The world is divided into two kinds of people – Homophobes and people I respect
Since the past week, my friends and I have been dancing to Desi Girl because two of our friends are getting married to each other in May. We are rehearsing for the great Indian sangeet – the night for which youngsters practice their dance moves for months only to have their thunder stolen by a 60-year-old uncle on 5 pegs of neat whisky with moves that would put the cast of Grease to shame. But I digress.
In the midst of complex leg-hand co-ordination, the wedding choreographer declares in full filmifashion- “I have a dhasu concept for this song….it will blow everyone away….but only if you’ll are okay with it.” We were. So he tells us, “The concept is the Dostana theme itself.” Silence. Clearly he didn’t mean ’slide down your yellow underwear to reveal your toned backside’ theme. It was the other one. The gay theme. The three girls squealed in excitement. The three guys looked at each other in awkward incredulity. And then we all agreed.
So now, in front of a great many uncles, aunties and unknown entities, two of my male friends will check out my third male friend’s rear while he preens to the beats of Desi Girl leaving the girls in the lurch. The climax of the sequence will have us girls looking longingly into our respective partners’ eyes while the three of them hold hands behind our backs. And amidst all the cat calls and peals of laughter during rehearsals, I felt proud of my three heterosexual friends for not being uncomfortable and thinking, “This is below my manly dignity to pretend to be gay.” They were not only okay with the concept; they played their parts to perfection without making a mockery of homosexuality like Bollywood usually does.
Since the past few months, one straight friend of mine has had several close encounters of the gay kind. He has this inexplicable vibe that many gay men seem to find irresistible and has been hit on persuasively by some of them – in one extreme case it turned embarrassingly physical. But instead of being sexist and deriding homosexuality like many, many Indian guys my age do, he just got over it and continues to be on good terms with them. In fact he’s part of the gay trio in Desi Girl!
Now I’m not championing him as the messiah of homosexuals. But when I see educated, cosmopolitan youngsters call homosexuality a disease and think of gays as mentally unbalanced while auditioning for shows like MTV Roadies, I think it’s commendable that my friends are so open to the concept without making a big deal of their acceptance of it. In India, coming out of the closet is not as common an occurrence as it is in the US. So many twenty-somethings, straight or otherwise, are unsure of how to deal with it. Which is why we have innumerable homophobes in our presence, and I’m ashamed to say a few in my friend circle as well.
I think homophobes are a despicable lot. I know it’s a strong word to use and many might counter me with the old “Everyone is entitled to their opinion” spiel. So in my opinion, being homophobic is nearly as bad as being racist. To be fair, I have been fed on a diet of American sitcoms and Hollywood films where homosexuality is a popular theme and often the most memorable characters are gay. (Will from Will and Grace, Ross’s wife Susan in Friends, Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain, Sean Penn in Milk, Tom Hanks in Philadelphia.) And many my age may not be privy to these shows and movies that explore the concept so overtly. But perceiving gays as abnormal is not a result of television viewing habits. It stems from an intolerant, insecure, and highly-bigoted attitude. This especially does not excuse some guys I know, who endorse American brands, are addicted to Hollywood films and who appear to be intelligent in every other way, except in their prejudiced perception of gays.
Just the other day, two male friends of mine mistakenly ended up going for a ‘couples massage treatment’ at a plush spa. They were taken to a candle-lit room, with rose petals in bowls and romantic music in the background. They were made to wear translucent ‘granny panty’ like gear and were massaged mere inches away from each other. One of them was a self-proclaimed homophobe. After he narrated the incident amidst raucous laughter, I pointedly asked him, “How did you go through with it? Wasn’t your alpha-maleness threatened?” He thought for a while and replied, “Nah, it wasn’t that bad.” I think that’s a start.