A few years ago, my friend, a beautiful divorced woman in her 60s, with adult children from a heterosexual marriage, ‘came out to a group of us during a weekend break. For a brief moment, awkward silence descended upon the flower-filled garden where we sat. Six minds churned, our thoughts could be heard buzzing at a million miles an hour. Extraordinarily, not one of us questioned her choice. After an initial pause, we collectively responded with, “Wow! That’s amazing!” My friend sighed in happiness– it was a sigh of relief and joy at being ‘accepted’ sans judgement. A claim that not many LGBTQIA individuals in India can make, in spite of the abolishing of Section 377, and recent judgements by a Madras court.
Elizabeth Brake in her 2011 book, ‘Minimizing Marriage: Marriage, Morality, and the Law’ coined the term amatonormativity as “the assumption that a central, exclusive, amorous relationship is normal for humans, in that it is a universally shared goal, and that such a relationship is normative, in the sense that it should be aimed at in preference to other relationship types.” The world we live in today though is striving to be far more inclusive of diversity of race, gender, sexual preference and neuro-divergence. Straightjacketed views of relationships are being actively challenged by those who value and enjoy their queerness.
And while some sections of society may believe that gender and sexual preferences being made public is a recent, ‘imported from the West’ phenomenon, it could be said that Indian culture has always been inclusive in a complex and layered way. However Western movements around diversity have given us access to affirmative frameworks and the language with which to understand and accept a diverse range of human equations, arrangements, and feelings.
My friend now lives overseas with her partner.
She says she moved so that she would be able to live freely, “without hate, and the censure and non-acceptance” of educated family members and the people in her building. She had the privilege to do so. But not everyone does.
So how can we be more accepting?
For starters, as a young, queer client in therapy explained to her mother, “Gender is a spectrum. So is sexuality. The two don’t necessarily have to be linked. People can express themselves as they wish, love who they want to.”
Indeed, there are many, many ways of being.
Just as there are many, many ways in which people love.
How would it feel to view non-normative relationships, queer love, as love, actually?
Anupa Mehta is a practising narrative therapist, a published author, and a columnist. Write to her at email@example.com