• Samarth

Less Than Gay – A Movement

Samarth Narayanan


Almost thirty years ago, a tiny little organisation, came out with a tiny little book titled “Less than Gay,” which spoke about a lot of things in what was then considered a super duper taboo topic – the homosexuality conversation in India. Even today, we’ve all come across uncles and aunties who say – “Beta, homosexuality is a medical condition; take them to doctor, they will all become okay,” well, these few uncles and aunties were, in the latter part of the 80s in India, a lot of uncles and aunties. Speaking out, expressing your sexuality was literally like throwing yourself up for crucifixion. It was like telling the world – “Bro, I am spawn of satan.”

And in this situation, the Aids Bhedbav Virodhi Andolan (ABVA), came up with this pamphlet, inspired directly from the perspectives of some fearless homosexuals, who (of course, anonymously) came out with their versions, their experiences which, the ABVA compiled into this 70 page book that today stands as one of the most powerful turning points in the context of the Indian gay rights movement. The book was a turning point, because as I’ve pointed out before, it provided researched insights into a topic many people knew of only by hearsay. The more logical individuals were provided an opportunity to actually understand and mould their views, as the number of people that were exposed to what was going on in the west were a very few. In the USA, at the time, the third wave feminists were calling out the second wavers, and one of the things they were calling them out on, was of course, the disregard for intersectionality, which included the lesbian rights movement. In India, the stigma was so bad it’s leeched all the way down to today. But for whatever change there exists, Less Than Gay needs its credit.


The “stigma”, as I stated before, was surrounding the fact that nobody knew who exactly these people were. The idea of “natural” was limited to the two genders, which has since forever been sown by patriarchal structures and gender divisions into the prevalent religions of our time, and even considering the idea of people transgressing out of this so called “natural” way of existing, scared people. This lack of understanding left everybody to base their views on this conservative idea of “this is how we need to be,” and that pretty much shut everybody out.


Things today are, thankfully, not as bad as then, especially when it comes to our generation, or are they? The book says a lot of things, a lot of myths that it demystifies, with references to scholarly work, as well as human encounters, for example, the book asks some really badass questions like – is heterosexuality normal? Now I’m pretty sure all of y’all, even within our GenZ generation, would agree that “bro, yes, you’re right,” but the book says otherwise. They make a reference to a point of view provided by a psychoanalyst by the name Dr. Sudhir Kakar, who interviewed a bunch of women in a locality and figured out that the sexual act, wasn’t an act of expressing one’s sexuality, but it was more of expressing dominance – essentially what we’ve come to realise rape as being propagated by, and in the exact words of the good doctor, it was an act “pervaded by hostility and indifference rather than affection and tenderness … The sexual act was an experience to be submitted to, often from a fear of beating… The act itself was seen as a prerogative and need of the male. Sexual intercourse for these women (and men) seemed to be structured in terms of contractual and personal exchange relations, with the ever-present possibility of one party exploiting or cheating the other.” Read that two or three times, and you realise that when this goes on long enough, it becomes “normal,” from the outset but pretty darn different from the inset, i.e. the issue is a lot more nuanced than it seems.


Another of my favourite parts of the book was when it says “Homosexuality is unnatural,” in the opening of the myth-buster section. I won’t waste my lack of articulation in paraphrasing here, I’ll reproduce that particular section here for y’all to see:


 

This argument is a highly confused one and can mean one of several things, each of which is untenable:


A. If it means that homosexuality is simply “artificial,” then so are many other things that do not elicit the same hostility, for example, synthetics, processed food, dams, condoms, or social institutions like marriage.


B. If the idea is that homosexuality is non-procreative, not related to reproduction, then this too is an illogical ground for rejection as even celibacy, masturbation and contraception have identical reproductive consequences with those of homosexual activity.


C. If homosexuality among humans is shunned because it does not occur in animals, then this is easily proved false. Homosexual behaviour, including pair-bonding, has been observed among many animal species in the wild as well as in captivity, for example, among gull. Moreover, even if homosexuality does not occur in animals, so what of it? Is all uniquely human behaviour “unnatural”? Much of human behaviour that is admired is unique to humans. For many philosophers, human behaviour is inherently superior to that of animals. To put it another way, so what if lions are not homosexual? They are not philosophers either!


Source: Less Than Gay – A Citizens’ Report on the Status of Homosexuality in India, 1991, ABVA (Aids Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan)


 

Another beautiful reference is made in the pamphlet to a study conducted in 1981 by the Kinsey Institute in the USA. It speaks about something that most of us today think about a lot – the belief that the social environment a person is brought up in, or some sort of a major social change in a person’s life, creates a feeling of homosexuality. That people are hetero until something happens and they realise that they’re homosexual. This was something that I’ve always wondered about, never really able to find a conclusion, but the study points it out pretty well. They say that based on the research conducted, they’ve managed to figure out that homosexuality is just as entrenched as heterosexuality. That the changes that happen in individuals, that cause them to turn out a particular way, are lesser the reason **for their change and more a reason for them figuring out exactly what their sexual preferences are. You don’t become gay listening to Freddie Mercury sing I Want to Break Free, you simply realise that you already are.


If you bring your little boy up by giving him Hot Wheels, that in no way controls who he grows up to Love. Just as some people are left-handed, and just as some people are allergic to peanuts, some people are born homosexual, and that there’s no way to “control” this happening. Everyone’s simply who they are. Get that into your heads.

It’s a book that’s thirty years old, and I’m honestly surprised how relevant it still is. Check it out. It’s linked right here.


I’m going to get out of your hair now, but before I do, here’s a little reminder of what Mama Monster said:


No matter gay, straight, or bi/ Lesbian, transgendered life/ I’m on the right track baby/ I was born to survive/ No matter black, white or beige/ Chola or orient made/ I’m on the right track baby/ I was born to be brave
Lady Gaga, Born This Way
 

Samarth Narayanan is a Bengaluru based first year law student with a love and passion for writing, Samarth gets his drive from a quote by his favourite music artist, Kendrick Lamar who once said, “I’m not on the outside looking in, I’m not on the inside looking out. I’m in the dead centre, looking around.” Steve Jobs being an important inspiration to his life, he is a law student with a creative streak, who is a stickler for perfection. A self-respecting feminist, who believes in human rights in a social democracy, he is one of the founders, as well as the chief editor of BLS. Samarth is also an avid reader and constantly expresses an innate greed to own books. He also hopes to change the world someday. He listens to a lot of music, writes poetry and bits of prose that can be found on his personal blog Escape The Abyss and his Instagram handle @bard_of_suburbia.