being brown

Sexuality and its discontents

Recently, because I had an ongoing (it was something that surfaced on and off over the course of three weeks) argument about sexuality with P, I decided to speak to A for an outsider’s perspective. After listening to my version of the debate, A, first, felt that I was confused about sexuality and I was projecting that on P. ( yeah! I have friends who can be brutally honest!). Her second observation was that if P was, herself, from a sexual minority community, she would consider it an affront if I had something to say about sexual minorities ( ofcourse, A assumed that P assumed that I was heterosexual). I didn’t know if P was heterosexual or not. So this was a moot point.

The argument itself was on semantics. What word would one use to describe something? But during the course of the argument, P said, ‘ in most homosexual relationships, one partner plays the role of a woman and the other the man’. This raised red flags in my mind, because for one, it isn’t true and for another, it smacks of heterosexual morality being reproduced in homosexual relationships. Subsequently, from context, I discovered that P was specifically talking about sex between men and transsexuals. The whole impasse between P and me was the result of the imprecise use of words. Clarity regained seat, and all was well with the world.

P had the best interest of sexual minorities at heart. She even worked with some of them. In fact, while she was talking to me she said, ‘ why should the knowledge of someone’s sexuality, what ever it is, affect our behavior in anyway?’ And i am in complete agreement. But, in our enthusiasm to be inclusive and non-discriminatory, we tend to categorise all sexual minorities in to one category, losing critical nuances and tending to generalize within the category. Hence, P’s sweeping statement and my overwrought reaction to it.

But A had brought up an interesting question. By virtue of ‘appearing’ heterosexual, do I automatically lose credibility in discussions concerning sexuality?  If yes, why? Is it beyond comprehension that some one with a majoritarian inclination should actually understand the nuances in a discussion about a minority? Or is it that such a person really cannot understand those nuances? In corollary, do gays always and fully understand the issues that concern lesbians and transsexuals? What do you think?

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4 responses

  1. There are apparently many dimensions to sexuality apart from the core biological function. These can be physiological, social and psychological; and it can be pathological in certain cases indeed, as in paedophiles. And since most of us are given to sexual urges of one sort or other, it will be a tunnel vision of sorts to not be able to visualize the urges of those at variance with the normal stream to some extent, except perhaps in cases of physiological deviations.

    It is possible that those who fall in a minority bracket are having inferiority complexes as a defence mechanism. I agree that one’s sexual preference should not be an obstacle to normal social relations with the person. Yet, I don’t see any reason why we should be bending over our backs not to hurt their psychological carapaces.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    • Yeah! i would agree with you. but the question also is whether it is at all possible that some one who is heterosexual will know more about these nuances than some one who is from the minority community? i think the problem is when one uses one’s sexuality as a sort of trump card to clinch an argument.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:52 pm

  2. this is an interesting question and I think one can extend it to any kind of minority or (this is, of course, not synonymous with minority) even disadvantaged group. The question of empathy is sharply visible when one talks about caste and oppression. I (and other) ‘priveliged’ people might often have confronted the conundrum of not being from a particular oppressed group and therefore losing the legitimacy to speak for that group. The fact is that, it is this shared experience which allows articulation that prevents me from truly being involved in the struggle, or something that I believe strongly in. Even my stand as a feminist has been questioned once, for not being a woman. Being a man I am prone to the generic ruthlessness and insensitivity of my tribe, or (in an extreme situation) not being a woman I will never understand what the fear of rape is or the trauma of domestic violence. Does experience pre-empt knowledge always? Is there a different value in observational understanding? And is empathy a myth?

    I know it is a digression. But I feel it is connected to the larger issues you broach through this singular incident…

    May 30, 2012 at 7:12 am

  3. yes, i too think these are the questions relevant to the question i am raising here as well. apart from observational learning, I think the imagination provides a plethora of learning for us. We as human beings have the ability to imagine, imagine a reality that is different from our own reality. And we don’t value that ability enough.

    May 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm

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