Same-sex love stories: I have always enjoyed reading, watching love stories since the time I was a teen. It took me a lot of time to realise that romantic love as shown in our films and media is far removed from reality and heavily misogynistic. The literature was a brief succour but most of the books I read had the female protagonist suffering in silence because she rebelled in love. I almost thought that it will take us ages before we portray authentic love which is not about conquest but about sharing and mutuality. A love that stands on strengths and vulnerabilities of both the partners without one person trading their authenticity to be acceptable in love. It is when by pure happenstance, I came across queer love stories.
Once I started reading them, I realised how they were better than most of the conventional heteronormative, girl meets boy – love stories that I have read or watched previously. Many of the stories I read had a gripping plot, amazing character development, and triggered genuine emotions within me. The stories that wove out the love between two men or two women felt just as precious as the love between a man and a woman. But why weren’t these spectacular books being adapted to films or getting mainstream recognition? Why were Bollywood heartthrobs stuck playing straight men and women over and over again?
The answer is that same-sex love stories are seen as weird and dirty. Cis-het people are oddly obsessed with queer people’s genitals and sex life. The disgust they feel towards same-sex couples is also almost always accompanied by a strange curiosity. That is the reason whenever there is news of a desi same-sex couple getting married, the comment section will be filled with jokes and inappropriate questions about oral or anal sex. This reflects people’s inability to see queer people as people. They view same-sex love through the filter of filth and perversion.
While the dislike towards same-sex love stories is expected from homophobes who lack sexual education and empathy, I have also seen a similar dislike from LGBTQ+ allies. It came as a surprise to me when a reader narrated her experience.
“I was once talking to a friend about a same-sex love story that I particularly loved, and his face immediately contorted to show disgust. He was very vocal about his support for the queer community, and so the reaction was definitely odd. He grimaced and said, “Are you one of those?” I later found out that by “those”, he meant women who consume gay content. According to him, it was a well-known fact that straight women fetishised gay relationships and gay men. To him, women creating or consuming gay content meant that they were using gay men as mere objects to play out their wild desires.”
Truth be told, I was swayed for some time after listening to her. It is unfortunate to see the contradiction in our behavior – we are as much titillated by it as we are repulsed by it.
Love is love. Gay, lesbian, or straight, it is a universal emotion that can be felt by all humans. Gay love stories do not exist to cater to the straight woman’s fantasies. Many gay men, lesbian women, non-binary people, and even straight men consume them (even if they do not admit to it as easily). While there are women who definitely fetishise gay relationships and are homophobic, labeling the entire genre as “fetishist” is reductive. It makes it seem like gay love stories exist to please straight people and centers the entire discussion around them. By doing this, we are kicking actual queer people out of the space that is meant for them and filling that void with more opinions from other straight people.
Gay love stories are love stories. Thinking that same-sex love stories are just filth reflects the homophobia hidden within you. Representation matters. Especially if you come from a community that has to clutch on to the measly nod that mainstream media gives you. Imagine being a queer child and seeing such opinions on social media. How would you feel if the only representation of your love is being labeled as erotically stimulating? Gay people deserve to love and be loved. They deserve to have their stories told and their love accepted and encouraged. It doesn’t matter if you are straight. As long as you can see queer people as people regardless of gender and sexual orientation, consuming queer love stories does not make you a fetishist.
Pallavi Barnwal is a certified sexuality coach and founder of a sex-positive platform Get Intimacy. She has been featured as a sexpert in publications such as Huffington Post, India Today, Vogue, The Hindu, Dainik Bhaskar, Indian Express, Times Of India, BBC, Deccan Chronicle, Femina and more. She specialises in helping people gain courage to talk openly about sex and relationships and equipping them with actionable tips and skills so they can start having more pleasure both inside and outside their bedroom. The views expressed are the author’s own.