Why Should Straight People Care About Gay Rights?

February 23, 2016 Written By Harnidh Kaur

Whenever I bring about the age-old 'gay agenda' on the table again, the question people ask me is, 'why?' They’re not homophobic, and they're not intolerant. They’re simply unaware. Their ‘why’ doesn’t equate to ‘why do you support gay rights?’ but it was more on the lines of, ‘why do you need to be openly vocal about something that doesn’t directly impact you?’

What escapes their understanding is the importance of an ally. Now, what, exactly, is an ally? An ally, in this context, is anyone who believes that heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia are all social justice issues. An ally confronts heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heterosexual and genderstraight privilege in themselves and others. In short, anyone who believes in empathy, equality, and dignity for all is a good ally.

Now, there are many reasons a straight person would identify as an ally. Why am I emphasizing on ‘straight’? Because when a majority that is considered superior, and is, hence, inherently more powerful, comes to the fore and publicly declares support for an oppressed minority’s cause, it sends out a powerful message. The message of solidarity. There’s one section, in particular, whose support is imperative for movements demanding social justice.

The straight man.

why-should-straight-people-care

Image Source

In India, at this very moment, a straight man who is anywhere between 18 and 50 is socially the most powerful creature. He appears to be the microcosm of patriarchy, religious might, and political prowess. He has everything going for him. His voice counts. More importantly, his voice is heard, loud and clear, above all others. If a straight man backs a cause, it becomes relevant. You might ask me why I’m using a platform dedicated to LGBTQ people to speak to the section that could very well be typecast as ‘oppressors’. It’s simple. Because, well, they aren’t.

‘Man’ and ‘patriarchy’ have become synonymous. Patriarchy hates homosexuality. Ergo, it is assumed, by both public at large, and men themselves, that they must hate anyone who tries to establish an identity outside the narrow confines of ‘man’, and ‘woman.’ While popular perception categorizes men as merely the ‘propagators’ of patriarchy, it fails to realize the fact that men, are, in fact, victims of the same too.

So, in this context, we take straight people, both men and women, as one side, and LGBTQ people as the other. We need to create a meeting ground where both parties see benefit from supporting a common cause. The benefit for LGBTQ people is inherent. But altruism will only take straight allies so far. So, how exactly do straight men and women benefit from supporting LGBTQ rights in India?

To understand this benefit, we need to understand why homosexuality terrifies patriarchy. Patriarchy is roughly defined as a social system in which males hold primary power in all spheres. In order to give this idea weight, there are certain behaviors and abilities (or disabilities) attributed to both the genders. Now, this demarcation will only work when both the genders believe that they’re the only ones that exist.

What happens when homosexuality is considered ‘normal’?

Patriarchy falters.

Most of the derogatory words you use for people who identify as LGBTQ are drawn from the fact that these men and women don’t adhere to the set definitions that patriarchy has created for them. The ideas of femininity and masculinity are so very stratified that any movement away from them creates an incredible identity crisis in the observers themselves. If you look up ‘masculine’ in the dictionary, you get these words: macho, manly, muscular, well built, rugged, robust, brawny. If you look up feminine: womanly, womanlike, ladylike, girlish, female, delicate, gentle, soft.

Image Source

Look back on the words you deem derogatory, and compare them to this list. What do you see? Intolerance. The idea of men being capable of delicacy, or of women being muscular is so very intolerable to patriarchy that it refuses to acknowledge, and even actively persecutes those who refuse to abide by these standards. It limits people, and prevents them from growing up into holistic, actualized human beings. It creates a paradigm in which gender is two opposing polarities, and not a continuum. The real life implications go beyond inane ideas like the normalization of men wearing makeup.

The fact that the Indian Penal Code understands ‘rape’ as something a man inflicts upon a woman. Men are seen as incapable of being victims, because patriarchy understands them as aggressors. The fact that roughly 4.6% women are CEOs doesn’t stem from the fact that women are not as worthy as men. It stems from the fact that women are not seen as capable as men. The fact that men don’t get paternity leave draws from the fact that it’s unmasculine for a man to be as invested in his own child as the woman is. The fact that a feminine woman is perceived as weak.

All these, in fact, stem from patriarchy.

So what happens when you support LGBTQ rights, and actively vocalize your support for the same? You help create acceptance for fluidity. By erasure of rigid social expectations that the queer movement inherently can’t abide by, you’re creating a softer world. In a world where heteronormativity and cis-superiority doesn’t exist, people, irrespective of their chosen orientation, are equal. Laws against discrimination will come into place fill the vacuum created by the removal of laws that foster discrimination. With the inequality being seen as a problem instead of a norm, policies that push for egalitarianism will come to the fore.

The concept of ‘the banality of evil’ states that terrible, inhuman crimes are not necessarily committed by psychopaths and sadists, but, often, by normal, sane and ordinary human beings who perform their tasks with a bureaucratic diligence, believing that they are simply being ‘good citizens’. It’s a normalization of oppression, and that of an unhealthy status quo. How many of you here have called a man ‘gay’ for being effeminate? And how many of you have shirked away from a transgender on the streets? *That* is the banality of evil in our context. How do we solve it? By acknowledging the fact that it exists, and being conscious of it.

We don’t have all the answers, but then, no one else does too. No one had answers when they wanted to eliminate racial discrimination, and no one knew how universal voting rights would impact politics. But what’s the common thread here?

A belief. A belief in doing the right thing. That’s all we have, and honestly, that might just be enough.

Why Should Straight People Care About Gay Rights?

February 23, 2016 Written By Harnidh Kaur

Whenever I bring about the age-old 'gay agenda' on the table again, the question people ask me is, 'why?' They’re not homophobic, and they're not intolerant. They’re simply unaware. Their ‘why’ doesn’t equate to ‘why do you support gay rights?’ but it was more on the lines of, ‘why do you need to be openly vocal about something that doesn’t directly impact you?’

What escapes their understanding is the importance of an ally. Now, what, exactly, is an ally? An ally, in this context, is anyone who believes that heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia are all social justice issues. An ally confronts heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heterosexual and genderstraight privilege in themselves and others. In short, anyone who believes in empathy, equality, and dignity for all is a good ally.

Now, there are many reasons a straight person would identify as an ally. Why am I emphasizing on ‘straight’? Because when a majority that is considered superior, and is, hence, inherently more powerful, comes to the fore and publicly declares support for an oppressed minority’s cause, it sends out a powerful message. The message of solidarity. There’s one section, in particular, whose support is imperative for movements demanding social justice.

The straight man.

why-should-straight-people-care

Image Source

In India, at this very moment, a straight man who is anywhere between 18 and 50 is socially the most powerful creature. He appears to be the microcosm of patriarchy, religious might, and political prowess. He has everything going for him. His voice counts. More importantly, his voice is heard, loud and clear, above all others. If a straight man backs a cause, it becomes relevant. You might ask me why I’m using a platform dedicated to LGBTQ people to speak to the section that could very well be typecast as ‘oppressors’. It’s simple. Because, well, they aren’t.

‘Man’ and ‘patriarchy’ have become synonymous. Patriarchy hates homosexuality. Ergo, it is assumed, by both public at large, and men themselves, that they must hate anyone who tries to establish an identity outside the narrow confines of ‘man’, and ‘woman.’ While popular perception categorizes men as merely the ‘propagators’ of patriarchy, it fails to realize the fact that men, are, in fact, victims of the same too.

So, in this context, we take straight people, both men and women, as one side, and LGBTQ people as the other. We need to create a meeting ground where both parties see benefit from supporting a common cause. The benefit for LGBTQ people is inherent. But altruism will only take straight allies so far. So, how exactly do straight men and women benefit from supporting LGBTQ rights in India?

To understand this benefit, we need to understand why homosexuality terrifies patriarchy. Patriarchy is roughly defined as a social system in which males hold primary power in all spheres. In order to give this idea weight, there are certain behaviors and abilities (or disabilities) attributed to both the genders. Now, this demarcation will only work when both the genders believe that they’re the only ones that exist.

What happens when homosexuality is considered ‘normal’?

Patriarchy falters.

Most of the derogatory words you use for people who identify as LGBTQ are drawn from the fact that these men and women don’t adhere to the set definitions that patriarchy has created for them. The ideas of femininity and masculinity are so very stratified that any movement away from them creates an incredible identity crisis in the observers themselves. If you look up ‘masculine’ in the dictionary, you get these words: macho, manly, muscular, well built, rugged, robust, brawny. If you look up feminine: womanly, womanlike, ladylike, girlish, female, delicate, gentle, soft.

Image Source

Look back on the words you deem derogatory, and compare them to this list. What do you see? Intolerance. The idea of men being capable of delicacy, or of women being muscular is so very intolerable to patriarchy that it refuses to acknowledge, and even actively persecutes those who refuse to abide by these standards. It limits people, and prevents them from growing up into holistic, actualized human beings. It creates a paradigm in which gender is two opposing polarities, and not a continuum. The real life implications go beyond inane ideas like the normalization of men wearing makeup.

The fact that the Indian Penal Code understands ‘rape’ as something a man inflicts upon a woman. Men are seen as incapable of being victims, because patriarchy understands them as aggressors. The fact that roughly 4.6% women are CEOs doesn’t stem from the fact that women are not as worthy as men. It stems from the fact that women are not seen as capable as men. The fact that men don’t get paternity leave draws from the fact that it’s unmasculine for a man to be as invested in his own child as the woman is. The fact that a feminine woman is perceived as weak.

All these, in fact, stem from patriarchy.

So what happens when you support LGBTQ rights, and actively vocalize your support for the same? You help create acceptance for fluidity. By erasure of rigid social expectations that the queer movement inherently can’t abide by, you’re creating a softer world. In a world where heteronormativity and cis-superiority doesn’t exist, people, irrespective of their chosen orientation, are equal. Laws against discrimination will come into place fill the vacuum created by the removal of laws that foster discrimination. With the inequality being seen as a problem instead of a norm, policies that push for egalitarianism will come to the fore.

The concept of ‘the banality of evil’ states that terrible, inhuman crimes are not necessarily committed by psychopaths and sadists, but, often, by normal, sane and ordinary human beings who perform their tasks with a bureaucratic diligence, believing that they are simply being ‘good citizens’. It’s a normalization of oppression, and that of an unhealthy status quo. How many of you here have called a man ‘gay’ for being effeminate? And how many of you have shirked away from a transgender on the streets? *That* is the banality of evil in our context. How do we solve it? By acknowledging the fact that it exists, and being conscious of it.

We don’t have all the answers, but then, no one else does too. No one had answers when they wanted to eliminate racial discrimination, and no one knew how universal voting rights would impact politics. But what’s the common thread here?

A belief. A belief in doing the right thing. That’s all we have, and honestly, that might just be enough.

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