Surprisingly, the topic is contentious even for the modern world. Even though there has been an impressive increase in the acceptance of same-sex relationships, but do cis men and women really accept homosexuality is a burning question?
Homosexuality has been frowned upon and prohibited, mostly through the illegitimate use of religious texts to support the prohibition. If we look at the genesis, the bible states that God intended to create a partner for the lone man, stating no description as to who the partner was. People thought it to be a heterosexual relationship, because that is what is “normal” and accepting” for them. But, was it the case with Indian history too?
Even though some might argue that the New Testament or certain versus in certain religious vernaculars sternly go against sodomy, homosexuality has been prevalent in almost all the history of India. Gender fluidity or homosexuality was never considered “not normal.”
Be it Babur’s immense yearning for the love of a boy whom he had to leave behind to make politics his strong-arm, or Allaudin Khilji’s bi-sexuality, the stances of homosexuality in India are established all over historical texts, mostly because either the great rulers wrote about them in their memoirs to spoke openly about them.
If this in itself does claim space for evidence, our ancient Vedic system allowed marriages between homosexuals, and we too have detailed sexual illustration inscribed across the most cherished historical places we have (The sculpture in the Khajuraho temple of Madhya Pradesh is a standing example which was popularly believed to have been built sometime around the 12th century depicting sexual fluidity between men and women).
While its Rigveda that says विकृतिः एवम् प्रकृति which says that what seems unnatural is also natural or the Mahabharata story about Shikhandi, the transgender warrior that defeated Bhishma, the third gender has been a part of sacred narratives and ancient law books.
Even the gods that we worship have always been a physical virtue of both male and female, considering the strength. The androgynous gods are aplenty, such as with manifestations of Vishnu as Mohini and the preserver procreating with Shiva, the designated Destroyer to give birth to Lord Ayyappa).
Our LGBTQIA+ concept of Gay/Lesbian or Homosexuality juxtaposes to that of other regions texts; and turns out to be relatively modern for even our medieval days. It was a known fact that men/women can have feelings for the same sex. Although, it wasn’t really openly accepted, it wasn’t termed as a taboo either.
This was before the time when other regions adopted rather inhumane activities to “remove” homosexuality through conversion therapies, convicting people, and even performing chemical castration.
India, as a country, can be safely said to be ahead of its time in that context. So what changed? Was India more accepting to the LGTBQ more than it is now? Is our mindset regressing while we advance towards the modern age?
Repealing 377 was historic. We won’t deny; but the law hasn’t been able to exempt homosexuals from recurring episodes of bullying, social unacceptance or even moving out of their houses without fear. Seems like while we step ahead legally; we move backward socially. Seems like our differentiating mindsets, cultural clashes, and fundamentalist authorities have restricted us from our sexual freedom.
But with support of the Public figures, pride events, and increasing number of LGBTQIA+ adults raising families, more people are not just coming out of their closets but onto the stage to de-stigmatize labels, opening doors of acceptance.