and Mini Mathur, had his throat slashed and his chest stabbed several times. The culprit: Naresh Narkar, a co-makeup man who also doubled up as a gigolo. D’Souza had defaulted on fees of over Rs. 50,000 for five lovemaking sessions, i.e. Rs. 10,000 per night. D’Souza, he claimed, had devoured him but conveniently forgotten the costs involved, an amnesia that ignited immeasurable fury in Narkar.
Barely a month later in the same year, 2006, Hiraji Meher, a 45-year-old laboratory supervisor from Vartak Polytechnic College, Vasai, was stabbed to death by his own ‘students’; the laboratory supervisor had an orchestra of electronic pianos that found good use at marriage functions in the vicinity, organs that found even better function at night, after hours. The ersatz pianist would lure boys from poor families into ‘Casio lessons’, promising them internships in the studios of established Bollywood music directors. The lessons would extend into porn-watching sessions and a natural consequence of such riyaz: orgy. On October 18, 2006, Meher’s Casio tuition classes hit the wrong note, screeching to a bloody climax. He invited boys from Satpati, a fishing village in the neighbourhood. After drinking copious sums of alcohol and watching blue films together, Meher began adamantly demanding sexual favours from the boys. Meher succumbed to stab injuries.
In a milieu where same-sex love is illegal in our society, outlets for gay men are startlingly limited in maximum city. For the closeted segment, the openings for sexual release are even thinner, leading to dangerous frustration. Homosexuals, sometimes out of desperation (or perhaps even lack of character) cross a precarious class divide in an exploitative manner, occasionally even resorting to harassment. This is where the trouble begins for those who need it so badly. Badly enough to die for it.
Everyone in the theatre management circuit knew that Mandar was a queen, but nobody expected things to get this bad.
Queer quills February 11, 2009Posted by nitinkarani in English, Indian Express, LGBT.
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From The Indian Express:
Posted: Feb 09, 2009 at 0052 hrs IST
We read between the lines as queer literature proliferates
Yaarana was one of the first gay anthologies, there were slim pickings. Please remember you are dealing with people who are alone, who may have thoroughly private lives in a very traditional society that respects privacy (read social hypocrisy) above all else,” says Hoshang Merchant, about India’s first gay novel that was published by Penguin India, in 1999. Technically Sakhiyani, Lesbian Desire in Ancient and Modern India, Giti Thadani’s 1996 documentation that excavated and reclaimed lesbian imagery in Ancient Indian art was the first book, but it was rather art historical in its approach and, in comparison, Yaarana flew off the shelves.
Soon after this, Facing the Mirror, an anthology of lesbian and bisexual women edited by Ashwini Suktankar surfaced. “For a long time, these three books were the most thumbed books by the queer community, researchers and writers reflecting on Indian queer identity,” says Kamini Pathak, a queer writer whose has a novel is in the works. In 2000, Ruth Vanita and Salim Kidwai published Same Sex Love in India, followed by Arvind Narain’s Queer in 2004, Because I have a voice, 2005, by Gautam Bhan and Narain, Loving Women by Maya Sharma in 2006, Sexualities, a collection of essays edited by Nivedita Menon in 2007 and the Phobic Erotic in 2007.
Cut to 2009, Whistling in the Dark-Twenty-one Queer Interviews authored by Raj R Rao and published by Sage, is the tenth book to be published in India. This, not counting the publications of queer fiction, brings the grand total up to 10 books.
Perhaps 10 is a small number when compared to books published on other minorities in our democracy, but for a community that has largely lived in the closet, this is huge.
“One of the factors that have affected publishing is women in academia looking at queer issues. Both Ruth and Nivedita Menon are from academia. Also sexual rights NGOs and activism has opened up the other arenas,” says Kavya Sundaram, an academician.
Ashok Row Kavi, one of the first ‘out’ gay men, who began as a journalist and turned into an activist, set up the Humsafar Trust and is currently working with the United Nations office in the Capital, postulates, “The rise of middle class, bourgeoisie has a large role to play. Urbanisation gives space for people to articulate and print their works.” Kavi believes the market has a huge role to play. “They cannot ignore us any more,” he says triumphantly.
Transgenders to assemble phones February 10, 2009Posted by nitinkarani in English, Times of India, Transgender.
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From The Times of India:
10 Feb 2009, 0431 hrs IST, M Ramya, TNN
CHENNAI: In a couple of months, Jinda, a transgender, hopes to put down her begging bowl for good and pick up a mobile phone not to make a call but to repair and assemble them.
The Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board, along with Madras Christian Council of Social Service (MCCSS) and Manpower Awareness Social Service (MASS) Trust, has collaborated with mobile phone companies Nokia, Motorola and Foxconn to find alternative employment for transgenders. About 100 of them will be trained for a month and will then assemble parts for the phone companies. They will be paid based on their work.
Nokia, Motorola and Foxconn have sub-contracted assembling of spare parts to MASS Trust. “We have also tied up with three companies that service water treatment plants and transgenders will be in charge of distributing drinking water. They also use treated water from the plants to grow vegetables, which will be procured by a leading retail chain,” said S Selvakumar, managing director, MASS Trust.
Poet Salma, chairperson of the Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board, said, “This is a good opportunity for transgenders whose livelihood has for long depended on begging and commercial sex.” MASS Trust has been acting as a facilitating agency to enable people with disabilities and those in rural areas to get jobs. This is the first time transgenders have been included in the plan.
“Transgenders earn an average of Rs 200 a day as alms. They think begging is more convenient than working on a regular basis. There is a need to counsel them and motivate them to raise their standard of living,” says K Gopinath, member, Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board for the Disabled.
MCCSS conducted a life skills workshop on Saturday. “We noticed that many transgenders who were rehabilitated and got jobs as drivers or computer operators lasted only for a couple of weeks into the job. Many returned to their old ways. They need motivational workshops,” says R Sandhya, programme co-ordinator, innovative programme transgender community, MCCSS.
About 50 transgenders from Perambur, ICF and Nungambakkam attended the programme. Most of them were enthusiastic about working in one place without having to travel too much. Jinda said, “I earn a couple of hundreds a day through collection from shops, but it will be good to have fixed work.”
Are you gay? Wanna be straight? No problem! February 7, 2009Posted by nitinkarani in English, Gay, Hindustan Times, Marginalization, Online/New Media.
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From HTBlogs (The Delhiwalla):
Other than gonorrhea, syphilis, impotency, ‘night discharge’, the city’s legendary gupt-rog clinic (discreetly) claims to cure gay men of their homosexuality.
Sablok Clinic, in its own words, is one of the “oldest and most authentic sex clinic.” Established by Mr Hakim Hari Singh Sablok in 1928 at Lahore, it shifted to Delhi after the Indian partition.
Straight and happy (Photo by Mayank Austen Soofi)
Straight and happy (Photo by Mayank Austen Soofi)
Since then by advertising itself with pictures of happy-looking straight couples, Sablok clinic has grown to be a part of Delhi’s landscape.
One afternoon I met sexologist Dr Vinod Sablok (FRSH, UK), the late founder’s son, in his slickly designed first floor clinic at Daryaganj and introduced myself as a gay man tormented by man-to-man orientation. I said that my approaching wedding is making me nervous since I like having sex with men, not women.
Dr Sablok immediately asked me to unzip.
After examining my you-know-what with a magnifying lens, the venerable doctor assured me of full recovery. I was told that at the end of a month-long treatment, costing Rs 5,500, I would start desiring women, not men.
It happens only in India? Not really.
Not in India alone is homosexuality perceived as an illness curable through medicines and therapy sessions. It was only 34 years ago that the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Pentagon continued with that classification as late as 2006 when it moved the ‘illness’ to a list of conditions ranging from bed-wetting to fear of flying.
Delhi’s Dr Sablok shares the distinguished rank of those crazed medical practitioners worldwide who have been tirelessly attempting to cure the homosexuals of homosexuality.
In the 1920s, medical researchers in Germany implanted testicles from corpses into the bodies of gay men. Electric shocks and hallucinogenic drugs were other popular treatments. In contrast, Dr Sablok’s remedy is pretty painless-one-month expensive medication and every gay in town could strut his stuff for a girl.
“It’s all bogus,” says Mr Rahul Singh, gay rights activist who works with the Naz Foundation at Kailash Colony. “People want to cash on to the insecurity of gays who are socially uncomfortable with their identity”, he says.
I also talked to Mr Ashok Row Kavi, UNAIDS Consultant and perhaps India’s most famous gay rights activist. “There is a whole branch of psychiatry in India that still believes that homosexuality is curable through ‘aversion therapy’,” he says. “Gay men are given electric shocks after showing them pictures of naked males and subsequently given chocolates/mithai after being shown photos of naked women.”
This whole ‘therapy’ is driven by market sources where parents bring in their single male children to the ‘mental health specialist’, say a couple of months before marriage, when the son complains that he is not sexually aroused by women.
Mr Kavi noted that one has to be careful with quacks as so many are homosexual themselves. “One such man eloped with the handsome patient he was supposed to cure,” he says.
Whether Mr Sablok himself is homosexual is something I cannot claim with confidence. His face remained expressionless when I took out my you-know-what.
Gay prince no more pariah in Rajpipla February 7, 2009Posted by nitinkarani in English, Personality, Times of India.
From The Times of India:
2 Feb 2009, 0107 hrs IST, Yogesh Pareek, TNNRAJPIPLA: Despite being the poster boy of the gay movement in India, Manvendra Singh Gohil, scion of erstwhile Rajpipla state, had found little acceptance among locals. His former subjects kept him at arm’s length and avoided functions organised by him ever since he went public with his gay status in 2006.
But winds of change are starting to blow in this picturesque town. Gohil recently organised a public function to celebrate the 119th birth anniversary of his great grandfather, the philanthropic Maharaja Vijay Singhji. And people turned up in large numbers, leaving behind their squeamishness.
Many believe that his growing celebrity status – being invited on the Oprah Winfrey Show and as a contestant in reality shows on British television – may have helped him gain acceptance. But, the prince is also an extremely genial person.
“In the past, many taboos were attached to homosexuality. But thanks to media attention, there is growing awareness and hence they understand me too. Besides, I have removed barriers of royal family and started visiting people to solve their problems,” Gohil said.
Gohil’s popularity can be gauged from the number of farmers in the region taking to organic farming. “When I started getting good returns from organic farming, I held meetings with farmers to encourage them to follow suit. Today, many are growing sugarcane and bananas the organic way.” The prince is also teaching yoga to local youth.
Farmer Mahesh Kachiya, councillor of Rajpipla nagarpalika, says, “I had avoided Gohil after realising he was gay. But, I saw that he was the only member of the royal family concerned about us. Since then, I have attended his functions. I salute his dedication to the people of Rajpipla.” Merchant Jagdish Barot adds, “He has a vision for Rajpipla. That is what matters. It takes courage to declare one’s gay status and oppose one’s family, that too when you come from royal lineage.”
Physician Girish Anand, who runs a hospital in Rajpipla, says, “I have known Gohil for the past 12 years and witnessed the ups and downs in his life. The manner in which he has reached out to the people of Rajpipla, has helped in ensuring that he does not remain a pariah here. If there are any issues related to his gay status, they are with a section of his family.”
I could never find true love in India: Prince of Rajpipla February 7, 2009Posted by nitinkarani in English, Gay, Online/New Media, Personality.
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IANS story on Thaindian:
London, Jan 14 (IANS) British princes aren’t the only royals making news here: a gay Indian price told television interviewers Wednesday he could never find true love in India.Manvendra Singh Gohil, crown prince of the former princely state of Rajpipla in Gujarat, has been hitting the nightlife of Brighton, a British seaside resort, as part of a BBC series that invited three princes to go under cover in search of a soulmate.
The two other royals participating in ‘Undercover Princes’ are Prince Remigius of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, and Prince Africa Zulu, a 30-year-old bachelor from Zululand in South Africa.
“I don’t think I could have found love in India because people who were attracted to me were more attracted by my princely fortune or princely status,” Gohil told BBC news Wednesday.
“I was undercover here, so it was easier – a litmus test – whether a person is genuinely in love with me.”
Gohil, who took on the name of Mani and worked at menial jobs, said he found life in Brighton difficult – not least because the size of his bedroom was about the size of his bathroom back in Rajpipla Palace.
He also had to make do without his retinue of domestic help: electricians, plumbers, gardeners, personal attendants, a butler, chauffeur and his own set of maidservants.
The Indian prince, who doesn’t know how to make tea let alone cook, had to do his own shopping.
“I never handle money. This was the first time I went to a supermarket. I have never done shopping in my life,” he said.
“It was a difficult situation in the beginning to get adjusted to a different culture.”
Gohil revealed that his openly gay status didn’t go down well with the African prince, who objected very strongly.
“He said that if he had known about it, he wouldn’t have come for it [the television serial].
“He took out the Bible and read it to me, that it is a sin to be gay. There were issues but we sorted it out through conversations.”
But he said the experience was worthwhile: “I did many things for the first time in my life, like shave off my moustache, shopping, wash dishes, flirting, dating.”
And at least one of the three princes finds love in the forthcoming serial, said the BBC.
Theatre manager killed over sexual advances February 6, 2009Posted by nitinkarani in Bisexual, Crime, English, Gay, Hindustan Times, Times of India.
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From The Hindustan Times:
Megha Sood, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, February 05, 2009
First Published: 14:45 IST(5/2/2009)
Last Updated: 14:46 IST(5/2/2009)
It was sexual harassment that allegedly led a coffee vendor at Cinemax theatre in Versova’s Infiniti Mall to kill his boss, the police claimed.
The police on Wednesday arrested Shrinath Yogi (30) and his friends Anil Thakur and Ramesh Baria for allegedly stabbing Mandar Patil (33) to death.
His fourth alleged killer, accused Sanjay Kanojiya, is absconding. All four are residents of Versova village.
On Tuesday morning, after receiving an alert from the control room, the police reached the ice factory ground opposite the Versova bus depot and found a body with severe injuries on the head, neck and abdomen.
Patil was a resident of the nearby Patil gulli in Versova village where he stayed with his wife, mother and brother.
“After we had established Patil’s identity, we inquired with the Versova village residents and found out that he was bisexual,” said Senior Inspector Suresh Nalavde.
Working on this lead, the police said they rounded up “all homosexuals in the area” for questioning.
One of those detained reportedly told the police that Patil used to often meet his colleague Yogi for drinks.
“We detained Yogi and initially he tried to misguide us,” said Nalavde.
“Eventually he broke down and confessed to the crime. He also revealed the names of his friends who helped him kill his boss.”
Nalavde claimed that Patil, who had married a year ago, used to allegedly harass Yogi to have a physical relation with him. Since Yogi is not homosexual, he was upset.
When he told his friends that he wanted to quit, they assured him that they would warn Patil to stop bothering him.
On Monday night, Patil allegedly sent an SMS to Yogi and asked him to come to “their usual spot to drink”.
“Yogi asked his friends to come along. When Patil reached the spot the three friends warned him to stay away from Yogi. When Patil refused, Thakur, who works in the housekeeping department at Sonata Constructions, threatened him with a pistol lighter,” said Nalavde.
“An angry Patil retaliated, and the four stabbed him to death. They dumped his body near the ice factory and fled.”
From The Times of India:
Multiplex coffee vendor held for killing manager
MUMBAI: Police have arrested a Cinemax multiplex coffee vendor and two of his friends for the murder of Mandar Patil, a Cinemax manager, who lived in Versova village, and are looking for a fourth person.
Investigators said 23-year-old Shrinath Jogi conspired with his friends to kill his boss, Patil, who was allegedly harassing him into having a physical relationship.
Jogi told the police that Patil would often call him to isolated places at night, treat him to drinks and then ask him for sexual favours. He was severely depressed because of this and had even taken five days off from work, he added.
Jogi had discussed this problem with his friends and they plotted Patil’s murder together.
Versova police station senior inspector Suresh Nalawade said: “The accused told us that he was not interested in Patil’s proposals but was forced to listen to him to save his job. Both of them live in different localities in Versova.”
Jogi took the help of his three friends to kill Patil early on Tuesday near the Yari Road bus depot. They burnt his belongings and then dumped them in the mangroves. Two of Jogi’s friends, Anil Thakur (22) and Ramesh Baria (24), have been arrested and the police are looking for the fourth accused, Sanjay.
The police have recorded the statements of Patil’s friends and have corroborated what Jogi said. Patil would invite them for parties from time to time and ask them for sexual favours. Officials said Jogi’s friends told them they were into physical relationships with other men.
Patil married last year. His family told investigators that they were not aware about his relationship with his friends.
Patil was at work on Monday night when he called Jogi to meet him near Yari Road early on Tuesday for a drink. He brought with him a liquor bottle and both had a few drinks before Jogi called his friends. They came, armed with a revolver, and told Patil to stay away from Jogi.
Patil, however, asked them not to interfere in his affairs, prompting one of the accused to attack him with a knife. Patil put up a fight but was not match for them though one of the accused also sustained injuries in the scuffle.
Cinemax India Pvt Ltd spokespersons said they had nothing to do with their employees’ private lives and had extended their support to the police in the probe.
Sexuality and Victorian school values February 5, 2009Posted by nitinkarani in English, LGBT, Live Mint, Section 377.
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From Mint :
For most of the MTV generation, gayness is not an issue. Many know that one in 10 of our children will grow up to be gay, and if they are like their Western counterparts, 40% will have some bisexual experience
Work Wise | Abha Adams
Schools have a big problem with sexuality and modern attitudes to it. While gay and bisexual behaviour is accepted by an increasing number of young people, schools tend to cling to the Victorian values of the British Raj. Sexuality is still a reason for discrimination, exclusion and persecution in most of our schools.
Today’s children are far more open and tolerant of sexual differences than their parents or grandparents and they are far more sexually aware than previous generations.
The heroes and heroines of today’s children are as likely to be openly proclaiming their gay or bisexual preferences as previous generations were secretive.
From Elton John and George Michael to Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore and Lindsay Lohan, a host of stars and youth icons openly proclaim their gayness or bisexuality. Characters in TV serials, daytime talk show hosts and many politicians and personalities beloved by many are openly gay. Contrast this with the stars of previous generations such as Errol Flynn, Rock Hudson, Barbara Stanwyck, Marlene Dietrich, James Dean, Danny Kaye, Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, whose gay relationships were hushed up, not commonly published or known about in their lifetimes.
For most of the MTV generation, gayness is not an issue. Many know that one in 10 of our children will grow up to be gay, and if they are like their Western counterparts, 40% will have some bisexual experience.
Up until the present, our gay and bisexual people have generally hidden their sexual preferences, fearing a violent backlash from the illiberal and intolerant sections of society. But this is changing and gay people are actively seeking an end to discrimination and oppression. However, gay or bisexual adolescents still have to keep their sexual preferences secret or suffer humiliation, bullying or worse.
Whereas in other countries schools develop policies that are inclusive of everyone, irrespective of gender or sexuality, almost all our schools have not changed with the times. With their values rooted deep in Victorian Britain and their 19th century social mores, schools are yet to adopt the tolerance, equality and compassion of their counterparts in other countries.
Even our most enlightened schools operate on a don’t ask, don’t tell policy similar to that of the US military, with never a mention of sexuality in the curriculum. As a first step to more inclusive education, we should be able to mention when being gay or bisexual influenced the art of the artist. It can be debated as to whether a child needs to know that Alexander the Great was homosexual, but we cannot understand the art of Michelangelo without reference to his homosexuality.
In many cases, there is every reason for people to know how the artist’s sexual preferences contributed to his or her art. Without it, we cannot fully understand the art or the artist.
There is much scholarly debate these days as to whether William Shakespeare was bisexual. Though his plays focus exclusively on heterosexuality, in his sonnets there is some suggestion that he was bisexual. Of his 154 sonnets, the first 126 are generally interpreted by critics as being addressed by the poet to a young man or boy-and often stress the subject’s physical beauty.
The remaining sonnets appear to be addressed to a dark lady and none of these sonnets seems very impressed by her beauty or sensuality. We do know that like many gay men, he lived separately from his wife and children until he was relatively old.
By excluding or not explaining parts of his work to our students, we do both them and Shakespeare a great disservice.
Similarly, knowing that Vikram Seth, E.M. Forster, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust, Gore Vidal, Evelyn Waugh and so on were gay or bisexual allows us to understand better the beauty of their writing and the root of many of the ideas that they express. And yet, we keep it secret from our students!
Modern educationalists are not advocating that schools should promote any form of sexuality, either heterosexual or homosexual, but the reporting of the characteristics of an artist or a great man is basic to our children’s understanding of their actions and art.
The law in India relating to homosexuality is barbaric, archaic, cruel and ludicrous. Over 40 years after the British removed it in their own country, we still cling to it. At a conservative estimate, about 75 million people do not have the right to be with the people they love.
They live and strive in schools and companies where fear and loneliness are constant companions. Letting them know they are not alone and teaching children that you don’t have to be heterosexual to be a great soldier, personality or artist is a small first step, and one that educates us all.
Abha Adams is an education consultant. She writes a monthly column on training and education as they relate to careers and the workplace.
Respond to this column at firstname.lastname@example.org