'Desi' gay man (I've been told I'm no longer a boy, sigh!) in the American Midwest, still not used to being away from frenetic Bombay (hate calling it 'Mumbai'!), but here I am.
Schizophrenic, beware. Closetalk = Confessions, Confusion, Connotations, Conundrums, ...
So, I'm supposed to see K.Jo's new movie Dostana with Stephen when he hits New York City later this year. While the movie's been much-hyped about being the first gay Indian movie yadayadayada, to tell you the truth, I've kind-of thought the promos looked a bit... well,... homophobic. The usual stuff about "haha, laugh at the pansy gay guy!" crap. And that's felt weird, what with me being a long-time fan of K.Jo, even before his Koffee With Karan days - which was a fag-ulous show, by the way!
But then, I get an email this morning from SnowWhite's Stepmom with the lyrics of Dostana's newly released song. And no, even though my knowledge of Punjabi is terribly rusty as best (and non-existant at worst), I didn't need to really know the language very well to understand that this is K.Jo at his tongue-and-cheek best! :)
So, yes, I really, AM looking forward to NYC movie-time with Stephen in December now!
And, in more serious news, this was MSNBC anchor Keith Albermann's emotional reaction to Proposition 8 last week...
Nice, Keith... but perhaps a bit too late?
Next Up: Closetalk's shenanigans on Halloween '08!!!
And that's the argument here in the United States by many as well: it's not 'our culture'. By 'culture', I mean that Barbie-Ken perfect marriage in the perfect suburban home with white picket fences, and large boisterous families replete with bratty kids. For so many Americans, the word 'marriage' has a special sanctity that they are loath to see embraced by non-traditional folks. And if that cultural block is the real deal here, then is it really fair to spew about minorities like the African-Americans and Hispanics who, because of their traditional stress on family values, have apparently been blamed by No on 8 activists for voting for proposition?... So there we are back again: the age-old tussle between traditional and not-so-traditional, culture the brick wall versus culture the shape-shifter that we academics (and it seems, not many others) believe in.
To be sure, there are brick walls on either side. There are many determined gay rights activists here who will settle for nothing short of Gay Marriage in capital letters. It has been suggested that activists should compromise for civil unions with similar legal benefits, rather than insist on the Big M - as was the case in Florida, for instance. There have been suggestions that perhaps with his new-found majority in the US Congress and Senate, Obama might be able to bring in a federal mandate on civil unions - something like they have in Britain. But, again, I'm not holding my breath for that. Not least because I'm sure there will be several gay activists who will oppose that too...
And I'm not sure I can blame them.
Isn't it just another case of (excuse my use of academese) Othering? Isn't it a case of "No, you're fags, and we don't care if you want to call your union a 'marriage', even though we all grew up in the same cultural space, believing that marriage was the be-all and end-all of life, but you still can't have it, cuz it's ours, so you have to be satisfied with a civil union"? The irony of the whole culture-thing of course is in that fictional retort of mine: it doesn't matter that marriage has been so completely sanctified (by religion, state policies, whatever!) for ALL Americans, gay and straight, but marriage with a capital M cannot be granted to anyone not... traditional.
Where am I going with this, and why do I care? To tell the truth, I haven't really ever looked forward to getting married - well, at least, not since I was 14 in Calcutta and dreamed of that fabulous garden wedding and me in a yummy sherwani (yep, the dominant theme of my dream wedding was my wardrobe!). The most I've hoped for in my adult life has been... to find someone to fall in love with, who loves me back, so that we can be happy for a long, long time. It's been the romance angle with me, not too much the legality - perhaps, quite simply, because I never saw any scope of that legal framework back in India. It's been some 1-year-three-months for me here in the US, and to be honest, I don't see a legal framework happening here either. Even though I would love to live in New York City, I don't see myself moving there just cuz I can get my Connecticut-sanctioned marriage approved there. But I don't count, since I'm an alien (legally speaking!) in the country.
The people who do count are those like Irish Coffee, who's infuriated that if he were to marry, he would not enjoy any legal benefits or rights. He rants about moving to Canada pretty much in the same vein as a bunch of people were, when asked about a seemingly-stupid scenario now, if Obama were not elected. People like Stephen, who emailed his friends' parents, trying to get them to vote no on proposition 8. And so many others like them.
To all of them, I say (cornily enough): lick your wounds, and come back to the ring boys; it's going to be a long haul. I'm Indian, I know all about waiting it out.