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  • Uliya

Coming to terms with queer India

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference

On 377:

On Dalit queer & trans experiences:

On cis gay/lesbian savarna fuckery:

On looking to the future:

I was speaking with a queer friend recently about the state of queerness in India. Before they had experienced it themself, I had basically alluded to queer India as a sort of paradise. Or at least that's what I feel like I expressed.


Back in 2013 I visited India, I visited some queer organizations, and for the most part, I was really taken with queer India. There were problems and reservations that I had, especially regarding the hostility and handsiness of many of the cis gay men I met. But I was ignorant about caste at the time mostly because I was coming from a caste-privileged background, because I was young and not as aware of my own boundaries and needs, and because I was not Indian-born and much history and cultural subtly was illegible. Not an excuse...but context.


Most of the spaces were cis gay male dominated, and presumably dominated by upper-caste Hindu people and any people outside of this were likely foreigners or affluent in some way. I sensed the toxic patriarchy and elitism (and oddly some of it was directed towards me) - and admittedly towards the end of my time in India (just 3 months) these spaces began to become tiresome to me.


Upon further reflection, I guess I did sense the lack of empathy and the exclusion and sidelining of even me in those spaces, a diasporic savarna "cis gay boy" (at the time...maybe they sniffed the softness out). And in the years that I've grown and become more aware and conscious, it's not surprising to hear the facts. But I can't help but feel disappointed in myself....


I didn't take the risks to seek out connections beyond those who were "elite." Perhaps, if I had spent more time in India that would have evolved and grown over time. My connections grew out of my existing connections, white gay men and cis gay savarna/diasporic academics here. I was perpetuating a fantasy, born from a limited viewpoint, with myself (and with others), based on an idealized and warped version of queer India.


And the truth is that there's no mythical queer or trans mecca or space. All of us queer and trans people come with our privileges, limitations, and intersecting identities and we negotiate them, often clumsily, in a container of heightened relating, bringing our personal baggage and trauma. It's that old adage, "hurt people hurt people..."


And they hurt themselves...


What stuck out to me in the last two quotes above is this idea that under Brahminical patriarchy, cis savarna queers who participate and perpetuate that harm and violence to Dalit Bahujan Adivasi queer and trans people are also directing that Brahmanical hatred towards themselves.


And of course, just because someone is committed to being cishetero and binary, even if they are leftist or well-read, marginalized by race or caste, and/or in community with queer and trans people, they still have the capacity to be limited in their view on sexuality and gender.


They don't escape unscathed, even if they can't see or feel these self-inflicted wounds; they're still bleeding and festering.