Compliments of the Homophobic Season - Thanks to TV9 Telugu
While I was busy being gay Santa for a bunch of individuals with special needs and trying to be productive, TV9 Telugu was back on 25 December with its old game, demeaning humanity through an “exclusive coverage” - a 5-minute capsule entirely focused on “how gay culture is on the rise in Telugu states”. The programme, reeking of homophobia, was aired on the channel as well as uploaded on YouTube - though the latter has since then been taken down.
The producer of the show actually invested time in visiting different people, including someone wearing a lab coat, who looked like a genuine doctor (you can never say, in this video-doctored world). All of them were convinced that homosexuality is something that spreads because of same-sex hostels, because boys are too shy to speak to girls, causes the demise of marriages, causes rise in HIV-positive cases, and of course, corrupts Telugu youth.
To give you a magnitude of damage this video has caused, here’s a gist:
The video starts with a “sansani” “breaking news” kind of tone with the background music supporting the narrative – all to add to the “seriousness” of the issue. The person in the lab coat is not introduced as a doctor, but we are given the impression that he is one. He suggests that people who are “passive” end up in homosexual relationships. He also adds that homosexuals cheat on their wives. Then some statistic is thrown around how Guntur district has around 50 homosexuals. The video ended with someone in a striped shirt complain about how some people can be cured by therapy and some can’t.
Now let’s go over the main points propagated in the programme.
Homosexuality Doesn't “Spread” in Same-Sex Hostels
It is a popular myth that people who are in close proximity with their own sex would end up having sex with each other. This myth - that doesn’t differentiate bromance from romance, and hugging-kissing from sexual orientation - also leads to even more serious allegations like “it’s a threat to national security”.
I have heard people from different countries argue that soldiers would have sex with each other and thus will forget the war. Well, that’s highly imaginative and it takes the trite “make love, not war” way too far. Homosexuality is not a virus, or bacteria, it cannot spread.
Unprotected Sex, Not Homosexuality, Causes HIV
Let’s correct our language. Homosexuality doesn't spread HIV. It is unprotected sex or use of contaminated needles that spread the virus. In fact, because of the threat of prosecution under section 377, it makes it even more difficult for outreach workers to reach out to HIV positive persons who are men who have sex with men, which in turn leads to proliferation of HIV. So, if there were no laws like section 377 and more acceptance of homosexuality, HIV spread could be curtailed.
Homophobia Threatens Marriages
Homosexuals are not interested in marrying the other gender. Some of us are interested in marrying someone in our own gender. Some of us think it is prudent to not believe in the institution of marriage and consider it to be a legal contract propagated by the deep-seated heterosexual hegemony. Many male and female homosexual men and women are forced into heterosexual marriages against their will, while most succumb to a life of loveless, sexless life. Some eventually develop the courage to stand up for themselves. If the society was more accepting of homosexuals, they would not be forced to marry and marriages would not fail.
And you don’t always need homosexuality to break marriages. Have you ever heard of names like “Hrithik Roshan” and recently “Farhan Akhtar” who are newly single?
TV9’s History of Homophobia
It is indeed funny that TV9 is at it again. Homophobia seems to be the single most important agenda of the very popular Telugu news network. They have a history of it. Dig this - in 2011, TV9 conducted a “sting operation” on a LGBT networking site by posing as homosexuals. There was an outrage in India and also internationally, following which came this apology.
But clearly, the apology meant little.
Could Repealing Section 377 Change the Attitude?
The previous apology was during an era when Section 377 was read down by the Delhi High Court that made consensual sex between adults in private legal. But this particular programme comes post the Supreme Court verdict that puts Section 377 in its original Victorian form in our law books - now at the mercy of the Parliament or the curative petition to again make it legal for consensual adults to have sex in private. The right to privacy judgement does make some important points on Section 377, thus strengthening the case for its repeal/abolition.
I understand that it is TV9’s responsibility to air both sides of the story. But this one is specifically a vile attack on a minority that is just living its life the way they are born. Homosexuality has been de-listed from the list of mental disorders by World Health Organisation (WHO), American Psychiatry Association and also Indian Psychiatry Association.
Because someone wise called Lady Gaga said “Because we are born this way”.
(Harish Iyer is an equal rights activist working for the rights of the LGBT community, women, children and animals.)