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LIVE AND LET LOVE

Did you choose to be heterosexual? Did you wake up one morning and conclude that you were attracted to the opposite sex? How then, do you assume that homosexuals choose to be who they are?
The issue of gay rights often incites varying but passionate reactions. From “it’s a sickness and could be medicated!” and “it exists, and we better learn to live with it,” to “tell me how they’re different to us!” homosexuality remains, in this so-called modern world, a taboo and a controversial subject of discussion.
Colombo’s gay, lesbian and transgender community, last week celebrated with a ‘gay pride’ event; The Nation followed the events and also explored a different side to the issue of gay rights. While the Colombo elite may revel in their sexuality, and find ways to celebrate it, what is being done to ease the pain of mind of the countless disadvantaged closet homosexuals, with no hope of ever coming out? Could any of these ‘gay rights movements’ truly attest to have made a difference in those lives?

“If homosexuality is a disease, let’s all call in queer to work. ‘Hello. Can’t work today, still queer’” – Robin Tyler

“It always seemed to me a bit pointless to disapprove of homosexuality. It’s like disapproving of rain” – Francis Maude

“What do you mean, you don’t believe in homosexuality? It’s not like the Easter Bunny; your belief isn’t necessary” – Lea DeLaria

“They are preserving the sanctity of marriage, so that two gay men who’ve been together for 25 years can’t get married, but a guy can still get drunk in Vegas and marry a prostitute at the Elvis chapel! The sanctity of marriage is saved!” – Lea DeLaria

“He has told me he likes men as well as he likes women, which seems only natural, he says, since he is the offspring of two sexes as well as two races. No one is surprised he is biracial; why should they be surprised he is bisexual? This is an explanation I have never heard and cannot entirely grasp; it seems too logical for my brain” – Alice Walker, Possessing the Secret of Joy

“I do not in the least underestimate bisexuality ... I expect it to provide all further enlightenment” – Letter from Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess (March 25, 1898)

“The time has come, I think, when we must recognise bisexuality as a normal form of human behaviour... we shall not really succeed in discarding the straitjacket of our cultural beliefs about sexual choice if we fail to come to terms with the well-documented, normal human capacity to love members of both sexes” – Margaret Mead, Redbook (1975)

****

Let the prejudice stop with us

“Mothers tell your children
Be quick you must be strong
Life is full of wonder
Love is never wrong
Remember how they taught you
How much of it was fear
Refuse to hand it down
The legacy stops here”

- Melissa Etheridge ‘Silent Legacy’

By Shilpa Samaratunge
We live in a world in which poverty, war, disease, and environmental degradation are major issues. We claim, we are all so open-minded and willing to help. If, we all want peace and equality, why is it that we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns, than holding hands?
It confuses me as to how the doors of religion are open only to straight men and women. How, someone could say, “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.” How religion fails to practice the most holy of all behaviour: tolerance.
I am mortified of the world I live in, for the comments people make. In 2000, a newspaper published a letter calling on the Sri Lankan police “to let loose convicted rapists”, on the lesbian community in Sri Lanka. The letter was signed by “P. Alles” and was in response to the newspaper’s report of a gay rights movement’s plans for an international lesbian gathering in Colombo. Alles called on the police “to let loose convicted rapists among the jubilant but, jaded jezebels, when their assembly is in full swing, so that, those who are misguided, may get a taste of the real thing.” When a complaint was made to the Press Council, it not only held that the article was rightly published but also, stated that the complainant, Sherman de Rose himself, was out to “promote sadism and salacity” and fined him Rs 2,100.
People are the way they are. Racism is considered wrong by the same people who discriminate against homosexuals, when sexual orientation and gender identity cannot be changed just like race.
“If it was a choice, do you really think, we would choose to wake up every morning and face the barrage of insults and laws that criminalise us? If I had the choice, I’d go straight, I wouldn’t be sitting here,” said the Executive Director, Equal Ground, Rosanna Flamer-Caldera.
The attacks on the gay community make no sense at all. Once you get through all the qualities that make a human and by the time you really get through all the things you could admire in a human being, how could what they are or, who they love, be a reason to attack them?
“There’s something seriously wrong with our sense of morality, to have men saying things like, “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men, and a discharge for loving one.” ~Epitaph of Leonard P. Matlovich, 1988
On Friday evening, June 27, 1969, the New York City tactical police force raided a popular Greenwich Village gay bar, the Stonewall Inn. Raids were not unusual in 1969; in fact, they were conducted regularly, without much resistance. However, that night the street erupted into violent protest, as the crowds in the bar fought back. The backlash and several nights of protest that followed, have come to be known as the Stonewall Riots. That lone event was what started off the gay rights movements, worldwide. It was the first time that gays refused to back down and apologise for who they were.
I have met people, usually, very open minded, whose hackles rise at the mere mention of issues such as sexual orientation and gender identity. These so called open minded people, for some reason, still use words like ‘Fag’ and ‘Faggot’
If that’s the side you choose to take, I recommend framing a picture of Hitler and hanging it up on your wall, because, part of his vision too, was a world without varied sexual orientations or, gender identities.
History has shown that great majorities of people could be led to complicity in the most monstrous acts of inhumanity, if the right charismatics lead them powerfully and unmercifully, down the paths of moral superiority. This begins with the dehumanisation and denigration of a small minority of people, in order to facilitate scapegoating during times of great change and stress.
There is no evidence anywhere, that suggests that one person could cause another person to become a homosexual. Sexual orientation appears not to be amenable to change in either direction. It is as deeply a part of human nature as left-handedness, skin pigment, gender or, hair colour. These are givens in our humanity, they are not things we could choose or, reject.
Yet, “straight” people, who cannot recall the day they chose to be heterosexual, continue to suggest that there comes a day in the lives of homosexual people when they decide to be gay.
Could you imagine anyone saying, “I think I will be homosexual. I like being abused, rejected, beaten up, fired, banished, exiled, and even murdered. I like being different, and being persecuted for it.”
Since those experiences have been the destiny of homosexual people, what would motivate them to choose such a life? The fact is that they do not choose but, the heterosexual world, for fear of differences, has responded with insane hostility.
Homosexuality is not what a person does, it is who a person is. Try as I might, I can’t reconcile myself to understand why homosexuals should be judged or, deemed ‘sub-human’. Besides, who are we to judge?! For all those who quote from religious texts, I humbly quote back to you “Let the one without sin, cast the first stone.” It’s time we took a good look at ourselves.
While researching this topic, one thing is clear to me, if our society, that spews pseudo saintly manure, had a motto, it could well be, ‘we’ll love you just the way you are….if you’re perfect.’

****

Could love ever be unnatural?

By Jayashika Padmasiri
Is homosexuality a sickness, as it is claimed to be? Is it genetic; predetermined and inherent, just like the colour of our eyes? Homosexuality is viewed as being against the basic essence of religion. The debate on homosexuality is raging the world over. From the Western hemisphere, where the individual’s right to choose, is of paramount importance, to the Orient, where society, traditionally, defined the parameters of individual freedom. Even in Sri Lanka, considered conservative, yet, tolerant to the many winds of change that have blown across it throughout the ages, the topic of homosexuality, awkward as it is, has surfaced again. Notwithstanding the fact that, in this day and age, it may not be easy to continue to “see nothing, do nothing”. Then, we come to the fundamental question, whether it is anyone else’s concern, what another’s sexual orientation is? Is it even a subject for debate, rather than a simple personal choice? However, what I can’t understand is, why is it wrong to be happy with the one you love.
Plainly expressed, if two people love each other and are happy being together, irrespective of race, religion or, gender, what is more important than that?
According to Sri Lankan law, homosexuality is a crime. Is it really a crime? What is illegal about being who and what you are, as an individual personality? If a woman could love a man and vice versa, similarly, couldn’t a woman love a woman and a man love another man. Am I blaspheming? What right do we have to prevent someone from being happy, just because it does not conform with our beliefs. Isn’t that, a sin.
One of the main reasons that homosexuals fear to own up to their sexuality in public is because of discrimination.
A contemporary scenario is that of a youngster, realising that he is gay, hides the fact, from the world around him, well aware of society’s hostile attitude towards homosexuality, in general. He fears for the social backlash that those near and dear to him would be subject to, should he ‘bare his soul’. He comes of age. Marries a pretty, innocent girl his parents chose for him. He doesn’t feel anything for her. However, his body reacts to custom and a child is born. It is not long before the husband, at odds with his true sexuality and living under sufferance, makes room for the ‘other man’ in his marriage .… and the story goes on, just like in the movies.
How many victims are there in this episode? The boy turned husband, whose true sexuality, always at odds with that of what was expected of him, suppressed from his lifelong mate. She, who must have seen the husband turn away from her every night, felt his coldness and the lack of passion in his kisses. Everyday, seeing his eyes wanting to runaway from her. The innocent child cradled to sleep in a house lacking of love and communication.
Where is the crime in all this? Who is the villain or, the criminal and who is the victim? There are many organisations in Sri Lanka that speak of gay rights. However, whatever they have achieved to date, is minimal. These activists are often looked up on as being “fashionably gay” individuals, rather than a force championing the cause of a particular marginalised group. Consequent to this failure, many homosexuals hide in shame, fearful of admitting who they are, just because the rest of us are trapped in a box of complacency.
We treat homosexuals as if they are different from us. We think of them as being a sick people, unlike normal human beings. Aliens from another world, come to put an end to the natural order and to civilization? Are they not human beings like us? How do we distinguish and segregate as “them” and “us”? How and where do we draw the defining line and point out where they become different from us. Except for the fact that they are attracted to their own sex, homosexuals are flesh and blood, bone and marrow, homo sapiens like you and me. No more, no less. The conventional notion of naturality is that there should be continuation of society. Homosexuality prevents it. Therefore, it is unnatural and wrong. How could an individual experience a feeling that is not natural.
So what’s the big deal in this? Of course, homosexuality is a subject for gossip, and goes somewhat like this, “Did you know that he is gay and that she is a lesbian”. How else could it be of anyone’s concern as to who sleeps with, be with or, is in love with.
Natural or, unnatural, homosexuality, around since man evolved, is here to stay, and will remain till the end of humanity. It is time we acknowledged that there are people other than the stereotypes that we are so comfortable with labelling. Should a person’s sexuality define his/her character/personality? Why treat anyone differently because of their sexuality? Do we have the right to be judgemental of others? It is time we stand up to reason and faced up to reality.

****

Gay Pride Colombo 2007

Pride is a campaign that consists of three core specifics-
That people should be proud of their sexual orientation and gender identity, that sexual diversity is a gift and finally, that you cannot be forced into or, intentionally change your sexual orientation or, identity.
Equal Grounds is an organization that, as the name suggests, seeks to bring equality to all people, irrespective of their sexual orientation or, gender identity. An organization in which, race, age, religion, class, sexual orientation or, gender identity are not what is important but, who we are as people. Cliché outdoes cliché – ‘we are all beautiful and unique, only, who we are inside, matters. The truth, though, is that, these clichés came about for a reason, and a valid one. Without people to say these things, they are easily played down in narrow minded societies like ours, and honestly…the clichés are true.
Colombo Pride 2007 was a week long festival, facilitated by Equal Ground serving the interests of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning (LGBTIQ) community, held May 20- 27, 2007, following two previous, successful years of Pride events in Colombo.
The festival commenced with a three-day South Asian LGBTIQ Film Festival. ‘The Journey (Sancharram)’ - an award winning film by Ligy J. Pullappally - and ‘Two Men In Shoulder Stand,’ a short film on HIV/AIDS and human complexities (subtitled in Sinhala) by writer/director Paul Knox.
Happy Hookers, an independent documentary on the secret world of male sex workers in India. The films were screened at the Barefoot Gallery.
Bolo Theatre, the only Gay Theatre Group in Sri Lanka, staged actual events from the lives of Gays and Transgenders, with three captivating skits performed in English and Sinhala.
The highlight of the festival though, was no doubt, the Colombo Gay Pride Party held at H2O on May 23. Following the party was the Rainbow Kite festival and Sundown Dance on Mount Lavinia Beach. Although the wind was a little too turbulent for kite flying, a fair number participated.
What stands out is not the event but, the statement that is made through it. Through coming out in public and showing people that they are not ashamed of who they are or, afraid of facing consequences, for being proud of themselves, they give hope to all of us that, maybe, if a few people refuse to be steamrolled by prejudice, then, there’s hope for many more out there who are unsure of themselves. As Executive Director, Equal Ground Rosanna Flamer-Caldera aptly says “We are not going to back down because you tell us that we are bad or, unnatural or, deviant or, whatever, we are who we are, we take pride in being who we are.”- (SS)

****

Beyond the flamboyant façade, the flip side

By Marianne David
Homosexuality is a crime in Sri Lanka. There are worse crimes in Sri Lanka but, that’s not what this article is about.
It’s about what’s really happening behind the flamboyant gay events in town. It’s about those who have no place to turn to; those who are alone and confused, with no one to reach out to – although funds are being raised, allegedly, to further the cause.
Despite gay rights organisations being formed in Sri Lanka, way before India did, India has overtaken Sri Lanka by leaps and bounds, with over 100 such organisations in existence today, while the situation here is nothing short of shameful.
In Sri Lanka, homosexuality among men, regardless of age, is prohibited under Section 365a of the Penal Code, with a penalty of up to 10-years imprisonment. There is nothing mentioned in the Penal Code about sexual acts between women.
However, the month of May saw the third Colombo Pride event. In the backdrop of the celebrations, one is inclined to wonder what is really taking place behind the scenes.
Other than the ‘highflying’ and ‘high class’ homosexuals, having a ball in the city – since Sri Lanka is a relatively tolerant country, when it comes to homosexuality – what about those in rural areas, who are suffering in silence?
There are some who have ‘come out’ and worked towards creating awareness but is that enough? Have they now become complacent?
According to a source with considerable knowledge of the real situation, most organisations are either on their last legs or have become a livelihood for those heading them and turned into money-making scams.
“They have become money spinners,” the source asserted.
However, the source added that the rainbow parties in town are a good thing, since they act as an outlet for cross-dressers, who would otherwise be frustrated.
While such celebrations are well and good, is anything constructive happening? Let alone the laws, who is working towards changing mindsets and attitudes, to overcome the social stigma attached to homosexuality – especially, in rural areas?
The Nation spoke to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Most of them, on conditions of anonymity, expressed their dissatisfaction about the state of affairs in Sri Lanka. Yet, they did not fail to emphasise that Sri Lanka was much more tolerant than other countries in the region.
“It is not a major issue. Nobody has been charged in court. The need of the hour is raising awareness and counselling,” one person said.
However, even this ‘tolerance’ is questionable. What about acceptance? If you were a part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender community, surely, you would want to be more than merely ‘tolerated,’ as if you were something the cat dragged in?
Why is there such stigma attached to being a part of this community? Wait a minute. There’s one place where the stigma no longer exists. In Colombo. There’s tolerance, acceptance and even adoration – it’s the ‘happening’ thing after all! If one is not lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person, then one could be a fag hag or fag stag – there’s something for everyone. There are those who even fake their sexual orientation, in order to get a share of the pie.
However, what of the rural areas, where such people face insults and assaults on a regular basis? What about creating awareness and counselling in areas where people opt for miserable marriages and suffer in silence or, commit suicide, ignorant of the existence of organisations that could otherwise have made a difference to their lives?
What are the support groups doing? Apparently, almost nothing. Other than a few workshops here and there and some rainbow parties, nothing substantial happens in Sri Lanka.
“Those within the organisations, they party and have fun. It has become a hassle for them to find avenues which would help the cause,” a source charged.
While one’s sexual orientation is not – and should not be – one’s defining characteristic, in Sri Lanka’s rural areas, those who are lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgender persons, simply cannot afford to let their sexual orientation be known as a characteristic at all, not even as a minor one. It is kept strictly under wraps. And heaven help those who are found out.
From families contracting underworld members to break up gay relationships, to being assaulted in public and having one’s house destroyed for being a homosexual – which still happens in Sri Lanka. Do those attending rainbow parties in the city, who are fortunate to be what they are and even celebrate it, care?
Gay Pride events revolve around the premise that people should be proud of their sexual orientation and gender identity; that sexual diversity is a gift; and that sexual orientation and gender identity are inherent and cannot be intentionally altered. Who is working to promote those notions in Sri Lanka, especially, in rural areas?
Before passing judgement, remember that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is not about choice or, culture or, race or, religion or, community or, country; it has nothing to do with any of that. It cannot be altered.
However, what could be altered is the ground situation, especially, in the rural areas. What could be erased is the stigma attached to belonging to this community. What could be changed is the attitude of the people. Keep in mind, one’s sexuality is one’s own concern and not that of others. Hence, nobody should judge another on the basis of his or her sexuality.
In the words of Ashraf Zanati (one of The Cairo 52, a group of men imprisoned in Egypt, for homosexuality) in the documentary Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World, “My sexuality is my own sexuality. It doesn’t belong to anybody. Not to my government, not to my brother, my sister, my family. No.”

****

Love is never wrong...

By Jayashika Padmasiri
Is homosexuality a sickness, as it is claimed to be? Is it genetic; predetermined and inherent, just like the colour of our eyes? Homosexuality is viewed as being against the basic essence of religion. The debate on homosexuality is raging the world over. From the Western hemisphere, where the individual’s right to choose, is of paramount importance, to the Orient, where society, traditionally, defined the parameters of individual freedom. Even in Sri Lanka, considered conservative, yet, tolerant to the many winds of change that have blown across it throughout the ages, the topic of homosexuality, awkward as it is, has surfaced again. Notwithstanding the fact that, in this day and age, it may not be easy to continue to “see nothing, do nothing”. Then, we come to the fundamental question, whether it is anyone else’s concern, what another’s sexual orientation is? Is it even a subject for debate, rather than a simple personal choice? However, what I can’t understand is, why is it wrong to be happy with the one you love.
Plainly expressed, if two people love each other and are happy being together, irrespective of race, religion or, gender, what is more important than that?
According to Sri Lankan law, homosexuality is a crime. Is it really a crime? What is illegal about being who and what you are, as an individual personality? If a woman could love a man and vice versa, similarly, couldn’t a woman love a woman and a man love another man. Am I blaspheming? What right do we have to prevent someone from being happy, just because it does not conform with our beliefs. Isn’t that, a sin.
One of the main reasons that homosexuals fear to own up to their sexuality in public is because of discrimination.
A contemporary scenario is that of a youngster, realising that he is gay, hides the fact, from the world around him, well aware of society’s hostile attitude towards homosexuality, in general. He fears for the social backlash that those near and dear to him would be subject to, should he ‘bare his soul’. He comes of age. Marries a pretty, innocent girl his parents chose for him. He doesn’t feel anything for her. However, his body reacts to custom and a child is born. It is not long before the husband, at odds with his true sexuality and living under sufferance, makes room for the ‘other man’ in his marriage .… and the story goes on, just like in the movies.
How many victims are there in this episode? The boy turned husband, whose true sexuality, always at odds with that of what was expected of him, suppressed from his lifelong mate. She, who must have seen the husband turn away from her every night, felt his coldness and the lack of passion in his kisses. Everyday, seeing his eyes wanting to runaway from her. The innocent child cradled to sleep in a house lacking of love and communication.
Where is the crime in all this? Who is the villain or, the criminal and who is the victim? There are many organisations in Sri Lanka that speak of gay rights. However, whatever they have achieved to date, is minimal. These activists are often looked up on as being “fashionably gay” individuals, rather than a force championing the cause of a particular marginalised group. Consequent to this failure, many homosexuals hide in shame, fearful of admitting who they are, just because the rest of us are trapped in a box of complacency.
We treat homosexuals as if they are different from us. We think of them as being a sick people, unlike normal human beings. Aliens from another world, come to put an end to the natural order and to civilization? Are they not human beings like us? How do we distinguish and segregate as “them” and “us”? How and where do we draw the defining line and point out where they become different from us. Except for the fact that they are attracted to their own sex, homosexuals are flesh and blood, bone and marrow, homo sapiens like you and me. No more, no less. The conventional notion of naturality is that there should be continuation of society. Homosexuality prevents it. Therefore, it is unnatural and wrong. How could an individual experience a feeling that is not natural.
So what’s the big deal in this? Of course, homosexuality is a subject for gossip, and goes somewhat like this, “Did you know that he is gay and that she is a lesbian”. How else could it be of anyone’s concern as to who sleeps with, be with or, is in love with.
Natural or, unnatural, homosexuality, around since man evolved, is here to stay, and will remain till the end of humanity. It is time we acknowledged that there are people other than the stereotypes that we are so comfortable with labelling. Should a person’s sexuality define his/her character/personality? Why treat anyone differently because of their sexuality? Do we have the right to be judgemental of others? It is time we stand up to reason and faced up to reality.

****

 

 

 

 

 

 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 

 

 
     

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