Thursday, October 21, 2010

As women you’re not supposed to possess desire, let alone ‘alternative’ desire

Next month, Sumati Kaul will take part in her third annual ‘Gay Pride march’ in India. And for the first time since she began telling some friends and associates that she is a lesbian, she is planning to do so without a mask. As recently as July, when smaller marches were held in several cities, she kept on her mask and avoided the cameras. “I didn’t want my family to see me on television,” said the 31-year-old software company manager. But then the social pressures faced by many women — to marry, to be a dutiful wife, to bear children and carry on the family line — hit her with special force, given her sexual orientation, and forced her hand. Coming out to her family was, in one sense, a relief, and she earns enough from her job to continue living independently in Delhi without help from her relatives.  “My family won’t talk to me, and my uncles will either force me into a marriage or kill me,” she said, in a matter-of-fact tone. She sees no possibility of reconciliation. “To my uncles and my father, ‘lesbian’ is a dirty word,” she said. “Unless I get married, there’s no way back for me.” As she spoke, her partner listened, nodding. She, too, will be in the gay pride march next month, but she will keep her mask on. Her family lives nearby in Delhi and is even more conservative than Sumati’s.

When lesbians think their safety depends on invisibility. By Nilanjana S Roy

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