This is the land of the Kamasutra that documents the ‘third variant’ or the ‘Tritiya-Prakriti’; people who dwell outside the man-woman binary. This is where the Mahabharata perhaps documents the first ever instance of gender reassignment in the world through the character of Shikhandi. This land bears testimony to several ancient temple architectures that portray the aesthetics of same-sex love making.
And yet, this is the land that has criminalized homosexuality and has failed to give it a legal ratification. Same-sex coupledom, however, continues to thrive at an immense personal risk; at the cost of prejudice, danger, and legal hassles.
While the tug-of-war continues, two gay men who have been in a relationship for almost two years now share how the decriminalization and the subsequent criminalization of homosexual relationships has affected their lives.
In conversation with 26-year-old Sankalp and 20-year-old Abhay who is in his second year of graduation, a same-sex couple residing in Delhi recount their experiences.
“I started coming to terms with my sexual orientation when I was in class XIIth. The biggest struggle I faced was my own internal battle, in accepting myself. The next big task was to come out to my parents, who are pretty conservative and the thought of being disowned by them used to plague me. But when I did come out to them, my parents were awesome – they promised/gave unconditional support from the very first day. They were initially disappointed and they tried to hide this from me –it took about 2-3 years for them to come to terms with this but never wavered in their love and support towards me,” recounts Sankalp whose coming out was not a big issue given his progressive and liberal familial background.
If coming to terms with his sexuality was marked by an inner battle for Sankalp, for Abhay, a sense of pride laced the difference.
“I always knew that I was slightly different in my preferences. What’s important is that even when I wasn’t aware of the technicalities, or stability, of my orientation, there was no sense of guilt or fear or shame around it; in fact, I was secretly thrilled about being so different.”
It is probably this postmodern strain that marks the lives of homosexuals in this country today; they HAVE to bask and celebrate in their ‘criminality’ that the State has conferred upon them instead of being couched under shame, fear and guilt.
Adjusting to Diktat
When asked whether the 2009 Delhi High Court verdict and the 2013 Supreme Court verdict affected their lives in any major way, both individuals came up with responses that would make one more sceptical of the law.
“Given that we come from an urban, well-to-do background, the judgements did not affect our lives in terms of what happens to us on a day-to-day basis – there were no harassment issues. However, it continues to affect me at a deeper psychological level.
The 2009 judgement filled me with a sense of optimism and security, and a hope for gay marriage. The Supreme Court judgement killed all of it. It made me question – for the first time – whether I can happily settle down in this country, get committed, live-in, have children etc. What seemed like an achievable dream at one point is almost impossible now, ” admits Sankalp.
Abhay sounds indifferent. He mentions that the respective judgment really did not alter anything except that “the frequency of jokes around homosexuality and the relentless activism of some straight friends who are very particular about demonstrating their solidarity with the ‘gay cause’ – both of them have increased in proportion to the attention which the verdict had garnered.”
The Logistics of Coupledom
While a legal victory or defeat may not affect the day-to-day life of this couple, there are certain issues where legal un-recognition does seem to be an impediment. One wonders how a homosexual couple deals with issues like property transfer, making financial policies and so on.
“I haven’t thought of it, particularly since I’m dating someone who is currently doing his graduation. But we’ll deal it with it as we go along. I am not worried on the financial aspects as of now – I’m sure I’ll be able to make things work in consultation probably with financial planners, lawyers, etc. We will plan that out in due course of time.”
The gentlemen voiced their discontentment over the issue of adoption, since the law still does not allow single-father adoption and gay-marriage is too daring a dream to be dreamt. But they are hopeful and optimistic and are not very eager to move abroad (although, they don’t rule out that option either).
“If it becomes possible in India, I’ll stay here. If not, going abroad is definitely on the cards, which would be very sad since my family is all here, so is my partner’s,” says Sankalp.
Abhay’s indifference to the law and the queer movement in general gets dominated by his immense faith and hope in the marital institution, “I am going to have a grand Indian wedding before we settle down, if not here then in a country where it is legal.”
The duo are quite confident of their relationship; their apparent hope, faith and optimism about the law, legal reform and the possible recognition of gay marriage makes their relationship more stable and grounded. Since only a priviledged few can consider relocating to a different country, for the good of the LGBT community at large, one can only hope that the lawmakers will soon have a change of heart.