I'm one of those difficult people who can sort of behave themselves in society but are secretly and not-so-secretly introverted, morose and cynical. If I go out three days in a row, I take a day off from talking to people to recover. A friend of mine arranged to meet up with me tomorrow, and all I could think of to do was "hang out", go to Blossoms, or shop for necessities. Plus alcohol. I have NO idea what other people do for fun. (Well, I do, but a lot of it seems to involve extreme sport.)
I'm one of those people who need to be reminded that being alone can turn into being lonely, and that being alone has other, material disadvantages. You can't simultaneously live within society, dissociate from it AND mingle within it all at once. Or at least, I try but often overbalance - it's a crazy juggling act.
So coming out was a weird process. I was so wary of meeting new people - even people that I wanted to associate with - that I actively avoided WHAQ! women for a while, stalking them only on the mailing list. I forget now how I got suckered in to my first WHaQ! meeting, but it is very sad to know that I have someone else to blame for my new friendships, my new schedules, my new peers, my new enjoyments. Damn you, Some Who Made Me Socialise, how dare you make me do something that turned out to be good for me!
Anyway. I rebel against my newfound social life by being very doubtful about people in general and community-forming in particular. You must admit, on the surface it is a dubious process. Back when I was a teenager and didn't know what lesbians were, I'd've been bemused - utterly bemused - if my (default straight) friends got together and said, We're starting a support group for being (default) people who are attracted to other people!
So I tend to say, Am I "queer"? Should I tell people I'm "bisexual"? Am I proud? Aside from the fact that I like some of these people, why I am actively hanging out with them and calling them mine?
Some of these questions - not all - are so stupid I want t
o hide rather than ask them out loud. I don't think, however, that I dealt with the question of belonging, of community, until recently.
Not actually all that recent, to be honest. This is STALE, DULL, DEAD news by now, but back in February, a nominally decent news channel called TV9 did something pretty yukky. You probably know it already, but I'm rehashing it for you:
TV9 in Hyderabad put together a "sting" to tell the world that there are gay men in Hyderabad. They party. They date. They have sex. They have dating sites! (It's like they're normal people!)
The news item was called "Gay Culture Rampant in Hyderabad" [link to English translation], and was extremely homophobic, and worse yet, targeted specific men, displaying their names and pictures after entrapping them over recorded phone conversations. ("What do you like in bed?" Bitches, that sort of stuff is private!)
There were protests in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad - other cities too, even if I didn't keep track of them. (Pink Nation and Party Square also threw a "No Panic" party, in defiance and affirmation.) AllOut sent TV9 CEO Ravi Prakash a petition telling him, in polite terms, to get his shit together and behave himself.
So, a month or so after the original item went viral, the News Broadcasting Standards Authority also told TV9 to get its shit together. Gaysi ran a fairly comprehensive article, so I'm not rehashing that.
Needless to say, we are all pretty pleased.
The thing is, until two or so days after my mom and I saw the apology (which Ma though
t was very gracelessly done, and it so was; the reader sounded shrill and sulky and flat) I didn't truly make the connections. I knew them intellectually, but in the middle of breakfast I straightened up from my I-hate-mornings slouch and thought: My friends in Bangalore go to parties. My male friends go to parties. My female friends go to parties. My friends use dating portals. Male friends, female. It's a regular part of our collective social life.
This wasn't "those poor sods in Hyderabad" with whom we have ties. This could
have been us. This WAS us.
(I tend not to go to parties, because I freak out at the thought of dancing with strangers/in the dark unless I am drunk. But that is a different story.)
No, I really am that stupid. I'd been wandering around for over a month wondering why the hell I cared beyond the requisite "those poor sods in Hyderabad", why I was expending so much energy caring what the hell happened to TV9. Why I found it so emotionally - as opposed to philosophically or academically or socially - important that TV9 get their shit together and fucking say they're sorry.
I'm not sure what would have happened if so many of us - LGBTIQ, what-have-you, straight allies (and otherwise decent people) had not said, online, in petitions, in slogans, in person, in protests - that this was not going to do. That this was atrocious. That we wouldn't stand for it. When so many of us have access to the media - as consumers, as sources, as producers - "our" issues have more weight than they would have if we all hide under the beds and shamefacedly went to parties where no one knew the others' names, if we were all strangers to each other.
It's strange to realise that no matter how anti-social I get, no matter how angry with people for just being people, no matter how leery I am of getting close, of caring - no matter how hard I try, as a functioning human being I have made these connections. T
hey go deeper than my beliefs and principles; they strengthen those beliefs and principles, they work against them.
It's very strange to realise that I am not an island. I'm not even part of an archipelago. I'm in the middle of my very own web, filaments of togetherness, principle, empathy, identification and liking stretching across the the otherwise yawning nastinesses of dislike, alienation and discomfort that makes up my inner self.
Dear you: Hello, I hope your day goes well.