‘Gay scene’ manufactured, mythical in state?

The month of June is when in several places around the world rainbow flags are waved, celebrating the diversity of expressions and gender identities that exist on our planet. In the past week, there have been pride parades and functions across India in small or large measure. Saturday saw the pride march at Hooghly in West Bengal. Today, in Chennai, the 5th annual ‘Rainbow Pride’ march by the LGBT communities is being held with the demand for setting up of a ‘Sexual Minorities Welfare Board’. Last year, a Bhabhua-based community organization, ‘Dostana Safar’, held the first-ever ‘Pride Walk’ in Patna. A ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’ affair, it was attended by some 50 people, mainly transgender, who sang, danced and marched from Gandhi Maidan to Dak Bungalow Chowk. The idea was to tell society that people with other gender identities and orientations do exist, and it’s time for us to acknowledge this.

“What’s the gay scene like in Patna?” Yadavendra, a gay activist from Delhi, asks. One finds that there can be several answers to the question. The so-called ‘gay scene’ in Patna is fairly mythical, one discovers. The players are usually a small minority of 20-somethings, mainly students, who have got a taste of ‘liberation’ in the cities of Delhi or Bangalore and who, when in transit or on vacation in Patna or use Facebook to hook-up with other young, restless, hormone-driven men. They want nothing to do with fags who are balding, fat and on the wrong side of forty.

“From what I gather, these are basically ‘underground’ encounters for the sake of pleasure, and nothing else,” says Ranjit, the project officer for Pehchan Northern Region, working for HIV, health and awareness issues among groups with MSM (male sex with male) behaviours. “Technically, these are bored middle class youngsters, many of whom hang out for some dangerous fun. You won’t find much commitment. They prefer ‘straight looking’ guys. These are the manicured and manufactured myths that float around on Facebook. Our focus is the real people, those with ‘other gendered’ identities who are vulnerable and marginalized. And there are present in large numbers.”

A guy visiting from Delhi shows me an SMS, the third one from a twelfth standard twink who is waiting at PnM Mall. “r u dere? M waiting” it reads. “Watch,” he says, and calls back the number. An eager boy in a red tee, jeans and sneakers jumps up from his seat near the fountain and answers the call. “See? Eighteen, smart looking, available for pizza, a movie and something more if I have a place. Ergo, Patna has a gay scene. It does not have a rainbow flag waving potential, though.”

Ranjeet, another grassroots activist working with ‘kothis’, or feminized males, in Kaimur district argues a strong gay community does exist in Patna but not in the ‘party-disco-dating’ sense of the big cities. “For three generations, people with same-sex desires have met and matched at Gandhi Maidan and at a site near Mangal Talab in Patna City. As the sun sets, you will find many ‘kothis’ and ‘panthis’, or macho partners, at these locations, if you look closely enough. These are males and non-males of all age groups; many are married; some are past 50 years old.”

“LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) activism or coalitions are a fry cry in the towns of Bihar. A middle-class person with a non-heterosexual orientation or identity in Patna or elsewhere in Bihar is a very lonely person, firmly within a closet. I know a few persons, one in my own family, who are obviously gay, but we have a ‘don’t ask-don’t tell’ policy.

“Aditya Bandhopadhyaya, the now-famous ‘gay’ lawyer activist, is from Bihar. He was firmly in the closet all through his student days. It was only when he achieved status and financial stability in his late thirties that he could actually come out! He would pass off his life partner as his ‘best friend’ when his mother would visit him.

“People who do not hide their non-heterosexual or ambiguous identity are automatically ‘outcastes’ from polite society, and are pushed to the margins,” a source, who shall be unnamed, told me.

“Where are the lesbians in Bihar? Don’t they exist?” a reader of ‘OUT’, an anthology of Queer literature, messaged on Facebook. “You have a responsibility to find out, being Bihar’s only nonstraight short story writer.” One replied, “There was such a person, but I only ‘discovered’ she was lesbian long after she had left Patna and settled abroad.”

In the meanwhile, one hears Patna will be having its second Pride March sometime in July, in the middle of the monsoon. The organizers are confident it won’t be a washout.

by Frank Krishner, TNN
Source – The Times of India