By Inoka Shankini –
Rami Malek was granted the award for the best male actor at the recently-held 2019 Oscar Awards. He was starring in the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” based on the biography of well-known singer Freddie Mercury.
Apart from his profile as a talented artist, Freddy was known in the public domain as being a bisexual person. Rami’s award, in this sense, could be considered as an example of the jury being conscious of recognising the portrayals of non-heterosexual people in mainstream cinema. If this is the case, this award can serve as an inspiration to many LGBT+ people across the world, especially to youth.
Let’s start with a basic question. Is there something ‘special about being a homosexual person? Is being gay a threat to society? Is ‘gayness’ an addiction? What can we say about heterosexual peoples’ attitudes towards gay people?
It has been discovered that a person’s sexual orientation is mostly defined by the section of one’s brain that contains hypothalamus. Some researchers show that the sexual orientation is determined by biological factors that even precede birth. People do not decide who they are attracted to. Therefore, therapy ,correctional/conversion treatment, or persuasion are totally useless. They do not sere to change someone’s sexual orientation. Parents and families in Sri Lanka take note, forced marriages have zero impact on ‘changing’ someone’s sexual orientation. It only leads to a life of sadness and despair, and in the case of most cis women, non-consensual sex which amounts to blatant abuse by a male husband. In fact you also cannot turn a person gay or straight. To give but one example, exposing a cis boy to toys traditionally made for cis girls such as dolls, simply do not lead a cis boy to become gay [it might help him become, later in life, an affectionate and considerate human being, especially if and when he decides to be a father]. Almost all of you probably started to develop an awareness of who you are attracted to, at a very young age. This does not necessarily mean that you had sexual feelings, just that you could identify the people you found to be attractive or likeable. Many people say that they knew they were lesbian, gay or bisexual at a young age, in some cases even before they hit puberty. Taking these living realities into consideration, why do people interpret sexual orientation as an abnormal behaviour or worse, a mental illness?
The majority of people, especially in countries like ours, live lives that are divided on many counts, on the basis of race, ethnicity, religious beliefs and so on. What many people forget or ignore is that in the large majority of cases, these are attitudes that were ‘imposed’ on people at birth, by their own parents and families. Very few people ever bother to critically evaluate these inherited beliefs and viewpoints that they take for granted. But be that as it may, why should people harbour futile phobias on other people and their private lives?
In most developed, multicultural and cosmopolitan countries around the world, homosexuality is perfectly legal. This includes, in most cases, full rights to marriage, civil partnerships, having children, an and laws that protect people from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. In the South Asian region, our own big neighbour India took such a forward step last year, when the Indian Supreme Court repeated Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a British law that was violating the fundamental rights of Indian citizens. The decision of the wise judges of the Indian Supreme Court made headlines across the world.
Let’s be honest. It is a known fact that sex between persons of the same sex/gender has long existed in certain ‘religious’ structures and institutions [including in Sri Lanka]. There is a large number of celebrities who are known to be gay. Many politicians are known to be gay. In Sri Lanka, it is also a known that a ‘Brahmachari’ person who made invaluable contributions to raise awareness on Sinhala nationhood and Buddhism during British colonialism happened to be a gay man.
Just like in many countries across the world, Sri Lanka is also home to very negative views towards the LGBT+ community. The main harm was done in British Ceylon. Homosexuality is illegal under article 365A of our Penal Code. This means that same-sex/gender couples have no access to any form of legal recognition. Many sexual minorities have to face high levels of social harassment and violence. This does not come as a surprise, when the First Citizen and the Head of State of our ‘Democratic Socialist Republic’ personally takes on the role of a homophobe, and insults members of the LGBT+ community and elected gay male politicians with words such as “butterfly”. If the worldview of the Head of State is that much pathetic, how on earth can we expect more positive perceptions from the general public?
What exactly is sexuality or sexual orientation? In Sri Lanka, the general understanding among most people is that people attracted to the opposite sex are heterosexual and that people attracted to those of the same sex are homosexual. However, are these the only sexual orientations that exist? Certainly not, and there’s a lot more to sexual orientation. Let me highlight a few types of sexual orientation below:
In general, bisexual people are attracted to both men and women.
Pansexuality, by definition, is somewhat broader in perspective and inclusivity than bisexuality. Pansexual people are romantically interested in and sexually attracted to a range of people, including cis and trans women, cis and trans men, intersex people, to non-binary people, and to people of Indigenous gender identities. To pansexual people, someone’s gender identity, gender assigned at birth, sex and sex characteristics are not impediments to be romantically interested and involved with them.
An asexual person is someone who does not experience sexual attraction to anyone. They could be of any sex or gender or age, or for that matter from any social or cultural background. Asexuality, however, does not mean that asexual people are not interested in sex. It is more about an absence of a willingness to engage in sexual interactions with another person.
People who are demisexual only experience sexual attraction towards people to whom they feel a strong emotional connection.
What appears above is pretty much the tip of the iceberg, and there are many more sexual orientations and sexualities around the world. It is a highly diverse sphere, just like humanity itself.
When you go through these factors, do not be surprised if you yourself begin to have doubts about your own sexual orientation, or end up asking yourself questions as to whether you have been having an accurate understanding of your sexual orientation.
Based on these facts, do we are have any right to discriminate against people who are NOT heterosexual?
To take up another issue, our society includes people who regularly make fun of transgender people. This is extremely shameless and futile. Trans identities just as valid as cis identities. Why is it that cisgender and heterosexual people are having such a high level of phobias towards non-heterosexual and non-cisgender people?
Why is it that, in some cases, even people who call themselves ‘allies’ and are often publicly supportive of the LGBTQ + community get somewhat uncomfortable when someone close to their personal circles comes out as homosexual, or for that matter, transgender or intersex?
Many homosexual people stay in the closet because of the fear of discrimination and harassment from heteronormative society. Furthermore, a lesbian who I once interviewed told me “Certain people question me ,how do I have sex with my girlfriend. But does anyone ever ask the same question regarding you and your boyfriend? This left me utterly ashamed because I myself have asked that same question at several occasions.
Are we all not supposed to treat all human beings equally?
Irrespective of whether someone is homosexual , heterosexual , transgender, cisgender or intersex, they deserve full equal treatment and respect. They should only face the same restrictions that cisgender and heterosexual people face, as in, being obliged to live our lives in a decent and law-abiding way. As human beings, we have an obligation to respect and make space for everyone to live their lives with dignity. Today, you might find yourself discriminating against the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. But what will you do if and when someone very close to you, such as a child, a nephew, a sibling a grandchild, comes out as LGBT+?
In many countries, homosexuality has been legalized after plenty of studies and research.In Sri Lanka, to legalize or to accept homosexuality, we have to help raise awareness about these issues, based on fact. If this could done satisfactorily, our LGBTQ+ community may get a chance to live freely, even in a few decades of time.
You may be a lesbian/gay, pansexual, heterosexual person, AND/OR a cisgender, transgender or intersex person. Or you may belong to another sexual orientation and/or gender identity. But still, you are human, we are all human, so please do not be ashamed of who you are, and be proud, and be as proud as you can be, of who you are.
“We gotta learn to stick together
Love your colour gender or whatever
Cause your happiness don’t need a censor
Mind your own and we’ll keep owning it..!!! ~ S. L. U. T – by Bra Miller