Ever since I heard about Archie comics decision to include a gay character, Kevin, among their other characters, I have been forced to reflect on the state of homosexuality in our society. This thing has raised quite a few eyebrows among comic enthusiasts. I personally feel that it’s a very healthy step that Archie comics administration has taken. To keep up with the times that we are living with as of now, it is very important to include newer norms that are gaining more and more acceptance in society. Although homosexuality is not a new thing, its pattern as an accepted phase of human nature is something new. I still remember how shocked I was when I first learnt that Alexander the Great was a gay! Today, after living for six years in a students’ environment where free thinking is encouraged, I have become more comfortable with the fact that there can be a homosexual person in the neighborhood.
When I think about the possibilities of Kevin’s character, my mind also reflects back to my college years in Delhi University where being labeled as a homosexual was the cruelest joke that anyone could crack on you. Although in our hostel there existed a fabled gay society which was made up of guys who were single, it was all made in pure jest and there were no real gays in it. People used to furiously debate on these topics when among intellectual circles but in secret it was all blown out in pure jest! In the midst of this my mind revolves to those few self-confessed gay people that I came across during my college life. Even if they had been there rather for brief moments, they did succeed in putting a deep impression on my mind about such people who hide the most important thing about themselves purely out of fear of a society that refuses to accept it.
Whenever we think of gays, our mind immediately forms the image of an effeminate character with certain types of mannerisms (read Karan Joharesque). And if there is someone in the group who has such attributes, then he is condemned for good as he becomes the butt of all jokes after that. I have always come across such characters and I admit even I used to make fun of them. But that obviously doesn’t means they are all gays. In fact I have a good friend who has such mannerisms. But I can vouch for the fact he is not a gay as he has such a hot girlfriend! Woof! Well, anyways the fact remains that such mannerisms cannot under any circumstances make a person gay. Also, one tends to think about homosexual men only when this topic is raised up but they completely forget that there are lesbian women too. Infact the first real homosexual character I met in life was a lesbian girl. Although our interaction was rather brief, I must say that she did put a very deep impression on me which will last forever.
The first look at Jincy, and you simply couldn’t tell that she was a lesbian. Infact, she was rather attractive and any guy would love to flirt with her as I did for the first few moments. I met Jincy at her college fest and we hit off pretty well. As a group of boys who had entered the fest of a girls’ college, we were expected to hit gold somewhere in the crowd. And all of a sudden in the crowd, I caught sight of her. Nice chick, I thought. I tried to hit a conversation with her and it went off pretty well. She was a literature student and I, a history one. I tried everything to impress her about my knowledge of English literature and trying throw in historical perspectives wherever I could. I was particularly impressed with her level of knowledge and ways of perceptions about various things. We were going really fine when suddenly she took leave and went off to a girl and started chatting with her. I then started to talk to another female friend of mine who then joked as to what was wrong with my taste for girls. I was taken aback. It was then that my friend told me that Jincy was a lesbian and the girl she was talking with was her lover.
Sometime later Jincy came over to me and introduced me as an ‘intelligent guy’ to her girlfriend. I was at a loss of words as to how to carry on the conversation. She could read the awkward expression on my face which I so desperately tried to hide. And then she herself said, “So you found out that I’m a lesbian?” I went dumb for the moment. I really couldn’t think of what to say. She said that she had seen me chatting with my friend and so she could make out what she must have told me. She also said that she had come across guys with similar expressions when they found out that she was a lesbian. She knew I was trying to flirt with her. That embarrassed me even more and she could sense it. She said rather casually holding my hand, “It’s ok yaar. There’s no big deal if you flirted with me. You didn’t know. But I really like you. You’re a good-looking, funny and a very intelligent guy. Infact believe me, if it were not for guys like you all girls would have gone lesbian.” She could easily see the surprise on my face. No girl had ever said such nice words to me and she turned out to be a lesbian! In fact those words were the best compliments I have ever received from a girl! I was feeling both good and terrible at the same time. The only thing that managed to escape my lips was whether her parents knew about it. Her answer was no. Her face turned grave and she added that she didn’t know how she would break the news to them. Our meeting ended at that because I had to go and join my friends. Strangely, I met Jincy only one more time in the final year of my college and it was a very brief encounter in the Kamla Nagar market. It was a simple hello-hi stuff and nothing more. But I could never forget Jincy completely and for the first time I realized that there must be so many like her. Imagine the dilemma and the agony they all have to go through! I never knew what happened to Jincy and her girlfriend. Once again life seemed very unfair and the society seemed like a hideous monster!
Now when I come to homosexual men or gays to be more precise, the one memorable character that I had come across was one that we found in our nest of Hans Raj. We were in third year when in came a fresher named Sushant from Lucknow. Sushant was a very soft-spoken and shy guy and also one of the few freshers in the hostel who was really nice in showing courtesies to his seniors. So most of us took pity on him and didn’t rag him much. Sushant, an English literature student, had a very sensitive side to most things of life. Sushant was very fond of my batchmate Irfan and I remember how once me, Irfan and Sushant had an intense discussion on human behaviour way into the midnight. For the first time I realized the high level of intelligence that Sushant possessed. But then people had begun to suspect that he was a gay and there was also a rumour that he was in love with Irfan. Of course Irfan whisked it off as a silly joke.
But stories of Sushant’s alternate sexuality also began to circulate in the English department. Sushant had submitted a short story for the department magazine which was considered quite bold in its theme on homosexuality. The professor straightway asked him if he was gay and he boldly replied in the affirmative. After this we don’t what happened but after sometime Sushant’s father showed up and met the professor. The very next day he decided to take Sushant home and started taking out his luggage from the hostel. Here a little drama ensued. While his father tried to take him away, Sushant cried and pleaded to wait for sometime so that he could meet Irfan one last time. Most of the boys in the hostel came out to see this and were dumbstruck by what they saw. But his father took him away anyway. Irfan, who had been away to his department, came to have lunch in the hostel and heard the story. I don’t know how he felt but he kept silent for the rest of the day. Later we learnt that the professor had told Sushant’s father that his son was not mentally well and had developed alternate sexual feelings. Also, he had asked his father to take his son home so that he could be taken proper care of. While most guys made fun of the entire episode, Irfan remained silent. I on my part felt very angry on the professor. How could he do something like this to his own student? Such a narrow minded asshole! The last thing that is true about gays is there condition being a result of a mental disorder. Preposterous! I found it highly revolting. When I openly spoke against the professor in front of my other hostel mates, they made slight jokes about my intentions as well. But I didn’t give a hoot to that at all. But the fact remained that an intelligent and promising intellectual’s journey was halted because of his alternate sexuality. Life sure is unfair.
Ultimately, I don’t what became of Jincy and Sushant. But I know that there’s are not the only stories of this kind. There are many more. Although the Supreme Court has scrapped Article 377 and has made things easier for homosexuals in this country, they still fear the onslaught of the society. And they have their reasons. What can you expect out of a society to treat its homosexual citizens when it is itself guilty of crimes like honour killing, female infanticide and caste violence? Even as I conclude this article, I don’t know what the future holds for these people. The Archies may have introduced a gay character, but the questions on these people still remain uncertain.
*names have been changed to protect privacy.