Straight Talk: In Queer Shoes

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Canvas Shoes– Abhijeet Prabhu

It was untouchability centuries back, plague few decades back, AIDS few years back and today it’s homosexuality crying out for a fair eye from the society. “Yucks!!!” is probably what most of us straights would be uttering the moment we hear or read words like ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’ or ‘homosexual’. Abnormal! Unnatural! Sick! We are never short of labels for most things we do not understand, leave alone same-sex relationships. The logic applied by a vast majority of us, who think that being heterosexual makes us normal and anything else is a violation of the ‘natural order’ would probably put Einstein’s brain under stress! Somebody should, in that case, go and tell all those hunks in the gym who use protein supplements to pump their muscles up that they are abnormal as they have violated the natural biological process of tissue development. May be somebody should also write to the Ministry of Health that by advising the nation to use protection while having intercourse, the government is actually promoting unnatural practices and encouraging people to defy the natural law of mating! One should have sex only to procreate – isn’t that a loud argument we keep hearing these days from those moral guardians debating against homosexuality?

In fact, by this ingenuous thumb-rule of what or who is normal, I can say, with much confidence and pride, that nearly 90% of the people I meet and interact with, daily, are abnormal. If homosexuality is to be considered abnormal or a disease, for the sake of argument, I should then believe that a number of human feelings fall under the same category, even if they are experienced by us, so-called ‘straight’ people.

Before even considering whether or not homosexuality should be accepted in our society, I would like to ask any person who finds same-sex love unacceptable, a simple question – “Hasn’t there been ever a person of the same sex in your life who loved you?” Let’s not put too much importance on what the nature of that love is.

Sometimes the mere thought of sitting in the company of someone who is gay could be frightening or embarrassing for many a straight person. A recent gay-straight alliance meet held in Pune gave me the opportunity to be in a room full of about 30 odd gay, lesbian and bisexual men and women. I was wondering whether I should get a feeling similar to that of being in a zoo or aquarium. I tried hard but couldn’t get any other feeling than of being one in a gathering of ‘people’. Moreover, when my gay friend from office first told me about this meet and invited me to it, some sort of an instinct made me curious about how many gay men attending the event would start hitting on me (Yes, that sort of establishes that I am as much a mortal sinner as they are). None of them actually did or even if they did I never felt they did. That broke the myth I have been questioning since long. And that is, gays typically feel attracted to any guy they come across who has more than a decent appearance. As is the case with straight boys unable to take their eyes off most girls.
May be, that one aspect makes them different from an average straight guy like me. But then, I failed to figure out what else does. Most of them have a similar lifestyle as I do. Starting from their morning chores, their work or studies, the food they eat for lunch and dinner, the clothes they wear (might sound strange but, if you feel that gays have flamboyant dressing styles, I am no less a fashion freak than any one of them) to the way they party or hang out – I really fail to see any difference that sets them apart from an average straight guy like me. In that case, I wonder, how much significance should be held alone by the fact that I can only love someone of the opposite sex, whereas they can only love someone of the same sex – a characteristic of their genetic construct they were born with? Yes, probably the fact that contrary to what most of the straight world believes, they have a far simpler and smarter approach to life than us.

In those few hours that I got to spend in their company and interact with a number of them, they not only made me realize this but also gave me some excellent take-aways which I will value my entire life as some of the most unbiased, neutral and unorthodox solutions to the commonest of life’s problems.

  • Many of them showed me an excellent outlook towards life. That it can be lived alone yet sustained with unbridled happiness and pleasure. A companion or more who can make a part or whole of your journey of life happier for you is just an added boon.
  • Nurture what you have and what you are, rather than changing yourself for the world and the society, neither of which will ever stop criticizing you.
  • Fight for what you believe is right than giving in to the pressures of family, relatives and society who rarely make the attempt to understand.
  • Got scores of problems in life? Girlfriend or boyfriend left you? Feel that the world has come to an end for you? “Grow up” is what these people tell me. It’s indeed a privilege to find hearts which pump joys and cheer despite the constant prejudice written all over their lives no matter where they go and what they do.
  • A lot of us think that it’s difficult to sustain our lives for long without marrying. A difficult question staring at our faces is that – how happy are we in our married lives anyway? Married or single, we strive for survival every day of our life and so do they. But their challenges are multiple times greater than ours and that, probably, makes their understanding of life far more profound than ours.

It’s amazing how well they understand the various misconceptions that are harbored by the straight world and the irrefutable ways in which they can deal with them. In a mockery of the typical questions asked to gay people by their straight friends, who make efforts in vain to ‘correct’ them, one of the questions asked to all the straights attending the meet was – “If you haven’t slept with a person of the same sex, how can you say you will never be attracted to one?” If I were to feel extremely threatened by this question, my immediate defensive retort would be – “I will never sleep with a guy because I am attracted to girls.” Valid answer. But how many of us straights who believe that homosexuality is a curable disease are prepared to hear a similar answer from a gay friend? Because, by putting the question the other way round, as they did that day, they showed that they could prove with ease that if homosexuality can be ‘cured’, so can heterosexuality!

As the event came to an end and it was time for me to say adieu to those 30 new friends that I made and who taught me a good deal that day, I was overpowered by the question that why are they so unfortunate to be organizing such meets themselves and having to invite their straight allies. It probably signifies that they are still having to persuade the wider society for acceptance. I dream of a day when such events would be organized by people like me and our LGBT friends would be invited as guests, with the honor they deserve.

I pledge my support for their struggle.