Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Killer and The Killed

“A 30-year-old resident doctor at AIIMS allegedly killed herself… because her husband was gay.” And before I could read and re-read the article (link here), my heart sank. I knew what was coming, but somewhere in my heart, I also wished that may be, just maybe, it would be different narrative. But no, it wasn’t. Before I get into the discussion of how I see this news, let me make it clear, cheating by anyone, I think, is not okay. The husband cheated. Indeed. He tortured the wife, as reported in the newspaper. Indeed. And its quite sad the wife had to succumb to suicide. Very very sad. No one, absolutely no one should be brought to a point that he/she has to end his/her life like this.

Now let’s understand the narrative. The news report closes with, “‘Priya kept quite (quiet –spellcheck TOI!) about her husband because of social taboos but she was quite supportive. Her in-laws were torturing her to get a divorce but she wanted to accept him the way he was,’ Lokesh said.” I wonder why? Accept a gay man as husband, for what? Her in-laws wanted for her to get a divorce. Why was she hesitant then? In fact, I wonder, why was she not the one to ask for a divorce? Clearly, there is an attempt in the article to create a certain good versus evil image, where the victim, of course, is the good and the so-called perpetrator, the bad. I wonder how this narrative would have changed, if at all, if the husband was not gay in his orientation. Or maybe it would have remained similar. We have our senses of sympathy while we read such news items. The dead person calls for more sympathy than the person seen as the cause of death. And when it’s a woman who has died, in a country where India’s daughter is a fashion now, there cannot be any other narrative. Now, before you call me a male chauvinist or at least think of me as one, let me tell you, I am not.

Because, here my conversation is not about men or women. It’s about men and women and everyone on this spectrum of human diversity. Would I have written about it if the man was a straight man torturing the woman for, say, dowry? I don’t know. I might. I might not. However, here the news story presents itself an interesting and very important lesson on what happens when one oppressed group (woman – in male-female binary gender identity system) interacts with another oppressed group (homosexuals – in hetero-normalized sexuality of this world).

A gay man, to make his life look “normal”, marries a woman. Under his own ‘cowardice’ to come out, emotional blackmailing and pressure from family or not being sure of his own sexuality at the point of marriage; the reason no one would ever know, except the man himself. One Mr. Vikram Johri writes how this episode is a lesson for gay men.

The writer expects the gay men, and this husband in particular, to show empathy and not to screw up girls’ lives if they don’t have the courage to come out. Sure. What about practicing some empathy yourself and not generalizing for all gay men? Also, being able to put yourself in the other men’s shoes to understand that it’s not easy, not at all to come out and live by your own standards. And it’s not fun inside the closet.

He writes, “Coming out is not about courage. It is about finally ridding yourself of the miasma of incompleteness that you discover you have caged yourself in for no good reason. It is about realising your life's potential and leading a fuller existence. And it is about being humane. If you do not have the guts to come out, sure, stay in the closet.” In the same breath he says its not about courage and its about having the gut when one has to come out. Boy, you are confused. Because in between these two opposites, everything else you have written, demands courage beyond the mundane. And if it was that easy, people would have had good lives in general, not just gay people out of the closet.

Also, the wife writes, “I never wanted anything from you but due to your abnormal sexuality you thought I needed sex from you but that's wrong.” An AIIMS doctor calls a man’s homosexual orientation as abnormal. What kind of acceptance is that? That too coming from a doctor? The post only shows how she is playing “I am a victim” game. And sadly, that’s one game we love to play all the time. That makes our side more sympathetic. If you knew your husband is not sexually compatible, you need a divorce not a facebook outburst and suicide. But indeed, the wife needed courage too. For she was in her own closet. The closet of being a homo-wife. The parents and family were in the closet too. The closet of being parents and family of a homosexual man. As the man struggled his own coming out so did his wife and family. If there’s an expectation upon him to come out, so it is on the others too. ‘coz our stories are not isolated atoms. They are interlinked and survive on this relational spectrum of life.

Both of them, the husband and the wife, were in the closet. Closets suffocate. Suffocation kills. Either the closeted gay man would have died or the closeted wife of the gay man would have. In this case the wife did. I wonder if that husband would have killed himself, would it have been equally interesting news. Well, several reports say that many young boys and girls end their lives quite frequently because they can’t come out due to their heteronormative families. I wonder if someone would report someday, “a youth killed himself/herself because his/her parents were homophobic heterosexuals.” So every time a person of sexual minority commits suicide, is the heterosexual parent or the sibling or anyone who is blamed? In most such cases, they are not even reported .Once again, please note I am not say the death of wife is not sad or the acts of the husband is justified. My point is that we need to come out of the black and white, the wrong and the right, mindset. We need to stop seeing people as right or wrong. But their actions. Coz when we call an entire person wrong, we create stereotypes. And stereotypes kill.

You know, it’s not the ‘gay’ in the ‘gay man’ who killed. It’s the ‘man’ who did. Not because men are evil. But because men are taught, to the level of being indoctrinated, to be the stronger one. And to be a stronger, one needs the other to be weaker. To be survivor and not the killed, one has to kill, it seems. And this logic is what we need to challenge and change. No blaming, shaming and pushing the guilt will help. Because it never has. It’s not my versus yours war. This life is ours, intricately linked. And our solutions have to comprehensive and interlinked. If there’s an expectation from gay men and women to come out, there has to be an expectation from heterosexual man and women to accept alternate sexualities with as much respect as they accept their own. If there is an expectation upon a group of people to be courageous and compassionate, we will have to start from ourselves being the same.

The wife died. She has attained nirvana from all her pains. And she has left the husband behind with more than adequate punishment – a lifetime of violent prejudice and shame. So let’s deal with it in perspective, people. 'Coz the killer and the killed, is inside us... all of us. We have to decide, if we want to bury the killed and heal the killer, or victimize the killed and hide the killer.