What is important yet is the number of people who are affected by it knowingly or unknowingly. Also the manner in which an issue so intrinsic to human rights in our democratic society is being approached.
The matter being subjudice, it is not for me to share opinion on the proceedings being right or wrong. I wont go there. I would just share my personal experience in what follows
Ignorance, not really a blissful state
I heard of criminalisation and 10 years imprisonment that Section 377 poses as a threat to each LGBTI (lesbians, gays, bisexual,transgendered and intersexed) individual at the age of 22. I was fresh out of college and just a year before that beginning to acknowledge my attraction towards guys. It is not as though 7 years into puberty I hadnt had those thoughts but I had kept them locked in corners of my head as something I cant understand and dont need to address ever as I had a girl friend who was in love with me and career ahead along with friends and family to fill my mindspace.
At 17, when i started working alongside college, I had my share of chat room explorations where m2m was a term used for male 2 male chat. These were the emerging virtual meetup places where faceless people with fake names would talk about homosexuality. This was right at the advent of mobile phones and media boom, when i spoke to the first self confessed gay man, someone who wanted to meet me but I could never gather courage to meet. It was only after I came across an American boy online that we shared our hopes, dreams, wishes to share life together that I even allowed my thoughts to venture into what two men can do in bed together.
He was to visit me in mumbai after 10 months of daily chats, exchange of phone numbers – which was a big deal in 1998 that I progressed to making 1000 plans of me settling with a doctor in some remote country where homosexuality was not a crime. It was a happy time of my life as i wasn’t repressing my mind after almost 8 years. I wasn’t pleasing friends or family by being with a girl friend. I was free in my heart of my past and I could finally think of my present or future.
We had plans to travel across India together and i looked forward to the wierd waking hours when he would come online and we could chat or exchange emails. All of it came to a screeching halt when he expired due to wrong treatment of his non malignant tumour which got ruptured. All the hope that had seeped into my life just vanished into a dark pit.
In next month I moved out of home to live on my own, stopped crying, being angry or even looking for any other men or considering the option of going back to my girl friend. I had lost the most precious gift – the person who had accepted me without judging. I gathered courage to look up and contact Gay bombay (GB) -a local support organisation and finally attend one of their meetings.
When i was expecting seedy men from chat room waiting to find new sexual partners, all i found at Gb were educated men, all with respected professions, a comfortable circle of friends and family. No one and nothing abnormal that I could label. Soon with few interactions, my ignorance about the community was a thing of past. I came to know here of blackmail rings being operated by Police and hustlers to catch gay men, threaten them to be outted to family & friends thanks to Section 377. Illegal it said were my emotions for don, who was no longer around. Illegal it said was my desire to know myself or to express myself sexually. Illegal Identity said 377 to my new found view of myself. Why should i be ashamed of my life? I couldnt understand.
Ever since, not a day has passed in this city, whether in love or not, whether employed or not, whether awake or asleep that I have been free of this word, this phrase, this curse. Like a Nazi camp prisoner’s identity, these 3 digits have been etched on me by those who are mighty, in power and see all of my kinds as. Its been 9 years and the shadow still looms threatening to consume my entity. The shadow called 377
(to be continued)