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Dear Ravi Shankar, Homosexuality Is Not a ‘Tendency’, Bigotry Is

An open letter to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on what homosexuality really is, so that the cult guru can have a rethink. 

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Dear Sri Sri Ravi Shankar,

Are your lungs a ‘tendency’? Your liver, your consciousness, your perspective – all are perhaps just another one of those ‘tendencies’ you speak of. The same kind of ‘tendency’ that homosexuality is. And to my surprise it was not just the JNU student that had this ‘tendency’ but 1,500 other known species apparently have it too.

But I am sure, like you said while addressing the JNU students – “I’ve seen many men who were gay later turn into heterosexuals, and there are those who are normal, who are called straight people, end up being gay later in life” – that these species can also change their orientation at their own will.
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An open letter to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on what homosexuality really is, so that the cult guru can have a rethink. 
Participants take part in a gay pride march in New Delhi,  28 June 2009. Image used for representational purposes.
(Photo: Reuters)

But oh enlightened one, was your statement a result of your ignorance or was it intended to malign the LGBTQ community? Do you really think people can ‘convert’ and perform ‘hetero-wapsi’? Do you seriously intend to tell us that we choose how we love and that choice is fluid?

Perhaps you did this PR stunt to get more clients for your good friend Baba Ramdev, who professes to cure homosexuality through his yoga camps. For you it may be a casual statement, but do you understand its far-reaching implications? Millions of people over centuries have been tortured, killed and burnt because of thoughts such as yours.

Hitler used this kind of thinking to validate the killing of homosexuals along with the Jews. He sent them to concentration camps only because they were ‘not normal’ or perhaps to ‘cure’ them (of homosexuality). 

Of course, you believe that people can change their orientation and sexuality just by having one kind of intercourse. Contrary to popular belief, sexual intercourse is only a part of being gay – it doesn’t completely define homosexuality.

In reality, gay men and women, for thousands of years have married the opposite sex just to avoid persecution and even death. From the Spanish Inquisition, to the Nazi concentration camps to even Article 377 in the Indian Constitution – all of it speak volumes about the hateful repression of homosexuals.

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‘Gayness’ Is All-Pervasive

Reducing being gay to only homo-erotic intercourse is perhaps the crudest and most perverse perspective. Being gay is a spiritual state – a way of life that transcends the sexual act.

In the words of Harry Hay, the founder of the Gay Liberation Movement, “Gay sexuality was a means to an end, not an end in itself.”

‘Gayness’ is all-pervasive and cuts across sexual and non-sexual dimensions. While ‘gayness’ is a way of life, which stems definitely from sexuality, it influences each and every aspects of the gay person’s life. Hay introduced the concept of ‘gay consciousness’ – the window through which gay people experience and view the world.

The idea of the gay consciousness is not a modern construct, but an ancient tradition – from Berdache twin spirited native tribes to Samurais in Japan, this knowledge or consciousness is not a concept that can be acquired or accidentally stumbled upon, nor is it a result of nurturing or conditioning. It is not something that can be changed at will.

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You Can’t ‘Choose’ to be Gay

In many parts of the world, including our great nation, homosexual acts are still a crime. Why would anybody dare to accept a deviant, stigmatised role in society, if they really had a choice?

The only answer is – you can’t choose; it is a gift of nature. It is not a human invention which can be activated and deactivated with a switch.

The gay person is a multidimensional individual with many facets, and can’t only be defined by his/her sexual preference. He/she is a combination of unique expressions that manifest in social identity gender roles, economic roles and sometimes even manifests in religious roles.

Love is not a tendency, it is not a practice – it is divine gift that gives meaning to life.
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A Brief History of Gay Love

According to Christopher Gill, an expert on the Greek classics, ‘love’ was portrayed through Eros, who is depicted as a young man or boy. So you see Sri Sri, homosexuality is not just a tendency but actually something deeply rooted in our existence.

Historically, these courageous women and men have led society. Gay people are the Guardians of Plato, they are the men of Sparta depicted in the 2006 fantasy/action film 300.

It was homo-erotic love that led Achilles, the hero of Troy, to go to war. Achilles went to war knowing that he would die on the battlefield only to avenge his lover Patroclus, as is narrated by Homer.

Greek literature is filled with examples and odes to homoerotic love.

Closer home, India, and for that matter Delhi, is filled with monuments and literature dedicated to ‘male love’. The temples of Khajuraho stand as perhaps the best example of the prevalence of homosexuality even in those times.

Other temples from the era also have homo-erotic motifs sculpted on them. The great Hindu sage Vatsayana has in fact dedicated an entire chapter in his famous treatise on sexuality to physical homosexual bliss.

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Homosexuality in India

Homosexual intercourse is not mentioned per se in the Vedas but there are some interesting references to homo-eroticism. One is from the Kaushitaki Brahmana Upanishad 2:4 of the Rig Veda:— “Now then the intense longing of love stimulated by the gods. When one (m) desires to be loved (priya) by a man or a woman or by men and women, he shall offer to the above mentioned gods oblations in the sacred fire”.

The medieval chronicler Ziauddin Barani (1285–1357) states in one document: “In those four or five years when the Sultan (Allaudin Khilji) was losing his memory and his senses, he had fallen deeply and madly in love with the Malik Naib (a Hindu convert).”

Then we have the ‘Muraqqa-e-Delhi’, a 17th century book, which sheds light on homosexuality during that time.

Let me make it clear that being gay is to have the gay consciousness, to be touched by the gay spirit. It is not a choice nor a changeable trait.

This kind of love is believed to have existed between the likes of Buddha and his disciples, Krishna and Sudama, Shankaracharya and his disciples, and even Rumi and Shams.
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Indian Monastic Orders Silent on Same-Sex Relationships

In the Indian context, ‘celibacy’ is just a euphemism used so as to not disturb the archaic Victorian morality we seem to have adopted from the British. Most monastic orders in India did not only prohibit men from engaging in sexual intercourse with women, but maintained a silence on relationships between two men. A good example of this lies in Buddhism.

Male love or gay consciousness has traditionally been a social adhesive within male organisations and societies.

It was only with the invasion of the British in India that homosexuality was outlawed. Thousands of Indians recently came together to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Delhi Gay Pride. Do you think all of them have only a ‘tendency’, and that being gay is not in their being?

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Being Human, Above All

Sri Sri, your comment is not only incorrect, both scientifically and ethically, but also conveys to the world your ignorance.

I humbly request you to not just apologise to the millions of LGBTQ people, but also introspect on what caused you to make these insensitive statements.

Until then, I would request everyone to stand up for fairness and justice, not because they are gay, lesbian or straight but because they are human, and to condemn statements like yours.

I hope you triumph over your ignorance before you dive in to settle Ram Mandir disputes. Next time, please read up before you talk, because millions of your followers are listening to you. 

Many of them may have a gay son/daughter, and after listening to you, may go home to harass, abuse, and coerce them into being ‘straight’ and ‘normal’. In conclusion, I have one last thing to say to you – homosexuality is not a tendency, bigotry is.

Get well soon,
Indra Shekhar Singh

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(The author is a freelance journalist who writes on agriculture, environment and politics. He can be reached @IndraSsingh. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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