Homosexual sex is a crime in India. Again.

What a terrible day. An emerging superpower, home to well over a billion people, taking such an appallingly retrograde step. My thoughts are with the Indian LGBT community.

NDTV reports:

The Supreme Court today said gay sex between consenting adults remains a criminal offence, dealing a severe blow to the largely closeted homosexual community in India.

The top court today said that the Delhi High court’s 2009 order decriminalising homosexuality is constitutionally unsustainable.

Activists say the onus is now on Parliament to legislate on homosexuality and repeal Section 377, a British pre-colonial era law that banned “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”. Conviction carries a fine and a maximum 10-year jail sentence.

Although prosecutions have been rare, gay activists have said that the police used the law to harass and intimidate members of their community.

Transphobia Wins Tropfest

As a card-carrying member of the PC Police, I’m bemused and, frankly, disgusted by the film that has won Tropfest (apparently the world’s largest short film festival). If you take a moment to watch it, you’ll notice that ‘Bamboozled’ is blatantly transphobic and homophobic. As though that wasn’t enough, its punchline involves broadcasting the victim of non-consensual sex on live TV.

Basically, a guy called Peter meets his ex-girlfriend who has transitioned and is now a man called Harry. He’s initially a bit bemused, but they go drinking together, have a romantic evening with lots of booze and kebabs, and end up in bed. So far so humourless, stereotyped and generic. But THEN, when they wake up in the morning, Harry reveals that he’s not actually trans at all and a camera crew bursts into the room with the actual ex, still definitely a woman, and they all yell and laugh at Peter, pull off the sheets and film him naked. It turns out Harry has been the victim of a Candid Camera-type show and his vengeful ex-girlfriend has orchestrated the whole thing. It’s funny, see. Do you get it? It’s funny. You know, like Helen says:

AND NOW, YOU SLEPT WITH A GUY! Hahahahahahaha

Yes, because a man sleeping with another man is the worst thing that could ever happen.

The director, Matt Hardie, has refused to acknowledge that his film is offensive and plays on intensely dangerous stereotyping, explaining that “if we’re always worried about who we’re offending, we’re never going to make anything decent… ” You know what, Matt? You haven’t made anything decent. This film has no comedic value. The “you’ve been bamboozled” trope is incredibly tired and wasn’t really that funny to begin with. All you’ve done is add a twist that plays on incredibly harmful perceptions of trans and gay people. Incidentally, the Tropfest judges should also have to answer for this.

What you’re telling us, Matt, is that the LGBT community is a joke, a punchline, to be used at will by cheap filmmakers like you. Your film is a big in-joke for all the cis, heterosexual homophobes and transphobes out there who get to laugh together at how terrible it would be to have sex with people of the same gender and, by extension, to mock those who do. If there’s an extra layer of comedic subtlety that I’m missing, please do let me know.

If you want to produce something hilarious and thought-provoking exploring the reality of LGBT experience, I look forward to it. For now, your jokes are bad, they’re harmful, and I’m offended by them. 

Pokarekare Ana

New Zealand’s first same-sex weddings took place today. An excellent reason to revisit the breathtaking moment in April when the parliament voted to amend the Marriage Act and the public gallery burst into a Maori love song. I can’t be the only one who weeps uncontrollably whenever I watch it…right?

 

It’s a tough news week, but the world is often beautiful and people often good. Honest.

Dervla Murphy on gay adoption

Dervla Murphy on gay adoption

While sail-railing from London to Dublin yesterday, I read Dervla Murphy’s ‘The Island that Dared: Journeys in Cuba‘.

Discussing revolutionary Cuba’s infamous homophobia and a recent proposal to extend family rights, including adoption rights, to gay Cubans, Murphy announces the following:

“It must be admitted that I, if Cuban, would oppose the adoption clause. Growing up in the twenty-first century will be confusing enough without having unisex parents.”

Casual dismissal of LGBT rights (for the sake of the children, naturally!) is always something of a kick in the teeth. Coming from Murphy, who was widely criticised for choosing single motherhood in 1960s Ireland, the hypocrisy is especially galling. Murphy was and remains (quite rightly) defiant about her own non-traditional family. It’s so disappointing that she can’t extend so much as understanding to couples facing almost identical prejudice and intolerance.

Incidentally, her daughter Rachel (not just raised by a single parent, but brought trekking in India at five) appears in ‘Island that Dared’, aged 36 and with three daughters of her own. She seems well-adjusted and content with her lot, as the children of loving parents generally are.

Allies, Assholes and Morgan Freeman

 

This has appeared time and again in my Facebook and Twitter feeds over the last few days. Like everyone else, when I read this in Morgan Freeman’s voice it’s spoken with a world-weary wisdom. However, when I read it in my voice, I’m not sure I support the sentiment.

In our society, in many ways, homosexuality is scary.

Those brought up in religious homes have a lifetime of association of homosexuality with sin, hell and disgust.

All of us have been raised within stringent gender roles, and very often criticised if we veered outside them.

Many of us went to schools where ‘gay’ was the catch-all term for anything bad or distasteful.

Irresponsible voices in the media still conflate homosexuality and AIDS.

Most governments still send a message that homosexuality is regrettable through their failure to legislate for marriage equality, adoption and protection of ‘gay families’.

Coming out is an achievement because it’s really frightening. It’s reasonable to be afraid of rejection by family or friends, judgement from co-workers or acquaintances, of verbal or physical attacks if you express your sexuality in public, of losing access to the social ideal of marriage and family.

For a parent, the prospect of these challenges for one’s child is frightening.

Obviously, I don’t think there’s any excuse for aggressive behaviour or denial of rights based on this fear. Those who engage in overt acts of homophobia and incite others to do the same are monstrous and their actions are unforgivable.

However, there’s a reason that so often LGBT equality campaigns focus on the personal stories of gay people, and depend on their advocates to come out and put a face on homosexuality. Overcoming the messages that have been forced on you for your entire life is difficult. Yet vast numbers of parents who initially struggle with a child’s sexuality go on to becoming entirely and defiantly supportive. I think they should be commended for that.

It hurts like hell anytime some homophobia happens to you, I know that. But many of those we call homophobes live with discomfort with gay family or friends, never get the opportunity to befriend and fully interact with gay people or, at worst, live repressed and unhappy lives unable to acknowledge their own sexuality. They are also victims of the hateful legacy of homophobia. I think that we all benefit if before condemning them we create an opportunity for them to jump on the enlightened, gay-friendly bandwagon and become allies.

Sadly, people are less likely to be your allies if you’ve previously called them assholes.