7.09.2008

Queeristani Travels -- Bhai-Sexuals

Hey guys, sorry about the long hiatus! My visit to Kolkata has been a frenzy at best, it's just now is settling down! The City of Joy is changing significantly, but one specific change has garnered my attention on my current trip. Perhaps it's an effect of the nation's changing social mores and ideals, or perhaps its just how things play out, but I can't stop wondering -- where have all the bhai-sexuals gone?


To any resident/traveller of the subcontinent, bhai-sexuality is (or perhaps more accurately, was) a fact of life. This sort of brotherly love is showcased by men holding hands, embracing each other, and playfully being affectionate towards one another. Bhai-sexuality unknowingly (but effectively) challenged the West's view of heterosexuality. I always found these actions to be endearing, not to mention strangely appealing during my days in the closet. However, like I said before, things are changing.

When walking to work or taking an auto across town, I'm seeing less and less bhai-sexuals. There is still a sense of dosti between male friends, but the attitude has shifted. Suddenly what the West deemed as "gay" is now seen as gay in India. There is no room for bhai-sexuality today, not in Bollywood or TV. Instead, a constant stream of hypermasculinity has taken over. The media pulsates six-packs, biceps, and an overall sense of machismo. Young boys are growing up with a new notion of how men should act around one another. It would be too easy to hold Westernization and globilization fully accountable for this, afterall didn't the West (particularly America) experience a similar shift not so long ago?

Male-male friendships in post-war America exhibited similar features to bhai-sexuality. However, once homosexuality gained visability by the late 1960's, men began overly stress their heterosexuality. While today America is breaking down the black-and-white mentality of sexuality, it has taken our society over a quarter century to do so. However I can't help but wonder, with the emergence of a Queer Desi identity, is South Asia headed towards a similar path?

1 comment:

rahulmitra said...

ure observations are not entirely untrue... in terms of a hetero-sexist backlash to a more visible queer culture. Perhaps its because our delish K.Jo's put Saif and SRK in amazing positions in bed in front of Kamtabai...? But then, perhaps that's an acceptable loss: there is perhaps a need to move beyond defining sexuality in terms of sex roles and relationship-permanency (as Shivananda Khan notes), and move towards a more basic recognition of identity and practice.