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Breaking Free In A Country Of Caged Desires

Ethical non-monogamy, and Indian queerness

February 7, 2020

Dipyaman Sengupta
No Chains
The Rainbow Flag flying high during the Bhopal Pride, 2018, by Wikimedia Commons

n September 6th, 2018, the Supreme Court of India decriminalized section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and in that moment, hundreds of thousands of queer people of this vast country became its constitutionally accepted citizens. Their love, genders, desires and dreams became legal in the eyes of the law. On that historic day, India got rid of a colonial era law more than 70 years after its independence and the country of more than 1.25 Billion people declared that it would no longer consider love between consenting same sex adults a criminally punishable offence.

Also on the same date, I completed two months of open relationship with my same-sex partner. What a happy coincidence, I thought, that soon after making our relationship sexually non-exclusive, the highest court of the country got rid of the law that posed the biggest hurdle to our new decision to have sex with as many people as we can while still being romantically and emotionally committed to one another.

We were ecstatic to, finally, be considered as part of the lawful Indian society as well as excited for our new sexual adventures but we were also as naive as Baby Groot and as a result, massively overestimated the impact of the monumental Supreme Court Decision. Sure, sex with a same-sex person was decriminalized in the eyes of the law but what was its status in the eyes of the common people? Was the Indian Society ready to accept a queer person with open arms? Was the Indian LGBTQ community ready to let go of their heteronormative relationship structures and embrace all queer identities? The answer was, to our huge surprise, a big and emphatic NO.

However, in hindsight, I do realize that this was very much in line with the ideas and thoughts of the popular queer activists of the country.

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To truly comprehend the complex social fabric of the Indian society (including the Queer community), one needs to understand its hierarchy in a caste-based structure, in which certain sections of people are bestowed with much greater social privileges, acceptance and economic capital than others simply on the basis of their births.

Brahmins occupy the top most bracket of this social pyramid and as a result, had historically enjoyed the power and privileges that come with it.

Perhaps, it was my naivety and innocence of youth which made me believe that the Indian LGBTQ community would be immune from the discriminatory and heteronormative philosophy of Brahminical Patriarchy, an ideology that has been rampant in this region for thousands of years (shocked Pikachu face, right?).

During my initial days of meeting queer people over a cup of coffee or tea (we Indians love tea), I felt a wonderful and amazingly lovely vibe of homely belonging from them. After suffering through years of State and Law backed oppression, it was, honestly speaking, quite liberating and heart warming to finally experience this feeling of love, kindness and community that had been robbed from me and many other queers like me for most of our lives.

Most of the people that I met were educated, intelligent, kind and made me feel loved and wanted. However, none of them were as accommodating and non-judgemental as Mr. X (let’s just call him that).

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It was ironic (I was practicing Ethical Non-monogamy, after all) that the person who I bonded with the most was an adulterer. In hindsight, it was definitely wrong and unethical of me to get it on with someone who was cheating on his wife, and not just with me, but with many other young queer guys. But I was so ecstatic to finally have someone in my life, other than my partner, who filled my heart and soul with unmitigated love and comfort that I never bothered to care about the fact that he was lying to his family the whole time.

After all, he was one of the very few people in my life who didn’t try to take advantage of my passive and compromising personality, didn’t hate the sight of my belly fat and not-so masculine features (I had deep-seated body image issues) and and didn’t try to invalidate my bisexual orientation (Biphobia is very common in the queer as well as straight community).

Mr.X was kind, funny and fully accepted my relationship status with my partner without barraging me with unsolicited advice or criticisms. He also didn’t unload on me his insecurities and vulnerabilities or tried to guilt trip me for my non-monogamous nature. I thought at that time that it was perhaps because he understood the difference between love and sex owing to his own romantic relationship with his wife and his sexual encounters with men outside his marriage.

Mr. X was also one of the few Brahmins (Upper-caste Hindu) in India who actually understood his privileges and used his knowledge, higher social position and wealth to make the Indian queer space as inclusive as possible.

Mr. X was the first man that I had sex with who was not my partner and that was the moment my faith in my open relationship strengthened as it allowed me to meet and form intimate relationships with other people. It also reinvigorated the love I had for my partner. I could not thank him enough for instilling in me his complete trust and faith and letting me explore my sexual desires, kinks and fantasies as well as allowing me to form meaningful emotional connections with other people without any guilt and shame.

He invited me to his bedroom, massaged my shoulders and reassured me through his words and actions that my body is worth loving. In his company, I felt safe to try out all my fantasies and explore all my kinks. I also realized the different ways in which people can express their love and emotions in the bedroom and it doesn’t necessarily have to be based on any romantic feelings for the person.

This honeymoon period, however, soon came to an end.

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A series of deeply traumatizing incidents soon followed which made me understand and experience the deep connection patriarchy (in this case, Brahminical Patriarchy) has with monogamy and the webs of manipulation it can spun to satiate its lusts of controlling you through your vulnerabilities.

One night as we were kissing and undressing each other, I noticed a sudden aggression and dominance in him which I had never seen before. Before I could ask him anything, he told me that he was not getting full satisfaction from the sex that we were having and he wanted more. He wanted to penetrate me. I refused him as I didn’t feel comfortable enough to indulge in penetrative sex with anyone other than my partner. I was pretty nonchalant about it as I expected Mr. X to respect my boundaries and I knew that he would.

But I was wrong.

He did the unthinkable and the unimaginable. He tried to violate me. In that moment, for the first time in my life, I felt completely and utterly helpless as well as terrified. AND ALONE. I kicked him away, grabbed my clothes and just ran.

Over the next few days, Mr. X called me numerous times. After ignoring his call for probably the hundredth time, I finally picked it up hoping that he would apologize for his grave mistake of violating my boundaries the other night.

I know, stupid me, right?

Well, he did say it was a mistake but it was my mistake of refusing him that led him to force himself on me.

He also told me that I should feel grateful to him for accepting me in spite of my ridiculous non monogamous relationship status and went on to ridicule me with a host of other demeaning statements.

Out of those, one really stood out. “Non-monogamous whores (like me) need monogamous family men like him in my life to keep me in check or else we will destroy the entire relationship and family structure that God created for us.”

I didn’t say anything and simply hung up the phone and went to sleep.

Photo by Random Sky on Unsplash

Perhaps, I knew deep down that his accepting nature and liberal ideals were simply a part of his public facade when he slut-shamed his wife for talking to another man in front of her entire family even though he was the guilty party and his affairs with other men the reason behind their failing marriage.

Or that time when he ridiculed an effeminate gay man for being ‘too feminine’.

Or even that time when he bullied a younger queer man for being in a polyamorous relationship with two women. He considered such men ‘pussies for allowing their girls to sleep with other people’.

The red flags and warning signs were aplenty but I chose to ignore them all. I was happy that Mr. X was taking care of me and I didn’t want our relationship to end.

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Over the next few months, I met more people. Some were coffee dates while others were one-night stands. The former were fewer while the later were more. If there’s one thing for which I’ll always be grateful to Mr. X, it’s his help in removing my inhibition to get naked in front of people who are not my partner.

I was on a mission. To prove Mr. X wrong. Non-monogamous whores like me exist and we are here to stay, whether you like it or not. Our Sexualities are Real and Natural and cannot be controlled or dictated. My Partner even got these words printed on a white sheet of paper and put it on my work table. I DON’T NEED ANYONE TO KEEP ME IN CHECK. I AM A FREE PERSON AND THE CONSTITUTION OF MY COUNTRY GRANTS ME MY FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS IRRESPECTIVE OF MY CASTE, RELIGION, SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND RELATIONSHIP STATUS.

The surprising thing that all of the men that I slept with had in common was that they didn’t approve of my open relationship with my partner and considered it sinful. It was another thing altogether that most of them were sleeping with other people behind their partner’s backs.

A glance through the popular Indian queer groups on various social media platforms will corroborate this hypocritical and judgemental nature of the Indian queer community.

The domination of queer spaces in India by Upper-caste and privileged Gay Men over the last few years has led to the formation of a heteronormative queer community (an oxymoron I know) which fully believes in the overall patriarchal social structure (the status quo) as well as strives to distance itself from other queer folks who don’t agree with their conservative views.

There were also some men who disapproved of my pansexuality and called me confused. But, they had no hesitations in sleeping with me as I was exotic due to my non-monogamous lifestyle and pansexual nature (their words, not mine).

I also met a few men here and there who told me that my same-sex attraction was unnatural and a threat to the balance of nature. My real identity was my attraction towards women and it needs to be preserved for it would come in handy after my marriage to a woman to make babies. Ironically, they also had no hesitations in taking a part in some unnatural acts with this mentally disturbed person.

They were, after all, experimenting and there’s nothing wrong in experimentation.

Anyway, coming back to the point. I had sex with them all. Because I wanted to. I liked having sex and still do. It makes me feel wanted, needed, cherished and liberated. In a conservative country, where almost every other person suppresses their sexual desires, fantasies, kinks and most importantly, their sexual identities owing to the fear of being judged by the society, my active sex life with people other than my boyfriend makes me feel completely free.

JUST LIKE A GOLDEN EAGLE SOARING THROUGH THE BLUE SKY WITH WINGS SPREAD WIDE WITHOUT GIVING ANY F*** ABOUT THE SOCIETY.

Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash
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During the last 14 months, the one thing that I’ve realized through my countless encounters, both sexual and platonic, and experiences with men and women, queer and straight, cis and trans, binary and non-binary, rich and poor, Hindu and Muslim, young and old, is that the scrapping of the section 377 by the Supreme Court was an anomaly, a surprise when it should have been an expectation. The progressive judgment came in spite of the massive resistance carried out by my fellow countrymen through their prejudiced thoughts, actions and beliefs. Forget the whole country, even the Indian Queer Community is far from being an inclusive society. It is headed by rich and affluent men like Mr. X and he is not alone.

There are countless Mr. X’s roaming the streets of New Delhi, the nation’s capital, and Mumbai, the nation’s commercial center. They live in huge mansions, attend literary festivals and walk with us in Pride Marches but they are not our Allies. They don’t like our queerness, they want to control those who don’t fit into their narrow world views of monogamy and use the power of patriarchy to create friction within the gay community.

The Supreme Court Judgment only made us ‘not criminals’; the next step is to get our rights as humans.

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