God set me free,
I shall laugh in glee;
Let my wings soar high!
Bliss eternal seems anigh!
Alas! Unto these dreams riveted,
I stay within, my mind closeted.
(A poem dedicated to all closeted LGBTQ+ people.)
Mankind has had a strange propensity for selectivity. On one hand, it claims that some supernatural deity created all beings equally and the same love its creations equally. It professes undying love for “all our brothers and sisters” and to “treat everyone with kindness and care“; however, when it comes to actual practice, the reality is far different than what we deem it to be.
Throughout history, we’ve observed discrimination on the grounds of differing religious, political, and social beliefs; discrimination on the grounds of race, creed and colour are still pronounced in orthodox societies, such as some regions of rural India and the United States.
Up until the late 20th century, abhorrent apartheid policies were being employed in South Africa. Despite the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s, racism is still prevalent in the States, as is evidenced by the Black Lives Matter Movement and some of President Trump’s disparaging remarks.
However, we humans are really “all-encompassing”. We do not stop at genotypically determined phenotype; we must dig deeper. And we have found ourselves a convenient prey: human sexuality.
I must say that I’m taking a liberty by using the word in public; such is the stigma associated with the perfectly natural phenomenon. Decades of religious and social indoctrination (partly owing to British colonial rule and partly owing to growing conservatism in Dharmic religions) has transformed India into a homophobic society, which is extremely disconcerting. Such attitudes are antithetical to the premise of Dharmic philosophy in particular and Indian culture in general.
Ours is a culture whose essence is tolerance and diversity. Our scriptures speak of the omnipresence of the Brahman—all beings, animate or inanimate, are individual components of an omnipresent (all-pervading) being( or “energy”) that is formless. Well, science tells us that we are essentially made of starstuff( courtesy Cosmos by Carl Sagan) and do in fact have common origins: the far-flung stellar systems, quasars, and eventually the Big Bang.
Isn’t it, therefore, a crime to discriminate on any basis? This is where our selective propensity hops in. We unilaterally declare certain phenomena as “unnatural” and then promenade on a crusade of brutal oppression and denial.
Ye fanatics, which scriptures do ye read? Do you not know that the Rig Veda proclaims Vikriti Evam Prakriti? Do ye not realise that Hindu deities change sexes and genders at will, sometimes even at emotional stimulation? Do ye not know that deities such as Ila (intersex) exist within our pantheon?
These people are blind; they will see only what they want to see. Times are changing. Societal norms are changing. Scientific studies have evidenced that children raised by same-sex couples fare as well as children raised by heteronormative couples; in fact, the American Psychological Association, the Kentucky Psychological Association and other psychological associations submitted a detailed study to the Supreme Court of the US that established, in addition to other things, the non-dependency of child behaviour and development on parental gender and sexual orientation. Another study by NLLFS stated that children raised by lesbian couples tend to be happy and prosperous. The question is: are we willing to accept it? Are we willing to accept that homosexuality is a natural phenomenon? Are we willing to give the gays what they deserve?
According to a report submitted to the SC of India in 2012, there are about 2.5 million LGBTQ+ people in India; the number can be much higher owing to the fact that many people remain closeted from of being ostracized by their family. Saddening that this familial affection is subject to terms and conditions.
The issue stems from the age-old notion of treating marriage as something that can occur only between man and woman. Biblical principles define marriage as solely the union of man and woman, and traditional views of marriage in Indian society is on similar lines. However, it may be noted here that Sikhism defines marriage as the union of the soul; if my memory doesn’t falter, even Hindu scriptures have defined marriage as the union of purely genderless, formless soul.
Marriage, in all honest opinion, should be treated as a union of two individuals who are in genuine love. Sexual orientation, gender identity, colour and caste should never be considered. It may serve our memories that the concept of “caste” and “colour/race” are purely social/human constructs; they hold no scientific basis.
Will we be continuing to fight for the sake of religion? Will we be continuing to protect some God whose existence (or non-existence) cannot be established?