If you still had any doubts that the “queer movement” in India is a right-wing, neoliberal, hellish agglomeration, the events of the last few days should have settled them.
First, there was the singling out of protesters who exercised the democratic right to protest against CAA-NPR-NRC as part of Bombay Pride. And they were singled out and reported by members of the “queer community”. Ashok Row Kavi, well-known, rabid, right-wing amma of the LGBTs, reduced them to “Left-Islamist nonsense” and claimed that their colleges were easy to “comb and search”. Several queers took to the social media to condemn the protesters and claim “queer” space and Pride March space as apolitical. The organising body of the march distanced themselves from the protesters, condemning pro-Sharjeel slogans as harming the “integrity of India”, even as they claimed allegiance to the Constitution and law, both of which they clearly know nothing about.
Kris Chudawala, a trans student from TISS who exercised a democratic right is in jail under sedition charges and was denied anticipatory bail (along with 50 others). This for raising a slogan in a protest march and reading the Preamble of the Constitution. The “queer community” is delighted with this arrest. They had written to the Mumbai police asking for the arrests.
Then, Pune Pride followed with an equally repulsive statement claiming both distance from those “supporting anti-nationals” and people who “bring political flags” (what on earth is a non-political flag?) and pollute Pride, which is only about “raising awareness”. Clearly, these folk have no awareness of the origins and history of Pride. But “national integrity and security cannot be compromised.” Heil Hitler!
Then, Delhi had an event against the Budget and all sorts of minority organisations participated, but “queer” groups were conspicuous by their absence. The one trans activist present, Meera Sanghamitra, who, by her own public admission, had not intended to speak at all, eventually spoke but did not feel the need to even mention Chudavala and Bombay or Pune Pride. She settled for bland solidarities and a banal rewriting of the national anthem.
Fourth, no “queer” group has come out with a statement condemning the CAA-NRC-NPR, let alone the arrest of members of their community.
Fifth, as an experiment, I changed my handle on all the gay dating and hookup apps I am on to “No to CAA-NPR-NRC”. The barrage of abuse I got from people calling me Muslim (as a form of abuse), wanting to rape my mother, my wife (yes, most Indian gay men have wives or are going to get them, so they presume all gay men do) was predictable.
Jasbir Puar, a US South Asian academic, in her book Terrorist Assemblages over a decade ago, had come up with the idea of homonationalism by which she meant countries like the US and Israel using gay politics/positions to justify imperialism, claiming the gay for the nation to other the figure of the “terrorist”, demonising the Muslim and the Muslim country.
The nation here has done no such thing (the Indian State is robustly heterosexual and masculinist and does not want to claim queers at all), but queers are clamouring to be included in the nation. They are each more hysterical than the other in their claim to the nationalist.
Moreover, the “terrorist” is anyone who criticises the State (the duty of a citizen in a democracy) and they don’t mind demonising their own community members. This is not a nationalism against an Other outside the nation (the Pakistani) but within the nation. This is a Hindu nationalism, and while Muslims might be the primary enemy, Christians, dalits, adivasis, women and anyone who is critical of the state is the enemy.
This is not a minority as we understand it at all. A minority is a group underrepresented by the state, demanding rights, offering a critique of the state. The Pride march has its origins in transgenders in New York finally losing it with police tyranny, whereas these folk are tweeting the police asking them to come arrest members of the community. “Queer” has its origins in demanding healthcare from the state at the height of the AIDS crisis when the US had left gay men to die.
These queers embrace the state and are bending over backward to kick their own to the kerb. These Pride arches are about apolitical frolic and parties at five-star hotels later.
If “queer” lost its political edge long ago in the US (once it was co-opted by US academia), its circulation across the world through the globalspeak of NGOised sexual governance had little more than an assimilationist and inclusivist rhetoric going for it.
But even that is gone from the new (or were they always that, but it is only now that their fangs are bared?), right-wing Hindu-fundamentalist queers who are now deciding which queers get to be Indian and which don’t.
The Left anti-Budget meeting had the usual suspects invoking the usual laundry list of minorities: farmer, worker, dalits, adivasi, woman. The queer was missing. While that usually incenses me, this time it was reassuring. Queers are the enemy.
It is time for the real sexual minorities to stand up, please.
Tellis is an academic, a journalist, an editor and a writer on LGBT and other minority issues...