Men, Women and Other People: Understanding Sexualities #Sundayreading


breaking1

From left to right  ( Nine members of the research team ) – Hasina Khan , Kranti  ,  Shruti, Shalini Mahajan, Smriti Nevatia , Raj, Sabla , Meenu pandey, and Chayanika shah

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Women Feature Service 

The concept of gender needs to be transformed. That was the central thrust of a recent study entitled, ‘Breaking The Binary’, released by the queer feminist collective, Labia, at an event organised in Mumbai’s well–known SNDT University.

Questioning the male–female binary, the study concluded that there can be no uniformity within these identities. Even when people use the same term like ‘man’, ‘woman’, ’transgender’ to define themselves, their lived realities may differ greatly. Such categories, therefore, should necessarily be less rigid because when the boundaries between them get blurred, individuals are enabled to exert greater agency and choice in moving across them. According to the study, gender needs to be consensual; it needs to get transformed from a hierarchical discrete, binary system to a porous, multiple–gender one.

‘Breaking The Binary’ was based on 50 life history narratives that explored the circumstances and situations of queer PAGFB (Persons Assigned Gender Female at Birth), who were made to, or were expected to, conform to existing social norms pertaining to gender and sexuality.

The research team for the study comprised 11 members, with Chayanika, Raj, Shalini and Smriti from Labia anchoring the work. Explained Chayanika, “Through this study, we looked at the experiences of our subjects within their natal families and while at school. We charted their journeys through intimate relationships and we attempted to understand what happened to them in public spaces, how they were treated by various state agencies, what were their sources of support and refuge when they came under the threat of violence or faced discrimination.”

The people interviewed came from a wide cross–section of society in terms of location, age, caste, class, and religion. These variations were critical, according to Chayanika, as the intention was to reach those living at the intersections of many marginalised identities. But achieving this was difficult, even impossible. As she put it, “The silence and invisibility around individuals who continually transgress gender norms meant that we were able to approach only those individuals who have some contact with queer groups.”

The 50 respondents were spread across north, east, west and south India – living in cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi, Pune and Thrissur. The representation of individuals living in rural areas was low, but two persons – one from rural Maharashtra and the other from rural Jharkhand – were interviewed, and 11 of the respondents had grown up in rural settings. Of the 50 individuals who participated in the study, 30 were from the dominant castes, 11 people were from the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes/Special Backward Classes, three were from Other Backward Classes (OBC) and six identified themselves as Others.

‘Woman’ as a biological category was one of the subjects that figured in the interviews. Persons whose biological sex did not correspond with their psychological sex, were branded as gender “variants”, even though women do not constitute a homogenous category and could belong to many different categories – including a category as unfamiliar as ‘working class lesbian’ or ‘dalit lesbian’.

According to Raj, a member of Labia, “We found that being from an upper class background was no guarantee of privilege. There was a 20–year–old from a business family. Because of family dynamics, she was unable to get the education she had wanted and was forced to support herself by earning small sums of money playing cricket. Another respondent, identified as upper class, was also deprived of a meaningful education.” Clearly, a privileged, upper class background does not protect queer persons, especially if they happen to challenge gender and/or sexuality norms.

The study identified three levels of violence the respondents had faced. The first is at the individual level, where harmful acts are perpetrated against people and property. This can range from taunts to forced marriage and even murder. The second is at the institutional level, where damaging consequences are perpetrated by social institutions with the idea of obstructing the spontaneous expression of human potential – as, for example, when an office denies promotion to an employee on account of sexual orientation. The third is at the structural – cultural – level as, for instance, when religious or political beliefs rule that homosexuality is immoral or illegal.

A woman’s sexual orientation can, among other things, determine her access to resources as well as her social status, according to the study. Women suffer severe material loss when their families desert them and many experience emotional and psychological trauma in their struggle against discrimination and ostracism. Mis–recognition and non–recognition can become a very perverse form of violence as it seeks to naturalise the power enjoyed by dominant groups over non–dominant ones.

For instance, families, friends and teachers could refuse to recognise the need of lesbians to be acknowledged as they are and treated with dignity, leading them to experience a severe loss of self–esteem. This constitutes a form of violence imposed by the majority on a minority. As Shalini, one of study team members, put it, “Every society has its own notion of what is normal and what is assumed to be normal. Going beyond that construct could invite violence on the individual. Many of the respondents felt that the gay rights movement was crucial precisely because people cannot hide behind identities that are not their own. Therefore, just as women defied patriarchy through the women’s rights movement, queer persons defy heteronormativity through the queer rights movement.”

This study, the first of its kind, has helped shed light on how queer persons have addressed the challenges of life and how they continue to search, negotiate, and challenge multiple boundaries. It has attempted to answer some important questions. Where, for instance, are the points at which gender binaries rupture? How are the normative gender lines being reinforced? What situations help to create varied gender identities? Most important of all, the study has helped to capture the experiences of Persons Assigned Gender Female at Birth and their negotiations with families, friends, communities, social structures, as well as the health and legal systems.

The team hopes to take the study forward to highlight areas of concern and conceptualise effective interventions. As one of the team members put it, “We are aiming to convey its insights to the more general category of people, at least those who are interested in taking proactive steps in addressing violence against any human being in any form and also for those who would like to understand the root causes of homophobia. We also want to take it to educational and governmental institutions, so that they can also help usher in change.”

The study was released not just in Mumbai, but in Kolkata, Delhi, Bangalore, Thrissur and Chennai as well. A Hindi translation of it is also on the cards. (WFS)

 

France becomes the 14th country to legalize same-sex marriage


French President Francois Hollande signs gay marriage into law

samesex
AFP May 18, 2013, 10.01AM IST

PARIS: France became the 14th country to legalize same-sex marriage on Saturday after President Francois Hollande signed it into law following months of bitter political debate.

Hollande acted a day after the Constitutional Council threw out a legal challenge by the right-wing opposition, which had been the last obstacle to passing the bill into law. The legislation also legalizes gay adoption.

French justice minister Christiane Taubira, who steered the legislation through parliament, has said the first gay marriages could be celebrated as early as June.

But opponents of the measures have vowed to continue their campaign, with a major protest rally scheduled for May 26 in Paris.

The issue has provoked months of acrimonious debate and hundreds of protests that have occasionally spilled over into violence.

Hollande made “marriage for all” a central plank of his presidential election campaign last year.

On Friday, in the wake of the Constitutional Council ruling, he warned that he would tolerate no resistance.

“I will ensure that the law applies across the whole territory, in full, and I will not accept any disruption of these marriages,” said the president.

It was “time to respect the law and the Republic”, he added.

 

A Quickie For Mr. Mahesh Murthy #FOS #Gender #Chrisgayle


india trans  A Quickie For Mr. Mahesh Murthy

Posted byPosted onApr 26 2013

There is a fine line between humor and everything else. One may think they have said the funniest thing of the hour, without giving the slightest of thought that their said words can have consequences. In fact words do have consequences, trust me! (Remember this? …Yes, I did learn a lesson or two there.)

And so at it happens, at times the well informed too need a reminder of the above perhaps a quickie on Queer sensitization as well. So we begin today’s session with Mr. Mahesh Murthy. Who is he? Er…he is blah blah & blah. Jumping onto what he did! Well… he posted the below message on his Facebook page;

Screen Shot 2013 04 24 at 7.04.34 PM A Quickie For Mr. Mahesh Murthy

Funny? Really?! Since I am one of the 26,000+ people who visit Mr. Murthy’s FB page every now and then, all I can say is that this isn’t his finest of wordplay. And believe you me, this man is funny.

Personally though I found his posted message not only demeaning but also his follow-up (defensive) comment to be equally arrogant. Here are bits of it:

I personally don’t give a rat’s ass for political correctness. Yes, I know LGBT and other minorities have fought long and hard to be treated as equal – but part of being treated as equal is about forgetting what our own sexual leanings and other badges of minority-ness are, and being warm, friendly and funny human beings.

Firstly my apologies to the rat for unnecessarily being pulled up in this conversation. Believe me I know how hard it is to maintain a toned ass. But only if the likes of Mr. Murthy started paying some attention to the necessity of political correctness (at least in some instances)…Sigh! Imagine a greener world. Now Mr. Murthy it is heartening to know that you are aware of our struggle, but I wonder how much of it do you actually understand. For a Queer person much of our humanness lies in the acceptance of our sexuality and/or gender. And while you may ask us to let go of the core ingredients that make us happy human beings to begin with, how about first giving us the basic necessities that an equal person is provided with. Lets begin with the right to exist (Yes it’s true… in 2013 we continue to fight a battle in the supreme court).

So while you rightly say “Equal doesn’t mean better than equal”…you must first ensure the other is on an equal platform to begin with before you start kicking below the belt. Even in the Just Joking context.

Moving on Mr. Murthy enlightens us with further gyan…(*Statutory notice: He is only a human being).

Everyone’s welcome here. We don’t discriminate here, nor do we believe anybody needs to be treated with kid gloves. We’re all adults, we all have thick skin here. You want sensitivity, get yourself litmus paper. But this group of folks is under no obligation to offer any. They might, if they feel like, but it’s not a membership criteria here.

Now to the issue of humour. My post was a simple pun on the word “Chhakka” to refer to a eunuch (or TG person, as other terminology puts it) and a sixer in a game of cricket. Chris Gayle hit 17 sixes today. So there was a silly thought of calling him “Chhakkon ka raja” – king of sixers. But the pun also indicated “King of the transgenders” so the joke went on, that eunuchs might be unhappy with someone saying he’s now their ruler.

Not a super-great joke, but one for the moment indeed. I see nothing offensive about it, and if you or anybody else seemed offended you have a responsibility to say why you are, and what the issue is. And if you do find it offensive, get off this page. Please. Like I’ve said before, nobody’s under any compulsion to read or like what I write, and nor am I under any compulsion to write only what you like to read. And that goes for everyone else here.

Getting to the crux of the matter:

Mr. Murthy, FYI the word “Chhakka” is deemed offensive. It is a derogatory word used not only to humiliate the TG/Hijra community but also gay men & lesbians. This very word is engraved in the every day living of a Queer person in the form of mockery and many a times physical abuse (rape) in the hands of both, the judiciary and society. Furthermore it has taken years for the transgender & hijra community to disentangle itself from the word “Chhakka” but clearly the battle is yet not won.

Agreed your Chhakka update was nothing but a thoughtless remark. On a closer look, your behavior could very easily have a negative affect on the TG community. By the way are you aware of the many deaths that happen in the transgender community via murders and suicides? Ever wondered why? It’s because of such attitude that continues to belittle them & treat them like they are anything but human!

So Mr. Murthy you are guilty of discrimination.

And mind you, no one is asking for sensitivity here. I accept that people tend to be over sensitive at times, but at this point, it isn’t the sensitivity speaking. It’s an effort to teach you to respect gender & gender expression. As I said earlier on, knowing does not mean you understandSensitisation is the word here; we are not even asking you to walk in our chappals. So by all means you can call Chris Gayle the king of sixers (in the context of the game of Cricket) but we would appreciate it if in the future you keep the word Chhakka away from the eunuchs and your pun even further away from the two.

And while you clearly state your freewill to write everything and anything, we too would like to add that each time we find your words offensive we shall not hesitate to give you another quickie. When you proudly boast your social media statistics, it wouldn’t harm paying some attention to the political correctness. The point being – if you are informed, you will inform others too! *Good karma all around!*

Lastly, time and again I am advised to develop a thick skin in the course of my journey; as a woman, as a lesbian, a blogger and I suppose to a certain degree I have (see how well I tackle ignorance). But I also make an effort to be continuously informed, as it is the latter that helps me grow as a human.
As for the assuming ‘goodwill’ part… we are expecting your thank you message in the mail pretty soon now.

PS – Happy watching T20!!

for comments above post click below

Original article here http://gaysifamily.com/2013/04/26/a-quickie-for-mr-mahesh-murthy/

 

LGBT discourse & cultural imperialism in Pakistan


Thursday, 14 February 2013 22:15by Hashim bin Rashid, http://www.viewpointonline.net/

Hope for them lies in the constitutional change and culturally located critiques such as Bol. Only through these, and not US cultural imperialism, shall they be able to be reintegrated into a social fabric they were so brutally de-rooted from by the last imperial cultural project

This more than any other article I have written before requires that the audience for it is defined before one sat down to write it. It also requires that I define myself and the particular sense in which I am situated within these debates.

The article has four audiences. First: those western intellectuals, activists and governments that wish to ‘help’ the LGBT community of Pakistan. Second: members (English-speaking only) of the LGBT community of Pakistan. Third: non-members of the LGBT community who support their cause. Four: those who find the idea of being LGBT repulsive to their faith and their notions of what it is to be human.

All ideas articulated in this article are for all four – unless otherwise stated. The need to speak arising out of the genuine fear members of the LGBT community that I know have experienced after the US Embassy in Islamabad’s intervention [On June 26, 2012 the American Embassy in Islamabad held its first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride celebration], purportedly to ‘protect them.’ Never have I seen such fear come after a promise to protect from a superpower. Nor has such a non-story ever been played up as much.

Within Muslim cultural history:

The first point shall be to run through my own story. Situate myself and to allow the reader to re-situate their understanding of a part of Muslim culture that may have been hidden from them, withheld or they may have otherwise ignored.

I think we may best be served by choosing a reference urban bourgeoisie culture in Pakistan will identify with. Let’s work with a couplet from Iqbal’s Shikwa:

Aik hi saf mein kharay ho gaye Mehmood o Ayaz
Na koi banda rha na koi banda nawaz
[Mehmood and Ayaz stood in a single file
Neither remained servant nor master]

Iqbal chose to present them by isolating the historical metaphors attached to them. Iqbal chose the metaphor of master-slave becoming equals. What Iqbal conveniently ignored was that Mahmud and Ayaz, in the Sufi tradition, became the quintessential Muslim male lovers. The theme under which they were historically represented was love, not equality. The same sets of stories are translated across a number of narratives considered distinctively Muslim.

Male love, as a means to intellectual and spiritual growth, has been integral to Sufi traditions in Persia, Arabia and the subcontinent. The fundamental rupture that produced both Rumi (with Tabrez) and Bullah (with Shah Inayat) comes from a male possessing supreme spiritual depth. There are other Sufis that find that inspiration within an innocent youth.

The influx of Muslims into the subcontinent itself gave credence to such. Ayaz, the fabled lover of Mahmud, has served as governor of Lahore. Babur, the first Mughal king, himself expresses his love for another male, Baburi, in the Baburnama.

Thus – even late manifestations of sub-continental Muslim culture were able to integrate a more fluid understanding of masculinity.

A tryst with British cultural imperialism:

And it is this that brings us to the second point I wish to make: the significant influence of earlier British imperialism (colonization, you may call it) in re-shaping the legal and cultural contours of being LGBT in the subcontinent. The effects of these shifts are integral to how the late hegemonic Muslimness has imagined masculinity and femininity.

First, at the level of discourse, a run through of the British Gazetteers (and I do encourage you to read any) on the subcontinent reveals their discomfort with sub-continental sexuality. A prime concern remained, what the British would read, as gender fluidity. And it could not be digested under heavily Christian Victorian values.

Thus, this translated into how the British employed power – and importantly how one could legitimately consider the clear, categorical distinctions between male and female that sub-continental urban spaces are intimate with, as being a product of the colonial period.

Second, at the level of law, it was the British that introduced laws criminalizing being ‘LGBT’ (if the category could be read into history).

Being transgender was made a crime under the Indian Penal Code 1860. All hijras were added to the Criminal Tribes act and the legal requirement to try someone for being transgender was merely cross-dressing.

The consequences of this legal shift have, sociologically, not been fully traced out. But, in a recent research project I supervised, traces of the discourses of criminality affiliated with the transgender community (which also found themselves into the Supreme Court of Pakistan judgment granting them ‘third sex’ status) took formal roots within State practice.

The transgender became the criminal. And so comes to be that Pakistan’s hijra community continues to suffer (uniquely) from police harassment.

Speaking from within culture:

Third, at the level of Muslim discourse, it is in the colonial period that Muslims, accused of being morally and sexually lax, began to reinvent themselves and constitute a new set of fundamental values. One of the new values set up was the strict separation of male and female genders – a binary that did not know itself in history quite similarly.

Thus we move to the third point: to turn to existing cultures within Pakistan that are open to the idea of being LGBT – and doing so while being ‘culturally located.’

Here, I must make a candid admission. History is the subject I am more comfortable with. Existing culture is a matrix that requires much careful study.

The sense is however that Seraiki masculinity and masculinity with segments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa operates on a different node. Within urban spaces, the fashion circle is also understood to operate with different understanding too.

Again, these are not clear-cut derivations. But again it is important to realize these exist.

What is also important is to realize that not all turns to queerness are healthy or voluntary. It is a question that a number of people have narrated from their experiences in same-sex boarding schools during the age of their puberty.

A student, otherwise of the devout variety, suggested that it would be impossible for one to not have a queer encounter at a particular private boarding school and then he narrated his own story of frustration and desire.

In so many ways, the imposed silence on questions about sexuality remains a key note for people of all persuasions reading this article. Anyhow the boarding schools example may give those who condemn being LGBT more ammunition than I would like them to have.

So, we must remind them of madrassahs and the repression around child molestation that prevails within them. Again, as a journalist, I have encountered an instance of a madrassah student backtracking on an expose because of fears that he shall be murdered by groups sent after him.

Again, this is not to stereotype, but to demarcate areas where silence and jokes cover up for the lack of serious discourse.

A turn to social sciences and Bol:

And at this note about discourse, I turn to the fourth point of the article: to turn to discourses from within the social science to articulate a distinction between ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ – which if a step be taken back is very much common sense.

It is clear that our understanding of gender comes from social mores. I was cultured into being a male – according to the culture that surrounds me. I accepted. Female culturalization operates similarly. There are specific disciplinary regimes that go into constructing one’s gender.

The question to ask is: if gender was natural, why would anyone need to tell what being a male or being a female is?

It is a powerful moment within Shoaib Mansoor’s Bol when the sister slaps her transgender ‘brother’, dressing up in female clothing in front of the mirror, and says, “Is this how men behave?,” in ignorance of the real biological sexuality of him.

The question the movie is able to articulate is: how are we to deal with alternate biological sexualities?

The question engaging in LGBT discourse makes you ask is however a bit different. It is: how are we to deal with alternate social sexualities?

I have my answer. But there is no point to imposing it here.

No to Western cultural imperialism:

But it is important to make this articles fifth point: that the US declaration of support was not needed and should not be welcomed by LGBT activists.

That is the only normative claim in the article that I stress upon.

While homophobia seeps deep into the social contours of postcolonial Muslimness, the space for acceptance has been more than it has been in the traditional west.

The need for violent LGBT struggles in the subcontinent has not been needed in the same way these were needed in the West. The liberal discourse in the West, the change in the stance of the Christian Papacy is the product of the particular socio-material conditions of the West – where persecution has known itself to be worse and more systematic than anywhere, or any period, within Muslim societies.

Postcolonial Muslim perspectives, even if keeping queer identity a pedestal down on the social ladder, had not declared them worthy of persecution (doctrinally).

The current declaration of exile of ‘all such individuals’ by Jama’at i Islami is in fact unique.

And it is so due to the attempt by the new imperial power (US) to create a cultural hegemony over what it is to be queer.

It would have been best for the US to stay out of matters in Pakistan. And it would be best if it learns before a systematic persecution of LGBT actually begins.

As a concluding note, however, it must be said, that all that has been said above, promises nothing for the most systematically discriminated against queer community in Pakistan: the hijra (transgenders).

Hope for them lies in the constitutional change and culturally located critiques such as Bol. Only through these, and not US cultural imperialism, shall they be able to be reintegrated into a social fabric they were so brutally de-rooted from by the last imperial cultural project.

Let us hope that US cultural imperialism does not do more damage to the queer cause in this already fractured socio-polity we label Pakistan.

 

Russia : Don’t Go There. We Will Not Be Silenced


Lawmakers in Russia just passed a draconian censorship law that would impose stiff fines for anything construed as “the promotion of homosexuality” in Saint Petersburg, Russia‘s second largest city. Reading, writing, speaking or reporting on anything related to gay, lesbian bi or trans (LGBT) people would become a criminal act. This ban on “promotion” would also target Pride parades, literature, theater, or NGOs that openly serve LGBT people.

All Out, a community of almost a million people around the world fighting for full equality, made a little video to send the Governor a message. Pass this law – We Won’t Go There.

Sex Workers Pride – Sangli, Maharashtra ,India


We are delighted to invite you to join us at the Sex Workers’ Pride March to be held in Sangli on the eve of the International Sex Workers’ Rights Day, the 3rd of March. Every year for the past five years we have held our heads high and joyously marched together to declare to the world that we not only exist but do so with pride claiming our right to self worth, dignity and livelihood, a right that no agency can confer or deny.

Come all:

Pride March: Gather at the Collector office, Sangli rally to the banks of the River Krishna.
Date : 2 March 2012
Time : 5pm – 7pm

In Solidarity,
Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad

contact-meenaseshu@yahoo.com

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