Photo of a trishaw in Nuwara Eliya by Joshua Berman. We don’t need to go that far.
I’m all about the gay. The struggle for homosexual rights is the civil rights struggle of our generation and it’s hopeful to see that gay people have made so many gains, especially regarding marriage. Sri Lanka, however, sadly lags way behind. In Sri Lanka it’s OK to be gay, as long as you marry a woman. Gay behavior is somewhat tolerated, even in gay politicians, but being gay, being gay as part of your identity, is more taboo.
I think this is terribly wrong. I know women who’ve married men who were actually gay (in a family supported arrangement, which is fine) and it did not work out well. I’m still unhappy about one instance which just wasted years of a young woman’s life. I mean, imagine how horrible that is for everyone involved.
My position on more and more social issues is that if it’s happening then bring it into the light and support and regulate it. I don’t think denial makes for good public policy. But in that I’m talking about things like drug abuse, prostitution, etc, things which are actually bad. And gay relationships aren’t bad. They’re actually good.
Gay Is Good
For years homosexual relationships were pushed underground so much that they became seen as almost purely sexual. The culture forbade them from getting married or even being out in public and then blamed them for having not having deeper relationships. Well, anti-gay laws and attitudes pressured and broke gay relationships, leaving only (and reducing them to) the sexual act. The punishment was (and is) the justification for the punishment.
As gay people have been coming out, especially in the west, they get more and more boring. At the beginning of the gay rights movement it was a lot of hot pants and outrageousness but now it’s, like, Modern Family. Normal people, family, friends. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with hot pants or even promiscuity. Honestly, that’s great. If you want to catch a great burlesque show check out Koluu’s annual camp explosion on October 19th.
That’s all good but, however, the idea that this is gay cultre is wrong. Even the idea that there is a coherent gay culture at all is incorrect. Am I defined by being straight, or by being, say, Sri Lankan, or a geek? Probably more the latter than my sexuality. It’s the same for gay people, the operative word being people rather than gay.
Gays And God
Then there is the ongoing religious condemnation of gay people. With glee even. A) it’s un-[whatever religion you are, or are not] and B) it’s wrong. I cannot imagine the prophets or leaders of any faith being so cruel to gay people as some of their latter day followers are. Hinduism should honestly have no beef with homosexuality, the Buddha also, and I can’t imagine Jesus being so pedantic or crass. Mohammed also was, from my readings of the Koran, and incredibly enlightened and understanding person.
I spent the morning watching a video from a young man Matthew Vines going through the Christian Bible and explaining how that scripture relates to being gay. Very thoughtful young man. He knew he was gay and did research and wrote a paper to tell his Christian parents. Then he went out for dinner with each parishioner to try and explain who he was and why that was OK within God’s love. But they still rejected him. But he kept going and is connecting with more Christians all over the world.
I think he does have a pretty solid interpretation just as most things in the Bible have been interpreted in a modern way, to fit modern culture. The basic tenet in the passages he’s citing seem to be against sexual misconduct, just as every religion – including Buddhism – has similar proscriptions. This does not necessarily and certainly need not exclude loving, gay relationships. Indeed, that love should be supported and encouraged through institutions like marriage.
Gays And Sex
Finally, while gay people should be allowed marriage and full religiosity and whatever other people enjoy, AKA equal rights, this is not to say that anyone needs to be necessarily married or religious. I mean, most people of any sexuality have sex outside of wedlock and many aren’t especially religious. That’s fine. People are having sex and – in the age of contraception, etc – we do need to loosen up and educate before we abjurate [sic].
Because gay people can have normal married lives and go to church or whatever doesn’t mean that everybody has to. It’s just that no one should be excluded. While those are partly cultural issues, nations at least have to start recognizing that freedom means freedom for everyone. Equal rights are legal rights and they don’t necessarily need to be subject to majority vote. Nations do need to protect and support their citizens, even if other citizens don’t like it. America and Europe are moving forward on these issues and hopefully attitudes are changing around the world. Sri Lanka and India, however, despite our pre-colonial religious and social accommodation of differing sexuality, have remained Victorian in attitude long after the colonial powers have changed. In terms of gay rights, we really need to catch up, and be more honest to ourselves and each other.
For some stories from the LGBT community in Sri Lanka, check out the play If You Promise Not To Tell at the Punchi Borella Theatre tomorrow (the 27th of September) at 7 PM.