Sexual Tolerance, Anyone?

Did your parents talk to you about sex? Mine didn’t.

Did they talk to you about sexuality? Mine didn’t.

Where and how did you learn about homosexuality and heterosexuality?

Which did you consider ‘normal’? Which do you consider ‘normal’ now?

We usually hush talk about this. As a nation we brush matters under the carpet. We cite religion. We quote ‘nature’. We hide the truth inside closets. And we wear colourful masks to hide our identity. What I am about today may not be comfortable for some of you…so read with caution.

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As an adult, a parent and a human who believes that everyone should have the right to love, yesterday’s judgment from the Supreme Court criminalizing gay sex is a blow. Homosexuality did not affect me in my growing up. In a girls’ school, being ‘lesbian’ was somewhat a joke. So when a senior and I got friendly, someone really called her a lesbian. At that age, I didn’t realize that I was being called one too. I shared this with the senior and we stopped ‘hanging out’. I was never attracted to women. But I realize that on that day, being described as or called a lesbian was nothing less than an expletive.

A girls’ school is a curious place. With no one of the opposite gender to interact with, seniors often became role models for juniors. The tomboyish ones played many sports. They were tougher, firmer and boy-like in many things. They stood for school elections. And there were those occasional fan-girl moments. When we were in the 10th, we famously walked into Class 8th and called up one girl who was ‘following’ one of us. She had begun stalking and leaving gifts in her desk. Back then it felt very cool; to threaten a girl, to ask her not to spend her money and to stay away. We didn’t think about sexuality, or what her sexual preferences may have been.

Our conservative Convent education contributed little to our understanding of sexuality. We were taught about periods. About sex. About self-defence. About attraction and love. About boys. But never about girls.

I don’t think tolerance towards homosexuality came to me in a day. Like many other girls, I didn’t consider it seriously enough.  Because I wasn’t attracted to girls and no one was attracted to me, I really didn’t have to deal with it. My last two years in school were spent in a co-educational institution. And so while hormones were raging, and girls were being courted, and crushes were flying in the air, there was also the case of effeminate boys being subjected to taunts and pins.

Boys can be cruel. Yes, in matters of sexuality, they can be really, really cruel. It begins as a casual banter, then it leads to exploitation and oppressive behavior. Notions of gender and sexuality get diluted to an extent that in a boy’s accommodation the most effeminate one is delegated all the ‘womanly’ jobs. Sometimes cleaning, or cooking and maybe even a rendezvous of casual, experimental sex.

Adolescence begins with confusing notions of oneself. And it can be traumatic for a teen who has to deal with uncomfortable notions of sexuality. In such a situation, being told that being attracted to the same sex is not a crime. It is not unnatural. That it is nothing to be shameful of.

You can read the rest of the post on Parentous

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3 thoughts on “Sexual Tolerance, Anyone?

  1. This was an extremely relevant and sensitive post about teaching about sexuality to children. Given the Supreme Court judgement today, one wonders how much more retrogressive our lawmakers and the judiciary can get in the country, and wonder how many more people will be forced to hide their real sexual preferences for fear of being ridiculed or worse.

    Between my wife and me, we have decided to let our little daughter know for a fact that it is ok for her to love anybody as long as she is fully aware of her own preferences and that she needs to stand by her friends later in life as somebody who does not judge people based on these parameters.

    Lovely thought-provoking post.

  2. I have been in a girls school where the teachers were scared to talk about periods as well. I still remember a girl who had her first period in school, she was so horrified and the teacher completely denied her any help, behaved as if she had no clue about what was happening to her.
    This is a very apt expression of the lull that surrounds sexual education in India.

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