The passage of Section 377 ushers in an era of bloodletting, hate, and violence that would turn any trip to Kolkata into a needlessly dangerous gamble for any queer man or woman. J. Lester Feder reports:
“In a sweep that lasted through the first night of India’s biggest celebration, Diwali, police in November arrested 13 people for homosexuality in the town of Hassan, about a three hours’ drive from India’s tech hub of Bangalore. At the police station, some of those arrested say they were asked if they were really men, whether they liked getting fucked in the ass, and if they had pimped out their wives to get them pregnant. At least two were stripped, beaten, and threatened with having a nightstick shoved up their rectum. The next day, their names were splashed across the pages of local newspapers under lurid headlines. Some lost their jobs.”
I watched a lifetime of experiences film-dissolve into my past. Strolling along Gariahat Road. Snacking on gooey mishti that seemed to accompany every cup of chai. Being whisked into the homes of tailors to have my measurements taken for custom-made churidar kurtas for weddings — or tagging along to the bazaar with a cousin to watch in awe as she ruthlessly negotiated down the price of tilapia. Hearing the warm, pleasant din of family members gossiping, singing, laughing, and catching up into the late hours of the night.
Memories are my only link back to a land that has now indicated to me — to anyone with the luxury of not living within its borders — that we are no longer welcome.
IV. Old & New Gods
Once in a while, you could be walking down the street and there might be a caged concrete box containing an idol — its likeness decorated with marigolds, coins, and other small sacrifices.
Even as new gods rise, old ones fight to maintain their relevance. Section 377’s passage reflects a simple truth: That the old guard remains foolishly out-of-touch with reality and this act of government-sanctioned hate is simply a last-ditch attempt to hold onto cultural values that are quickly fading from widespread relevance.
With the passage of Section 377 in India, the scales have now heavily tipped. Whereas before I may have just been “too American in a quirky way,” by way of my sexual orientation, I have become so American that I can no longer visit the land of my ancestors. Whereas before I may have just been “too American in a quirky way,” by way of my sexual orientation, I have become so American that I can no longer visit the land of my ancestors.So American because simply being a queer man means that I have become “corrupted by the West.” The timing is odd because at the same time when India has effectively indicated to LGBTQ men and women that they aren’t welcome within their borders, Michigan — one of the U.S. states still to have a law on the books that allows employers to fire workers for being gay — may soon be rolling back its same-sex marriage ban, especially as the judge ruling on the case is under pressure to rule in favor of it. This means that with one barrier toppled, queer men and women can shift energies to remove other roadblocks and strive towards complete equality in Michigan.
However, this ruling holds with it the promise that in my own homeland, I can actually be seen as a single, complete individual under the state law — and not a partial one. In fact, it means that Michigan — and the U.S. itself — is politically less preoccupied with abstract and dated notions like “natural order” than they are with tangible causes like civil rights.