I am amazed at the coverage almost all major papers have given to LGBT issues. Happy and gay times ahead. Have compiled most of it for you according to the papers they were published in. Here goes Indian Express coverage
In the name of LOVE
Posted: Sunday , Jun 28, 2009 at 1050 hrs IST
As the LGBT community takes out Pride Marches today in Chennai, Delhi and Bangalore, we bring you love stories that’ve blossomed in, and despite, our cities
The city’s considerable number of gay cruising joints didn’t facilitate Debjyoti and Manty’s romance. Theirs was a love story nurtured in its cafes, restaurants and movie theatres, places that most straight couples frequent. And never once did this obviously gay couple feel out of place. “In fact, apart from our first meeting at an LGBT film festival, we have rarely visited the so-called gay-friendly places. We have an amazing ability to make ourselves comfortable everywhere. There was a lot of public display of affection but no one seemed to care,” says Manty, 29, a doctor.
Their first meetings, like all great love stories, involved common friends and a karmic connection. “It was the closing of the film festival, two years ago. I had gone to meet a friend of mine, who was with his other friends. One of them was Manty,” says Debjyoti, 25, who was a student of law then. “The moment I saw him, I had this strange feeling. It was as if I had seen him before and I wanted to know more about him. It turned out that we had crossed each other’s paths a few months ago, when he was walking down the road with the common friend of ours. Our faces had been kind of imprinted on each other’s minds, and we connected,” he says.
A series of meetings with common friends followed — “They were more like chaperones,” insists Manty—before both were ready to take the relationship to the second level. “It was nice that we were taking things slow. Generally, most gay relationships are about quick gratification. The period of courtship was reassuring because emotionally speaking, I was at a crossroads in my life. Some people were becoming dearer to me than others, but no one seemed to be striking me as the one,” says Debjyoti.
After a month and a half, Manty asked Debjyoti out and proposed on the very first date. “I knew he was the one for me. He was gregarious without being overbearing. And there was so much honesty in his eyes,” says Manty.
But like many love stories, there was a stumbling block, in this case Manty’s career plans. “Within a few months of our relationship, he moved to Russia for further studies. I was quite pessimistic about our future,” says Debjyoti. Their relationship, however, weathered even the Siberian winter. “We would call each other almost every day and run up an astronomical bill. But things are better now because he visits quite often and we spend quality time together,” says Debjyoti.
Manty is visiting Kolkata now, and the glow on Debjyoti’s face is quite evident. “We have a lot of catching up to do,” he says. So what does the future hold for them? “As of now, we are quite happy with the way things are but I know we will have to take some concrete steps. I will have to come out to my parents for one. And that’s something I am really apprehensive about, more so, because they are so conservative,” says Manty. Debjyoti, however, has no such problem. “Initially things were a bit rocky with my parents, but things settled down, and till now, it has been a lot of fun! Manty has been accepted as another son of the family,” he says.
Will they participate in this year’s pride march on July 5? “I most definitely will. The Pride March is, truly, a mark of pride and freedom for me. It goes to show how ready the city is to accept certain changes at least on the face of it. Internal changes always take longer than external changes, but it’s a start!” says Debjyoti.
Finding love was not on top of her list when Meghna, a 30-year-old school teacher, moved to Mumbai from a small town in Uttarakhand to study. She saw it more as a career challenge. When she bumped into Anandita at a film festival hosted by a queer group in Mumbai, though, she could not deny the instant attraction she felt for her.
Anandita was 34, a photographer from Kolkata who had moved to the city to earn a living. Like Meghna, she too was dealing with demons of relationships gone sour. But they clicked—over films, dinners and travel. After a year of seeing each other, Anandita moved in with Meghna. They have been together for six years now. “I didn’t think we would be together this long. Finding a soulmate is not easy, especially in such a big a city. I think Meghna and I clicked because we both felt the desire to stick together,” says Anandita.
While Anandita’s father has accepted their relationship, it’s not always easy, the couple says, to live a “normal life” in a homophobic society. “Not having any partnership rights makes it difficult for couples to settle down. Recently we were looking to buy a house together but the bank only acknowledges either blood or marital relationships,” says Anandita.
For Meghna, what hurts is the lack of acknowledgement of their relationship, from anyone other than friends. “It makes it harder to cope in difficult situations. Besides this the fact that we are considered only good friends by my parents is something I have to deal with daily. They expect me to find a partner in someone else, a man. I want to be able to tell them I have already found my partner,” she says.
The two get away with living together as friends, for now—and sharing their lives. They hang out at Carter Road promenade, discos, pubs, and at friends’ parties. They have to be careful when they are in public. “Two lesbians may face discrimination when they are seen as a couple. You get harassed on the street the moment you are affectionate or intimate with a same-sex partner,” she says.
Meghna is a foodie and loves to go to restaurants that serve authentic cuisine. When they travel, she is always interested in where they will eat. Both end up cooking for each other and Anandita has taught Meghna many dishes. The former is a big film buff though her taste in horror films doesn’t impress Meghna.
Do they fight, we ask? “Yes,” they say together. Sometimes it is about ideological stuff or strategies of fighting for queer rights. Since they are both opinionated, neither backs down for the longest time. They also fight when jealous. “Are you so interested in her that you do not want to spend time with me?”
What does the future hold for them? “Not marriage but we hope to move into a new home. Get a dog and maybe later on raise a child,” says Meghna.
(Mmbai’s Pride March is on Aug16)
SHALL WE DANCE?
The first time Kalki saw Santhosh at her friend’s house, she didn’t like him. “I was dancing to a sexy item number and I could see from his face that he didn’t like it. So it was only natural that I didn’t like him either. But I wanted to win him over,” says Kalki. Santhosh probably wanted the same thing and they met the next day at a mutual friend’s music store. They became fast friends and were soon inseparable. This was 10 years ago, before Sabari had had a sex-change operation, before she turned Kalki and founded the Sahodari Foundation, an organisation aimed towards the socio-economic advancement of the transgender community in Tamil Nadu.
Now in their early 30s, Kalki and Santhosh are still going strong. Their families have known each other from the first day that Kalki presented Santhosh with one of her watercolours. “When his mother saw the painting, she wanted to meet me. Since then, our families are good friends,” she says.
Kalki began her activism in her teens and was named one of the ten youth icons of Chennai by Ananda Vikatan, a popular Tamil magazine, earlier this year. She also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lioness Club of Chennai last year. After an MA in Journalism and Mass Communication from Madurai University, Kalki is now pursuing a second MA in International Relations from Annamalai University. Santhosh has his own agricultural business. They meet every day but have chosen not to live together. “In the beginning when we used to live in the same conservative town, we lived with our respective families. And even though I am now living on my own, we like to keep it that way. Living together has its own traps and although he is my soulmate, we don’t want to feel bound to each other,” says Kalki.
Kalki recalls their first kiss with a blush. “It was a full moon night. He took me out for a bike ride very far from our town. I took the chance to ask him if he would marry me if I changed my sex and became a woman. He said yes and he kissed me soon after,” she says. Kalki and Santhosh have no plans of marrying any time soon. “We have our individual identities. I am a social worker and activist and am involved in cultural projects as well,” says Kalki who will soon make her celluloid debut in a Tamil film. “It is just enough for us to know that we want to be together,” she says.
“I can draw an entire map of romance trails in Delhi,” says Ponni Arasu. The 25-year-old lawyer is one of the key organisers of Delhi’s Queer Pride March. Her fondest memories of the city are of the years when she had just come out of the closet. “I came out to my parents in my first year of college at Lady Shriram. I’d fallen in love with a girl and I told my mother about it,” says Arasu.
With her partner, Priya Thangarajah, 27, she has been running around to finalise every small detail for the march. Although Delhi celebrates its second Pride March today, Arasu and Priya remember another day in October 2005, when Anjuman, a queer collective in JNU, organised the Pink Triangle Day, where about 40-50 students marched with a big triangle in pink and the rainbow flag. “That was the first Pride March on the campus. I met Priya through a friend while I was at JNU and both of us had formed Anjuman with other queer students. JNU at that time was not completely okay with alternative sexuality,” says Arasu. In the midst of the university’s political turbulence, where queer groups joined the Left-wing to edge out the right-wing puritans, Arasu and Priya found each other and stayed together.
It’s been over five years since then. And although they’re based in Bangalore now, Delhi holds memories of finding each other and charting their love in the streets of CR Park, the dirt tracks at Lodhi Garden and the old lanes leading up to Jama Masjid. “The city is full of little corners, of memories. To sit on the steps of Jama Masjid, holding hands with my lover, in an atmosphere where homosexuality is viewed as a sin, I cannot begin to describe the thrill,” says Arasu.
But along with the experience of discovering love in the city, what has kept Arasu and Priya busy is the need to create queer spaces in the city. Arasu was instrumental in creating Nigah, a cultural queer collective in. “Back then, Sarai used to organise the Siddharth Gautam Film Festival where queer films used to be screened and it was quite the thing, to take somebody there and patao them. Today when we see an auditorium filled with over 200 people at the Nigah Film Festival, it’s a great feeling. We’re coming full circle,” says Arasu.
A LOT CAN HAPPEN OVER COFFEE
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single gay man in possession of good sense must ask another out for a cup of coffee. One day, at a meeting at Good As You (GAY), a social queer group in the city, Mayank noticed a young man being rather vocal about his opinions during a group discussion. A business card was exchanged but no calls were forthcoming. Mayank decided to step up to the plate and asked the young man out, only to be refused. “That’s because I couldn’t handle the surprise of being asked out,” says Shankar, who made up for his blunder by fixing up a meeting with Mayank the next evening. “That was on 26 September 2004 and we have been meeting each other every day since then,” says Mayank. Their tradition of the coffee date continues as they celebrate this year’s Pride March in Bangalore.
Corny as it sounds, the path of true love has never been easy. Mayank was married at 25, the marriage did not last. Coming out was not only a priority, it had become a necessity. “I had to come out to myself, my family in order to set my life (in order) and my sexual priorities. So here I was gay, divorced and a new born person,” he says. An entrepreneur in the service industry, he did not let his divorce deter him and has chosen to share his experience with queer friends, counselling those who come to GAY.
For someone who had no plans of coming out, explaining homosexuality to his parents in the vernacular was an experience Shankar, a consultant in a multi-national corporation, had not bargained for. “But my involvement in the GAY activities busted myths of homosexuality. The pressure of getting married and lying to a girl I was supposed to meet convinced me to come out of the closet,” he says.
In the meantime, their relationship has gone from strength to strength. They spread their coffee dates across the city —Koshy’s,
Airlines Restaurant and Caramel. Sometimes, they also go to a party at one of Bangalore’s premier club houses, while meeting for movies and plays. “We make sure we go on one holiday a year. We have recently been to Shanghai. We also do domestic trips that ranges from my native Ajmer to his native Trichy,” says Mayank. While Mayank likes Shankar’s practical head, what ties the latter to Mayank is his patience and calm.
And being in Bangalore has been a blessing, affirms the couple. “People are neutral to the entire concept. Although there have been stray instances of extortion, majority of the people live in peace. There is no concept of a ‘gay couple’ still in India. So, we don’t portray that identity as we go along. Any gay explorer will find his way in the city. Bangalore lets an individual live his identity. One chooses either to be in disguise or be out there in open,” say the boys.
All we can say: Those looking for love, don’t kick the power of ’em magic beans. (Names changed on request)
Govt works to repeal law against homosexuality
Amitabh Sinha Posted online: Sunday , Jun 28, 2009 at 0303 hrs
New Delhi : The government is said to be actively working to “repeal” the controversial Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code — drafted in Victorian India — that criminalises homosexuality.
Highly places sources confirmed to The Sunday Express that Home Minister P Chidambaram, Law Minister M Veerappa Moily and Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad are scheduled to meet soon to evolve a consensus on the repeal.
“This section is an absurdity in today’s world. The government will certainly move to repeal it,” said a top government functionary.
The previous UPA government was unable to come to a conclusion following stiff resistance from former Home Minister Shivraj Patil and sections of the Congress’s allies with some of them arguing that certain communities were strongly opposed to lifting the ban on the grounds of religion.
A petition challenging the section is pending in the Delhi High Court. While some have challenged it on medical grounds arguing that the ban prevents many gays from receiving AIDS treatment, others have said that it’s discriminatory and, therefore, a violation of human rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
The previous Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss had favoured legalising homosexuality and removing discrimination against other vulnerable sections like sex workers to contain the spread of HIV. Patil, on the other hand, had said that such a move would increase criminalisation and encourage child abuse.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh then directed the ministers to resolve their differences. The High Court, too, told the government to sort out the matter at the earliest.
With both Patil and Ramadoss and some of the allies who opposed the ban out of the way, sources said, decks have now been cleared.
Chidambaram and Moily are known to be firmly in favour of striking down the law. Azad’s views are not clearly known but sources said he was unlikely to oppose the move.
“It should have been done long ago. The provisions are beyond any reason or logic. But now since there is a consensus emerging on the issue, the decision to repeal is only a matter of time,” said the source.
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