It’s a truth universally acknowledged that gay men are supposed to be sensitive. And they are supposed to quote from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in their sleep. Which, by extension, means that they are supposed to be privy to the secret code of the ‘feminine world’. Surely we are bound together by suffering? Gay men and women, both victims of patriarchy.
I am a gay man and it’s just assumed that I must wear a feminist badge as well. I do wear it, but I wear it with trepidation, like that average student who wears the school prefect badge, not knowing what he did to deserve it. But is this honour really a cruel joke?
Now that I look back at the 18-odd years of my adult life, I really don’t think I earned the feminist tag. I am a convenient feminist. I take stands that suit my sense of well being. I want the young women of Delhi to reclaim the night, but I don’t want my 63-year-old mother to smoke in public. Feminism is an everyday battle for me. I lose it on some days, win it on others.
The day when Karan Johar decided that he is tired of Kangana Ranaut playing the ‘victim card’ and the ‘woman card’, I was sitting in a room full of feminists and convenient feminists like me. The air was thick with indignation.
“How could he, of all people, say these things.? I thought he was gay,” said a friend.
Johar, who has all but come out as a gay man, had managed to bring shame to this perceived alliance.
He had dismissed a woman for speaking out against the ‘nepotism’ in the film industry. Johar, who enjoys a position of unmitigated power in Bollywood, chose to dismiss Kangana using the tools of patriarchy. He had sided with the enemy.
The enemy, patriarchy, has wrapped its ugly tentacles around me too. For the longest time in my life, I wanted to be a paradox- a straight-acting gay man. A part of me still wants the same. I hate the fact that I am limp-wristed, I hate the fact that people assume me to be a woman at the other end of the phone. I hate the fact that people can identify me as a gay man. I want to be like the men I desire-gruff and manly.
The sliver of an advantage that being a gay man in India affords you, is the cloak of invisibility. It’s easier to slink into the cracks of the society if you are a homosexual man. No one bothers much with you. You are a free to be what you are, more or less. Unfortunately, the same is not true for gay women. No one will leave you alone of you are a gay woman in India.
As a gay man, I take full privilege of that advantage. I lead my love life under the protection of anonymity. I don’t question the status quo, because I don’t perceive any need to.
In a report written in Jezebel, the idea of of gay misogyny is explored. Rohin Guha writes how ‘women are just objects whose function is to serve gay men in the gay subculture’.
“Maybe it happens when gay men get too comfortable in newly-discovered safe spaces–where they get to call the shots as their proudly out new selves. Or maybe it happens through cultural conditioning. Whatever the cause is, it becomes clear: If there isn’t any kind of transactional exchange happening, then women lose their value in gay male subcultures,” he says.
Which means gay men, like their straight counterparts, are proponents of patriarchy too.
But it’s also true that patriarchy singes gay men. I am tuned to recognise it even in its most benign avatar. When it masks itself as joke, when it wraps itself as a denied opportunity at the workplace. I have seen it, I have learned to take it in my stride.
There is a personal joke I share with my closest friends, some women, some gay men. We call each other “dukhiyari mahilas” (unfortunate women). It’s a campy, filmi coinage that pays tribute to our shared experiences with patriarchy. We pass on the cloak of victimhood from one person to another, if and when required. This way, no one is a victim forever.
During those rare moments of acceptance, I am a feminist.