Not One Of The Family
Friend and openly gay writer, Parmesh Shahani in his book Gay Bombay says that being gay isn’t just a sexual preference, it’s a lifestyle.
My sexuality was something that I had compartmentalized as something that was surreptitious and all about the sexual act, not about an identity.
Yes, perhaps. I guess I can’t claim to understand fully since my choices go by what society sees as the norm and anything else is forced to be defined starkly, clearly as separate.
I was recently at a party and ended up sitting next two friends who both happened to be gay, one guy and one girl. I’ve known each of them independently for years now. Till a few months ago, I didn’t even know that they knew each other and from what I can tell, they’ve only recently become friends. That they get along so well suits me just fine since they’re both such lovely people and besides I understand for each of them, considering the staggering enormity of the cause they each champion, it is good to meet a kindred soul. Add to that the fact that they’re both such rollicking fun that getting together with both of them is usually a blast.
I turned away from the conversation on my other side to get back to them and found I had moved into a private guy/girl-watching session. He was checking out the geeky looking dude on my left while she had her eyes on a fiery femme fatale at the other end of the room. Chuckling and commenting on each other’s choices. I was about to join in with an elbow-nudge and a side-joke when he said,
How about an introduction? You know him?
I hesitated for a minute, because I really didn’t but also because I wondered if bespectacled eye-candy in question was gay as well. I shook my head and told my friend that I didn’t think so. Both of them exchanged meaningful glances and almost in unison said,
She wouldn’t know. She’s not one of the family.
I’m not sure exactly what happened in that one remark but I suddenly felt cut out of the discussion. I’ve examined it over and over in my head. Is that really true? As a straight person, do I also not feel attraction, ponder on it, act on it? Do I not run through similar thoughts of whether the object of my affection reciprocates? And does it really matter that I’m crushing on the opposite sex while my friends are ODing on the same sex?
What’s with the family bit anyway? That part really annoyed me. I’ve never judged either of them or been anything other than respectful of their choices, their opinions and feelings. Each of them is a real, live person to me, not a body bearing a tag that says ‘Gay’. Then why do they hang the tag of ‘Straight’ on me and behave like it makes me less kin to them than to each other? I felt excluded. And I felt betrayed, that’s what.
I must ask whether the gay community hopes to ever get the respect due to it, considering what a tremendous backlash they are and will continue to face in years to come? And whether in the process of defining themselves clearly, they aren’t drawing boundaries between straight people and gay people in a ‘them’ versus ‘us’ scenario. If the gay community wants to enjoy the same rights as others, on the premise that they are no different from anyone else, I think they should start thinking of themselves as the same as everyone else. And family is people who love and accept you, not necessarily people who like the same things you do. But that’s just me.