A Chat With a Quack Who Promises to Cure ‘Mobile-Induced Gayness’
Our newspapers are filled with advertisements that cater to varying audiences. Right from escorts to job vacancies, it is a good way for people to find services and for the newspaper to make money. However, I was amazed to find the ad for a cosmic healer who very clearly mentioned that he offered services for parents to find out if their children are gay or lesbian ‘before marriage’.
What shocked me more is that this was listed below a section that read “best bargains”.
A Conversation With a ‘Cosmic Healer’
This was a little unnerving, for the newspaper has often covered LGBT issues with enthusiasm and sincerity. It was also shocking because HT at its launch in Mumbai had an advertisement that very poignantly spoke of discrimination against queer persons.
I wondered what had happened to their outlook all of a sudden. From being at the forefront in covering issues relating to the queer community and also using queer acceptance as a sign of a progressive mindset even in their brand videos, how did they regress to a level where they allowed gay-cure advertisements in their newspaper, and that too under the best-bargain section?
Nevertheless, I decided to move beyond the newspaper and concentrate on the advert and investigate this. I called the number mentioned in the newspaper. The phone was answered by a man who claimed that he was a cosmic healer who specialised in distance healing. What followed was a 12-minute-long conversation that I can only afford to laugh about.
I engaged him further by asking him if my mother would also be a homosexual considering that she speaks on the phone all the time. He seemed progressive towards my mother, when he said that she would not be affected by it as she is a woman.
In my head, I was about to give this man the feminist award, but then he broke my trust by telling me that women who are masculine have more testosterone and that they turn into lesbians or give birth to homosexual children.
He also said that male children who are overtly pampered by their mothers turn gay, squarely blaming women for the child’s sexuality. He was very generous in sharing names of politicians and famous film star families who he considered homosexual – something that has been edited out in the audio recording on account of the claims being completely unfounded.
He asked me to send him an email to which he would send me a response with details of the “treatment plan”, which also horrendously included dousing – a way homophobic people try to torture ‘the gay away’ be drenching a homosexual person in a liquid repeatedly.
Also Read : What’s ‘Unnatural’: Homosexuality or Homophobia?
Hindustan Times in a Soup
In the meantime, I shared the advertisement on Facebook and urged people to call the number and bombard the “cosmic healer” with calls. I maintained in the same post that the Hindustan Times editorial team was known for good work; however, the advertising and sales team need to be sensitised.
Someone called Abhishek tagged Sachin Kalbag, the Executive Editor of Hindustan Times in a tweet and quizzed HT about their official position on homosexuality.
Mr Kalbag quickly responded saying that the stance is that they stand for equality.
This didn’t come as a surprise to me, as a few years ago, when my mother wanted me to “settle down”, she wanted to place a same-sex matrimonial advertisement in the papers. However, the advert was rejected by three other newspapers including Hindustan Times. Only Mid-Day, of which Sachin Kalbag was the editor then, printed the ad. Sachin, then too, had reiterated that Mid-Day stood for love and unions of all kinds.
Though I agree with Kalbag that this could have been a slip, there were several questions raised about the integrity of the newspaper that would take funds for a blatantly homophobic advertisement.
This advertisement “slipped in” at a time when homophobic extortion is on the rise and so are reported cases of suicide. The existence of laws like Section 377 further aid the breeding of homophobia. The law is used as a weapon to threaten queer persons and extort money and even forced sexual favours and rape in some cases. While the Supreme Court decides the fate of Section 377, the little media persons can do is to not allow such vile advertisements by fake healers that would add to the stigma and be counterproductive to the very tenet of equality.
The law will change one day. However, it will take many more steps for us to get social acceptance. The least we can do is ensure that we step forwards, not back.
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