Well, strictly this is not today's day log. But the reason I'm logging this today is because I thought I needed some time to recover, to think, and to figure out what I felt.
Let's get the who am I bit sorted out, more really for my sake than for the sake of those who're reading this. I'm 23, very left-liberal in my political views, and I what I value most about myself is that I believe I never discriminate. My boyfriend once asked me an interesting question. He said: What do you mean, you NEVER discriminate? Of course, you do..you discriminate all the time...you like something, you don't like something. You like some people, you don't. And everytime you don't like somebody for whatever odious quality they may have, you discriminate." Ok, so let's get this sorted out: I don't discrimate on the basis of gender (i'm female), race (i'm brown/asian), sexuality/sexual preferences, caste (I don't know what caste I am and frankly I don't care) and class. I think that covers it all. If you're a pompous git and I don't like you...well, sorry it doesn't count as discrimination in my dictionary!
So two days ago, I wake up in the morning, switch on my computer and there's an email from my brother in Bangalore. Well, he's not my 'real' brother- we're first cousins..but I have no siblings, so he's like a brother in every sense of term (also we Indians think of our extended cousins as brothers/sisters). Anyway, the other reason we've always been close is that he's just seven days younger than me...poor kid...he's been bullied by me all his life because I'm his didi (Elder sister in a number of Indian languages). Also, as we've grown up we've found we have a lot of things in common- we like reading the same stuff, we have similar views on most things, especially politics, and from being a whining, awkward adolescent he's grown into an interesting young man, whom I like spending time with. That's the other thing...we don't see as much of each other as we'd like to. I went to college in Delhi, he was in Bangalore. Now I'm in the UK, and he's still in Bangalore and he's going to graduate this year and he's got a job in Bombay. But we email a lot, and try and make sure that our trips back to Calcutta co-incide.
So my brother emails me two days ago, and says 'look, i've wanted to say this to you for a while, but I haven't coz I've felt queasy. Well here goes: I'm gay." And then he says a few other things and cheerfully goes on to talk about life in Bangalore. And he ends the email with: "Well, now that you know, I hope you won't think badly of me.
Ok, I'll admit it. I was gutted- for a moment, I was too stunned to speak. I looked so shaken that my boyfriend thought there was some bad news from home. And then I told him, and he turned around (he was shaving in front of the mirror) and said: Yeah, he's gay..so?
That's when rationality kicked in I guess. A whole host of things occurred to me all at once? Why did he think I would 'mind'? Of course I wouldnt...
Why hadn't he told me before? He also says at one point in the email that he's had to live in this parallel world for many years, for nine years almost. And as I re-read the email I thought: Oh shit, I've teased him about so many women, I've harassed him to find out who the girl in his life is. And when he was a kid, he liked Indian classical dance and his parents wouldn't let him learn because it was considered too 'feminine'. And we'd all teased him about it. Oh shit...
But once the guilt and the shock had worn off, I got thinking again. I was so proud of him...proud that he'd had the guts to come out (he'd told a few of his friends) and then I was scared. Scared because homosexuality is illegal in India, because gays lead a clandestine life, occasionally fighting for their rights, but largely living as a subterranean community. But scared because I knew the explosion that would occur if he told his family.
On the question of his family: they're your average middle class Hindu family of four. But they're also horribly communal. Sadly that's quite the norm- your next door neighbour who's perfectly normal will suddenly say something so blatantly communal and horrible about Muslims that you will wonder if you ever really knew him. Same with these people- rather nice people, and I'm fond of my aunt, uncle and elder sis- but of late they say such devastatingly communal things from time to time, that I'm not always sure how to communicate with them. Being communal in India really means sympathising with the right wing Hindu nationalist party- the BJP that is currently in power. But it also means holding some pretty extreme right wing views on certain issues- most notably homosexuality. It's wrong, it's a vice, it's completely immoral..and that's where the argument stops. There can be no dialogue, no discussion.
As I thought of his family, I realised that if my brother ever told them the truth, they wouldn't really know what he meant- they wouldn't even comprehend it. And gradually as it sunk in, they would hate him, they would hate with as much hatred as if he was a dirty object, unclean and impure who was soiling their family. In short, they would freak. But they would also start putting pressure on him very soon to get married, and so while he says he will not tell his parents till the push comes to the shove, I can imagine now cataclysmic that will be.
I got talking with another Indian friend of mine, who recently announced to his parents that he was gay. He said that when it comes to telling your family, it's not a question of 'whether' but rather a question of 'when'. And...that telling the first time is the hardest, but once you've said it, it's out there, it's been done, and now it's their problem as much as yours. I've written all this to my brother, and I hope it gives him courage. I would like nothing more at this stage than to hug him tightly and somehow take back every nasty word I've said to him, and make him feel that everything will be okay. But I can't and I know it won't happen.
And then there's that nagging thought in my head, am I really the 'liberal' I claim to be? Why was I gutted, even if it was for a second or two? Was I actually upset that he was gay or was I too stunned to react? I'd like to believe it was the latter, but a voice inside my head tells me not to delude myself. At the same time, I'm perfectly comfortable with him being gay and having a boyfriend (he has one, and sounds even mushier than I sound about mine!!), and I would be utterly and totally cool with him if I saw him next. But that reaction, for that fraction of a second, will continue to bother me, till I figure out for myself, honestly and truly, what went through my head.
At some point I'll node about laws concerning homosexuality in India. Also, if you're interested in knowing more about communalism in India, do check out the nodes on Hindu nationalism, RSS and Gujarat. They're by no means comprehensive, but it will give you a better idea of what I'm talking about.