Debate on Gay Rights at Association of Medical Consultants - Mumbai

Vikram Phukan, Editor of Bombay Dost magazine spoke at the Association of Medical Consultants on Sunday 8th November 2009 in Mumbai.

I am posting his speech for members


*Debate Topic: Are Gay Rights here to Stay ? AMC , Mumbai , Leela Kempinski
, 8th November 2009*
*Proposition Panel: *Dr. Harish Shetty, Dr. Junaid Alam, Mr. Vikram Phukan
*Opposition Panel:* Dr. Kushal Mittal , Dr. S.N Aggarwal , Fr. Fergoz

Vikrams Speech :

Good evening, members of the panel, women and men.

Let me be honest at the very outset. I find it very incongruous to be here
defending something that I have taken for granted ALL my life. The manner in
which I express my sexuality is as intrinsic to me and as natural as
breathing or eating. I am not here to meet anyone halfway on a bridge of
reconciliation, the facts and figures of my life cannot be altered because
some people choose not to SEE who I am.

For me being gay is how I'm oriented, this has been a part of my psyche for
as long as I remember. To find myself, indeed to find ourselves, has
sometimes been a struggle because of the lack of information and the
conditioning we're subjected to. But these are NOT things you read from some
pamphlet, you experience it firsthand through your own emotional responses
to what's around you. Your first adrenaline-charged sexual encounter
explains it a little, falling in love seals the deal. What you draw out from
the cultural landscape around you marks you out as irrevocably different, or
as they say in a fancy way, alternative.

When you ask me why does anyone need to know about this orientation let me
tell you something about the closet. Life is not meant to be lived stuffed
into a cellar. It is some secret panic room defined by rejection and
self-loathing. It affects our sense of self-worth, it affects the decisions
we make in our life, the relationships we attempt to negotiate, our
vocations in life, even the most mundane everyday things. The festering fear
that breeds it envenoms your life. You harm yourself, and you harm others.

78% of Indian gay men are married to women. That seemingly overblown
statistic by itself explains why the closet is such a pervasive juggernaut
in this country, that it has become an urgent matter to dismantle it, so
that everyone can start afresh. Article 15 of the Constitution talks about
the right to happiness, the freedom from discrimination. People whose
enduring physical, romantic, emotional or spiritual attractions are to
people of the same gender have an unassailable right to be happy BECAUSE of
that orientation. Homophobes do not hide their homophobia, therefore being
open is clearly the only way to a future in which gay people cease to be
second-class citizens, a stature they've only recently acquired, having been
branded criminals since the turn of the last century.

Yes, laws can be changed but the real battleground is the society to which
we belong. We do not want to leave our homes just to be ourselves. We do not
want to hide who we love. We do not want to be excommunicated, because we
believe God is for everyone. You cannot get inside a person's head and take
away his faith or his spiritual practice. In our enlightened times, or so we
think, being a gay Muslim, or a gay Catholic shouldn't be an anachronism.
God is about acceptance, faith, compassion, love. NOT man-made dogma.

A person's orientation should NOT be beset with questions about morality.
Being gay is a matter of biology, of science. I'm not interested to know
about the so-called gay gene. But what's so difficult to understand about
being born gay?

What is ironical is the fact that we're discussing this in India, a country
to which, as evinced by our ancient texts and scriptures, homosexuality has
hardly been alien. Not just the Kamasutra or the Mahabharata, but the
Puranas are rife with references to same-sex love. Why then have we been
bewitched by the smoke and mirrors agenda of some outdated Victorian moral
code? It's hardly surprising if you see how even sex has been relegated to a
shadow existence in India. The growth of civilization, especially one that's
as great as ours, should happen along progressive lines. If we were liberal
once, why not again?

After all, who ARE these homosexuals?

Are they those flamboyant fluttery creatures who waylay you at traffic
signals for a spot of change or are they just ordinary people going about
their business unobtrusively? The answer is, both. Do they merely pick out
dresses for brides and style hair, or are they bus-conductors, doctors,
civil engineers, and dabba-wallahs? The answer is, all of these. Do they
come here from the West and settle down in cosmopolitan Bombay or will you
find them in Ratlam, Ranchi, Nasik or the countless mofussil towns of inner
India. The answer is, all of the above.

Remember what is merely visible isn't really the whole picture. *Change your
stories, challenge your stereotypes*, do not be lazy. The queer people of
India are an astonishingly diverse set of people. Homosexuals do not give
birth to homosexuals, they are the sons and daughters of mainstream society.
They are your blood, they are NOT separate from you. They contribute to your
lives in so many ways, and you don't even know who they are. Will you push
them under the woodwork, only to trawl some kind of underworld, or will you
embrace the richness they bring to the cultural texture of India, an India
in which egalitarianism hasn't been reduced to just a politically correct
catchword.

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Comment by Laurence Gilliot on November 11, 2009 at 9:10am
Dear Vivek,

This speech is full of power and truth. Thank you for sharing it with us.

We start almost every learning event with the question: "Are we human?" What makes us human? Do we all share these characteristics? Are some people more human than others, because they have studied, because they work in NGOs, because they are not drug addicts, sex workers, etc? Do we see that we are all the same?
And whenever we go to a community our primary goal is to connect as equal human beings.

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in one of his poems in 1965 for the young people in the School of Youth for Social Service who risked their lives every day during the war in Vietnam:
[...]
remember:
man is not our enemy.

The only thing worthy of you is compassion –
invincible, limitless, unconditional.
Hatred will never let you face
the beast in man.
[...]

Click here to read the whole poem

Laurence

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