New campaign for LGBT people to tell their stories

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's contradictory views about homosexuality irk community, boost 50 Shades of Gay campaign

The right wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) suggested it may have shed its conservative stance, when RSS joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale said at an event on Thursday in New Delhi, "I don't think homosexuality should be considered a criminal offence as long as it does not affect the lives of others in society."

The LGBT community in Mumbai came together to celebrate the Gay Pride parade in February this year. Pic/Bipin Kokate
The LGBT community in Mumbai came together to celebrate the Gay Pride parade in February this year. Pic/Bipin Kokate

The RSS flattered to deceive because soon after, Hosabale tweeted homosexuality is, "socially immoral" and "gay marriage is institutionalization of homosexuality. It should be prohibited."

Anwesh Sahoo, Jason D’souza and Shubham Mehrotra
Anwesh Sahoo, Jason D'souza and Shubham Mehrotra

The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community is befuddled by the seemingly contradictory statements. Darshil Sh, who works for the community says, "The mindset of a homophobic group in India is changing, but by saying we need psychological help it shows that they don't know what they are talking about." Pallav Patankar from the Humsafar Trust said, "It is classic of the RSS to jump from one side to the other. By saying there is a need for psychological help, they are doing a balancing act."

Sushant Digvikar, out gay actor said, "This 'cute' statement by the RSS is not working, the tweets are contradictory." Equal rights activist Harish Iyer, said defiantly, "About this 'cure' business, I would like to engage with Hosabale and see what he has to offer to make me straight!"

Filmmaker and journalist Shubham Mehrotra's '50 Shades of Gay' (FSoG) campaign on Instagram, which is 20 days old, is gaining traction, even as such statements continue to pour in.

"The mentality of such people (RSS) is very sad," said Mehrotra who claimed this is precisely why campaigns like FSoG, which is basically photos and stories of LGBT individuals to raise awareness about Section 377 (which criminalizes gay sex between consenting adults) are needed.

"This is a platform for LGBT people to tell their stories, especially through Instagram, a picture sharing social networking site, where I have many followers. There is a special account for 50 Shades of Gay called '50shadesofgayofficial' where I have now started sharing the pictures and urging LGBT people to share their stories."

The people featured include TV personality and actor Sushant Divgikar, Mr Gay World India Anwesh Sahoo and fashion designer Jason D'souza.

Kandivali resident D'souza said, "By posing for 50 Shades of Gay, I feel I am doing my bit for LGBT persons. I am out to my family, friends and colleagues; so this is a way to inspire others and send a message to the government that Section 377 is outdated and that we matter..."

In a post put up yesterday, 23-year-old musician and vocalist Savio Martin, who is gay says, "Right now this nation does not feel like home, people are being bullied, teased, insulted, discriminated, abandoned and abused. PLEASE, strike down 377 so that countless people who are tormented because of their sexuality could simply call this country home."

A six day old post by Mark Mascharenhas, 26, an image consultant from Mumbai who was constantly bullied at 14 and even sexually assaulted by his peers says, "I felt broken. The only way I could get over the ridicule was to stay quiet..."

Mehrotra admits there is fear amongst people, and she has to do a lot of convincing to make people part of FSoG. Though the path is tough, a resolute Mehrotra says, "I will not stop at Mumbai alone but soon, will be travelling all over India documenting various LGBT stories."

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