Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Brown Fruits

In this world saturated with semiotic play, to be, to feel validated, is to see one’s reflection somewhere in that twisted looking pool called the media. As a desi, the situation is less that perfect, but improving, as the children of the South Asian Diaspora are coming of age, being spotted in movies, music, and literature. But as a queer desi, I do not see the sum of both my identities out there. Yes, the queer is out there, but more often than not it is glaringly white, and while the desi may appear metro it is still very hetro. Queer and desi together – rare. Searching through the internet, I finally came across shards of images, namely blogs by other Indian fags (Venialsin, Asshole Roommate, Talking Closets). Reading their daily accounts - echoes of my own fears and anxieties – brought a sense of comfort which I can not fully explain. The other day, I came across a site, which gave the most unflattering of reflections, exposing blemishes and all.

This weekend I wondered how the friends of Dorothy get along in the land of seven rivers, and googled “punjabi gay”. I stumbled onto the homepage of Asian Gay and Lesbian Marriage of Convenience. The site is based in honest intentions, the creator of the site is Pakistani and gay himself and gives his story, “At age 28, under severe pressure from my parents, I was made to marry my first cousin in 1999. After living together for 3 months (at that time, I was in US), I decided to come out to her, since it was getting unbearable for us to go on. The results were devastating; I lost everything and everyone I knew”. In an attempt to help others, so that they do not have to face a similar situation, he started the site, “to engage in a marriage of convenience where both the individuals involved understand and accommodate their orientation, whilst fulfilling social obligations that are so painfully obligatory in our cultures. I am also certain that other individual like me yearn to have children, and this would possibly also be a viable option for them to fulfill their dreams”. I feel a sense of sadness, as I click on the browse link, and start perusing the ads.

The ads use contradictory vocabulary, indicating the psychosis that being gay and desi can cause.
“I am looking for someone to be my life partner in an honest marriage. I would like to live as a conventional couple in front of family, friends and work colleagues”

“I am gay but have never had gay sexual relations or a boyfriend because what I really want is a wife and children.”

“we would also be free to pursue any loving attachment to people of our own sex if we were totally discrete and not willing to jeopardize our own domestic security. come on, give it a chance, we all deserve happiness, I am sure that a marriage of convenience could work”

“Being an Indian gay person, I believe it is so much worth it to give up sex and have a nice otherwise normal family”
I understand the drive that lies behind these ads. Indian parents can present themselves as an insurmountable force, and the desire to please them and conform to societal expectations can be intense. I understand the strategy, to work within the system, to construct an elaborate façade of lies to please others, while trying to obtain the pleasures that are outside the accepted norm. This was very much my mode of operation as a teenager; this way I could go see movies, have female friends, and go to my prom. I became two people, one who I presented to my parents, and the other who lived life outside of home. I admit, the fantasy of compromise these ads seek, was my own when I was younger. I imagined seeking some Indian girl who came from a household as repressed as mine. We would have an understanding, and live our respective lives the way we wanted to, maintaining our family names. In third year university I suffered a nervous breakdown, which would haunt me periodically for a two year period. Lying comes at a price. Deceit requires regular maintenance, and there is the constant stress caused by the fear of being found out. These proposed marriages are a commitment for life, to maintain a life of deception and pretense. I do not look down at the people seeking a marriage of convenience. They feel that this is the only option available to them. If anything this is what saddens me, this reminder that our culture, creates an environment where people feel the only answer is to live a life of repression, which euphemistically this site dubs convenience.

I began this post by over killing the metaphor of images in my first paragraph. I really think this is where the key lies though, positive images are needed, not just to give a sense of validation to queer desi’s, but to foster acceptance. If our parents, aunties, uncle ji’s, continuously see us out there, this will at least force them to recognize that we do exist. While this may not translate into immediate tolerance, it will enable them to see that “the gays” are not just white or hijeras. The other day while coming down the stairs, I saw my mother reading her “Urdu Times”, self proclaimed to be North America’s first and largest weekly Urdu newspaper. And there taking up half a page was the ad shown below.

I couldn’t believe it, and later picked up the paper and gazed at it dumbfounded. I felt a thrill at the subversive nature of the ad, as a few pages in there was an ad for pilgrimage travel to Saudi Arabia. I imagined thousands of conservative Pakistani’s opening up the paper and the ad being right in their face. Boo-yah! I applaud Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention for creating the ad campaign, and “Urdu Times” for publishing the ad.

This is a step in the right direction.


Blogger Neha said...

Great post, Dutty. The ads give the notion of arranged marriage a whole new meaning. As frustating as it is to come to terms with the fact that sometimes deception becomes a necessity I'm glad to know that the avenues are available.

What's heartbreaking is there are men out there who will never admit to even requiring the need for such an arrangement. I know a couple in this category for sure and if I'm feeling helpless and worried over it then I can only imagine what they must be feeling themselves.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Diasporic Girl said...

Omg! I love that ad! Awesome post Dutty. It never fails, as desi kids, we always have to care what society thinks. Not for long though, things are changing!

11:50 AM  
Blogger Special K said...

Sweet!! I love that ad. Of course I am a little sadened that some kids feel they have to go so far to please family. I mean I know I come from the most hippy accepting home possible but the pressure to please is a universal trait we share. Sometimes though...its a vicious circle you have to close your eyes and step off.

10:38 PM  
Anonymous Dutty Gurl said...

Great Blog Dutty! What I found most facinating was how you saw the add after posting the blog. Just goes to verify that the intent for change is being recognized by God and the Universe and is providing you with signs that you are moving in the right direction!

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey are you still writing? I feel like I know you...

12:33 AM  

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