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Verdict 377: Love in the times of Section 377

The Supreme Court’s verdict on Section 377 will not make a difference to my life with my “roommate” but will validate the homophobia and the discrimination and harassment that accompany it.

Every time during our conversations, my mother enquires about my partner. “Did he go to office?”, she asks. Trivial questions as they are but they are signs that she acknowledges the existence of a man in my life. In the past five years I have been with him, I believe my mother has gradually come to terms with my sexuality. She doesn’t nurture any futile hopes that I will marry a girl and become a family man one day and give her grandchildren. There has been no coming out but there were no questions about my perpetual room-mate who has come to be a part of her family. It is hard to believe she has no clue about us – impossible as it is for a mother to not notice a son’s leanings. A mother knows, I tell myself. She always does.

But as of today, my existence shadowed by my sexuality and the relationship I lead have been rendered unlawful by the greatest constitutional authority of the country. Perhaps the hardest part of my coming out is over. I have received recognition from my parent, unspoken albeit. But what of the law of the state? Can I be jailed for holding hands with my partner in public? No, I may not be. But I am vulnerable all the same for being held under the sodomy law.

I do not crave for recognition – not from the nosy neighbourhood woman who tries to constantly set me up with girls, not from our supremely shy maid who has to deal with a household of two men or from the cop at the police station at the passport verification desk who rolled his eyes at the prospect of two adult men in their thirties sharing a house. But the prospect of getting arrested merely dictated by my natural inclinations on sexuality petrifies me.

I do not want to be illegal. From aggressive bullying in school to belittlement in workplaces for being a softie to having to put up a ‘straight’ face in an attempt to blend in; I have come a long way in dealing with my sexuality. The last thing I want is to be branded unconstitutional. I am not even bothered that such a tag would most likely validate the belittling I suffered but I cannot stand to think that this will validate the collective-homophobia that already plagues the country.

So much so that I have to hide my sexual identity with most of my friends, colleagues and every single fleeting acquaintance in my life. I often brush off repeated questions from friends and relatives about my personal life, brand my partner as a mere room-mate and have a carefully placed bed in the second bed room to pass it off as mine in the event of a visitor. I do not want to be judged, much less when my sexuality is in the category of ‘criminal offence.

By setting aside the verdict on Section 377, was the Supreme Court thinking it had released the government from the greater burden of additional responsibilities towards its citizens in the event of same-sex marriages? It can’t be that the Supreme Court fears by approving same sex unions, it will place additional burden on the government to cover these couples under the non-existent social welfare systems to absent healthcare systems.

“It is not like if we blind eye to such issues, they cease to exist,” a heterosexual friend tells me.

“May be that is our problem. We treat it as an issue. May be that is why there is no solution towards inclusivity,” I tell her.

Another one laments that there may not be gay parties hosted every weekend after this. I do not think there is going to be a crackdown on the gay community after the ruling, but there is every reason to fear heightened level of harassment from the police and fascist religious extremists after this.

All the new ruling has done is give reason for, even authorize at some level, homophobia and validate crimes and discrimination against sexual minorities. But what difference does this make to my everyday life? Perhaps none. I will go about living my life with my partner without volunteering information that he is not my ‘roommate’. We will sleep in the same bed and do the unmentionables, 377 be damned.

I don’t need recognition, hell, not even equal rights. Just a stamp of approval of my existence. Not that India’s non-existent healthcare or public service systems will suffer if that is awarded. However, though, the collective conscience of India is awakened in this issue. A revolution is born. There are able men to fight my cause. A democracy with a sizeable, vibrant LGBT community can neither discriminate nor criminalize its citizens based on individual sexual preferences.

Following the verdict, in a press conference activist Gautam Bhan said that “the social relevance of this judgement has not been decided today. It is only legal relevance.” Nothing could be closer to the truth. We will continue to exist, engaging in criminal sexual behaviour as it were, for now.

The author of this post chose to remain anonymous.

This post was originally published in The Alternative on December 12, 2013.

Cover Image: By: The Alternative

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