I have had a fairly traditional upbringing and back in school there was always an emphasis on ‘responsibilities’ instead of ‘rights’. It was not surprising as many think of their children as an extension of themselves and hence do not really feel the need to inculcate an idea of individuality in them.
First time I heard the term ‘Gay’ was either at home or school. It was used in a joke. As my family follows a Hindu tradition (unlike Abrahamic religions), ‘Gays’ or “Homosexuals” were not viewed with as much revile but we made fun of them alright.
I myself grew up thinking about them as not “quite right”. Sometimes I wondered if they were unnatural or just confused about themselves. I heard many arguments “for” and “against” but honestly I did not really care.
At some stage I thought that the term “live and let live” had a lot of wisdom attached to it. This meant I respected that individuals had the right to live their life the way they wanted.
I empathised with women’s rights strongly because I saw how friends and family members of the female gender, folded under patriarchal expectations and treated unfairly. But I never fully empathised with gay people. I knew no one who was gay.
Then a friend who I had lost contact with for a couple years told me he was gay in an online chat. It was unnerving for a second. I mean I used to hang out with this guy. But as a good friend and partly due to curiosity, I ended up saying I was not going to judge his life style. I remember saying “You are who you are” – whatever that meant but I felt it the right thing to say.
He told me how he was conflicted with his choices for years. Sometimes himself not sure what he was because it was socially and culturally unacceptable. He had not told his parents and probably never will. It would be too upsetting for them. He probably had not told most of his friends either – it would have been too embarrassing. He was almost apologetic while telling me and that got me thinking.
I suddenly felt how difficult it is for gay people. They are literally made to live in ‘shame’ and ‘secrecy’. They are forced to marry and ruin their lives not to mention their spouses. And then it struck me. I never chose to like women, it was just natural. Surely what gay people feel is natural as I doubt they deliberately choose a sexual orientation that literally pushes them to the fringes of society and also make them generally despised by even friends and family members.
Here is why I find some arguments against gays pretty useless
- Gays are unnatural: Well there is enough evidence to show homosexual behavior in nature exits. But let start with what is natural first. If procreation is natural then all people who are celibates are unnatural. I do not see people protesting against anyone right to be celibate so why in this case?
- Gays are against Family system: In western countries with over 40% of children growing up with single parents at some point of time, it really is not much of an argument in favor of family doing a great job. Indians might feel their family systems are intact but even here the divorce rates are rising and its not uncommon to see children with a single parent growing up normally.
- Gays are not allowed in religion: I find it a little dangerous that some are trying to impose religious ideology on other people who do not want to follow it. As an atheist myself, I cannot buy this argument which someday can be used by religious zealots to attack me saying my disbelief in the idea of god or their religion is grounds to make my views illegal.
So now as someone who thinks that individuals have a right to live their life just as the way they want to, I support gays and lesbians their rights to be individuals.