What is it like being gay in India?

25 Comments

I would be curious about reader experiences. The reason I ask is that a white friend who visits India for business told me the story of being asked about letting new male acquaintances suck his dick repeatedly. Apparently, since he had no local roots/connections these men felt ‘safe’ making this inquiry (one of the men apparently left a job in the Middle East because he kept sucking men’s dicks, and he was worried about “becoming gay”).

From an American perspective, this is peculiar behavior. But I understand it’s not that strange in a world-wide or historical context. I assume that large urban areas now have viable gay communities so that this sort of behavior is less common than it once was?

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25 Replies to “What is it like being gay in India?”

  1. Where is the emphasis – on ‘white’ or ‘no local roots/connections’? Would it be the same for African-American with no local roots/connections? Or Chinese-American? The big is beautiful or not? Recently, one BP reader, hidden behind three levels of pseudonyms, signed as ‘anonymous homo’, in replying to me (re: denouncing the taqiyya) actually, between the lines, made the same proposition to me. I wander – was it only because I have no local roots/connections?

    1. RK, very gracious from you. Otherwise, very good and intriguing topic for brown world I look forward reading the comments.

  2. The reason I ask is that a white friend who visits India for business told me the story of being asked about letting new male acquaintances suck his dick repeatedly.

    In workplaces?

  3. India is weird in the sense, transgenders can ‘come out of the closet’ but not gays. Many wives know that their men like to suck it but they just go on with life as nobody’s business. Khajuraho shows that this kind of behaviour (men on men) always existed in India and they were able to portray it in the form of art.

    Sexual advances in workplace, that’s a NO-NO-NO.

  4. India is weird in the sense, transgenders can ‘come out of the closet’ but not gays.

    an academic friend has explained to me that countries like india and iran are more normal than the usa historically and cross-culturally. ie transgender is more accepted/normalized than being an out adult gay-identified person. the fact that india seems ‘weird’ to even educated indians testifies to the power of western cultural influence.

  5. Transgenders are socially more accepted than gays because Hindu religious mythos have transgender characters like Shikhandi, Shiva-shakti etc. The local people seem them still as abnormal but natural people.

    Gays, on the other hand, are seen as “un-natural” and something which can be “fixed”. Still there is social ostracization but not active hostility towards them. One of the reason, de-decriminalization happened, but its still on the books in Pak, and i think Bangladesh too, all 3 who inherited British colonial laws on criminalization of homosexuality.

    1. “Transgenders are socially more accepted than gays because Hindu religious mythos have transgender characters like Shikhandi, Shiva-shakti etc.”
      This has the cart before the horse. Or maybe running alongside it. Or something.

      Hindu myths have those characters because Hindu culture/society is tolerant of difference in its own peculiar way – where “others” are accepted so long as they remain in a certain lane. And so far as lanes are respected their right to exist is absolutely protected.

      This approach to difference is of course in contrast to other approaches of integration/rejection practiced elsewhere.

      1. In all societies ,clergy and mythos decide the social contract with various groups. So yeah, Hindus are tolerant of certain people, because its gods are tolerant of certain people.Hinduism is not unique in having unique features about its religion
        .
        In most religions its mostly the outgroup which is seen as heretic/heathern, Hinduism is perhaps the only one where one set of its own people are seen as unwashed and unwanted. Even more than the outsider. Its unique in that sense too. So lets not drink all this toleration kool-aid

        1. LOL. I think you are driven by a desire to reduce everything to equal-equal. Reality is heterogeneous. It’s not that Hinduism is “more” (or less) tolerant than others. It is just different. And being different is not better or worse. It is a symmetric relation.

    2. “all 3 who inherited British colonial laws on criminalization of homosexuality”

      That’s a modern myth that’s also used to explain the criminalization of homosexuality in Japan and China too (although it blames America in Japan’s case).
      It’s racist claptrap that pretends South and East Asians have no agency, and blindly follow whatever the white masters said.

  6. This approach to difference is of course in contrast to other approaches of integration/rejection practiced elsewhere.

    it seems the same in muslim countries. iran pays for sex-change operations.

  7. About a decade or so ago, I recall reading criticism of former Iranian President Ahmadinejad when he was supposed to have said that there were no homosexuals in Iran and that homosexuality is a Western invention/concept. Obviously taken at face value it is a dumb statement, men who have sex with men exist in almost every known civilization and country. But I think there’s a truth in that statement which is that the modern idea of homosexuality as * identity* or * sexuality*, to the exclusion of a married life and biological children, seems to only date back to Europe in the 19th century. So I guess homosexuality is a Western invention in that sense. Thoughts?

    1. I agree. Being gay has become a matter of identity in Western countries now. Other cultures have framed it as a behavior – which an individual can adopt and discard at will.

    2. It was Foucault who argued that homosexuality (and heterosexuality)as distinct identities were invented in the 19th century. Previously, societies proscribed certain acts (ex. sodomy laws) rather than creating distinct categories of people.

      In the modern West, the normative gay relationship is between two adults of the same age and gender. In other societies, the two parties either differed based on age (adult man and teenage boy) or gender role (masculine active partner and feminine passive partner). In many societies, the active partner was not considered to be homosexual. Dominating another man was seen as a masculine characteristic. It was the person who preferred the “female” role who was stigmatized.

      In South Asia, men are generally much more physical with each other–holding hands, embracing, etc. This behavior is considered a normal sign of friendship. In the US, two men holding hands on the street would be assumed to be lovers.

  8. I knew a gay couple happily living in Delhi. One partner was Indian and other an American. They also had two kids through surrogacy. Both of these people have jobs and they are living like regular citizens and have family approval for their relationship. They even held a Hindu wedding many years ago. Their kids attend regular schools and the parents often organise big parties on different ocassions(bithdays, Deepavali, Holi etc) which are attended by both adults as well as kids.
    In urban or educated India(in certain cases even rural parts) as long as you only mind your businesses nobody would poke their noses in your matters. Although I’m not sure about Muslims and Christian point of view in this regard. Many Islamic organisations and churches opposed the idea of decriminalization of homosexuality and held protests.

  9. Sir Richard Burton was one of the first westerner who studied the sexual practices of non-European societies in detail. He theorized that there exists a swath of land on earth where homosexual behavior is more common. He called it the Sotadic Zone. Here is his perception of this zone.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Francis_Burton#/media/File:Sotadic_Zone.PNG

    Burton maintained that Hindus – with the exception of Sikhs – are not particularly inclined towards homosexual practices. Muslims of NW India were more disposed towards it. The map above reflects his perception.

    Pashtuns are well known for their proclivity for homosexuality (or rather, pederasty). In Pashtun love poetry the object of a man’s love is frequently a young boy. Anecdotal evidence also supports this. For e.g. Bachabazi is rampant among Afghan strongmen.

    It is generally believed that the rise of Taliban was triggered by Mullah Omar’s endeavor to rescue a young boy who was a bone of contention between two warring Afghan warlords.

    Here is a link to Burton’s terminal essay in which he laid down his thesis. Those interested in colonial literature will find it useful.

    https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/pwh/burton-te.asp

    1. I heard (from a gay Indian friend) that among the Nawabs of North India keeping young boys for sex was common. At parties it was common to offer these to one’s guests as part of proper mehmaan-nawaazi (hospitality).

  10. I have not encountered many openly gay men in India. Seen a few bisexual females, though.

    There were a couple of gay guys who briefly lived in my wing in college hostel. They never announced it but it was quite clear since they slept in each other’s rooms and sometimes bathed together.

    But they kept to themselves and never really talked to anyone. Not sure if this was just their personality quirk or the result of some adverse interaction.

  11. 8 Ministers in former govt were gay. Snidely referred to as Butterflies (sounds more effective in Sinhala)
    One openly gay, Mangala Samaraweere, Finance Minister.
    Former PM Ranil Wickeremasinghe and 6 others.

    There is a joke about an iconic PM of the late 50’s SWRDias Bandaranayake (SWRD). SWRD’s gay lover was kept waiting in the foyer. SWRD came down with a raging hard on, but the gay lover shot him. Because of the hard on he could not be dressed properly for the funeral. His wife Sririmavo (first woman leader/PM in the modern world) asked the funeral parlor to solve the problem but not discard as needed for after life.

    All good at funeral and Sririmavo ask the Funereal parlor guys how they solved the issue. They said cut it off and stuck it in his rear end. Srimavo says, serves him right he has been doing that to me all these years.

      1. More like dont ask dont tell.

        Quite a bit of pederasty in the Temples. Young novice monks (samanera), some as young as ten are initiated into the temples. Most often from poor families, or horroscope says should be priest. So very susceptible to abuse.

        ===
        According to the Pāli Canon and Āgama (the early Buddhist scriptures), there is no saying that same or opposite gender relations have anything to do with sexual misconduct,[3][4] and some Theravada monks express that same-gender relations do not violate the rule to avoid sexual misconduct, which means not having sex with someone underage (thus protected by their parents or guardians), someone betrothed or married and who have taken vows of religious celibacy

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_and_sexual_orientation

        https://groundviews.org/2007/08/28/homosexuality-buddhism-and-sri-lankan-society/

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