R Raj Rao On Various Intricacies and the Lived Reality of Indian Queer
“In everyday speech queer, gay, lesbian and possibly even the word homosexual are used interchangeably but for me, each of these words connote a different idea. Homosexual is a preference and it means that for such a person their sexual preference does not really become a part of their identity and most likely such people are in the closet,” believes India’s leading gay-rights activist and queer theorist, R Raj Rao.
Rao recently wrote a book—Criminal Love?—which delves into the various intricacies of the lived reality of the Indian queer against the backdrop of a set of theories. He is openly gay for the last 40 years and is the first and only gay theorist who is writing on India’s gay life for the past three decades.
‘I should be allowed to marry people of my own gender. And everything that marriage entails like monogamy and fidelity etc will also apply for me’
On Distinction between Queer and Gay
He distinguishes between queer and gay and tells Shethepeople.TV in a free-wheeling conversation, “Queer people are trying to destabilize normativity whereas gay people are merely substituting hetero-normativity with another kind of norm. For example, there are gay people who say that they are like any other heterosexual people in every way except that their sexual preference is for people of their own gender. ‘I should be allowed be allowed to marry people of my own gender. And everything that marriage entails like monogamy and fidelity etc will also apply for me’.”
“the word queer suggests de-structuring societal norms. It means that people who are queer not necessarily advocate marriage, monogamy, etc.”
“Whereas the word queer suggests de-structuring societal norms. It means that people who are queer not necessarily advocate marriage, monogamy, etc. As Michel Foucault says one is really looking for a lifestyle change. The homosexuals can also want to follow the mainstream lifestyle while Queer people don’t,” he added.
On common misconceptions related to genders
LGBTQ is still a fresh idea for a larger population in India. The amount of awareness that LGBTQ groups have brought in the recent past is still quite new and people have numerous misconceptions about the different ideas of identity and gender. Rao points out some of the most common misconceptions related to genders other than men and woman. “There is this widespread idea that LGBTQ people are after sex and are incapable of loving. When people talk about gay or queer both, they believe that they give privilege to lust over love which heterosexual people apparently don’t.”
“But I am skeptical. I will wait for the SC to put a ban on it before celebrating. Since we have had this shock in 2013 so let it happen and then I will celebrate. Because in terms of practical life it should go and then we will not be criminals anymore.”
“If you see how homosexual relations happen in India or elsewhere, they happen in a very impersonal manner. So the idea of dating as one does normally, to know each other first. etc that doesn’t work. This is one of the main misconceptions which is not true.”
Secondly, he talks about how people believe that gay people are responsible for the spread of HIV AIDS. And the third myth he talks about is that people think that homosexuality is a western concept. “This is completely untrue as homosexuality was never criminal prior to British colonialism. In fact earlier during the Islamic period and the Hindu India, we had a kind of romantic pluralism.”
On Section 377
On Supreme Court’s order of re-examining Section 377 he says that it would be great if the court outlaws it. “But I am skeptical. I will wait for the SC to put a ban on it before celebrating. Since we have had this shock in 2013 so let it happen and then I will celebrate. Because in terms of practical life it should go and then we will not be criminals anymore.”