Casualties of Love and Sex: The New Gender Fluidity – Margaret Mascarenhas, Mahesh Dattani, Sachin Kundalkar and Neelima Bajpai in conversation with Bachi Karkaria
In keeping with the running theme of freedom at this year’s ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, we came at last to the issue of sexual freedom. Things heated up under the awnings of the Front Lawns this afternoon, as people packed the aisles to listen to the racy discussion with the eminent panel.
With standing social constructs and impositions like Article 377, we must question are we really sexually free? India might be the only country in the world that has legitimized a third gender in the Hijra community, but can it see past the restrictions of social norms?
While sexual and gender fluidity is as old as the hills, what is new—and herein lies the problem—is the importance society puts upon labels that categorise people based on their sexual preferences. Transnational novelist Margaret Mascarenhan envisioned a society where one might “fall in love with a person and gender is irrelevant.” So concurred openly gay filmmaker Sachin Kundalkar humorously: “I love people and I hate people for who they are and for that only.”
— Harish Panchabhai (@harish5bhai) January 19, 2014
Popular columnist Bachi Karkaria proposed that the logical progression from sexual freedom would be the neutralization all sexual opposition, creating a world in which people can move freely through both gender and sexual preference. Similarly the panel concluded that the label of “queer lit” should be expunged because it has now entered the mainstream. Mahesh Dattani clarified that he did not write “gay plays” but at the same time I “cannot afford sexual or gender rigidity as a playwright” if he wishes to be truthful to all perspectives. It is academic talk in an arena like this, but how to realize it in larger society? Dattani, often called the “invisible observer”, brought up an important insight: “The reality is that until we have gender equity we cannot have gender fluidity.” He points out this poisonous mindset engrained into society even in Kundalkar’s teenage psyche, who told of how he grew up hating women because they “snatched away everyone (he) loved.” “Why didn’t you hate the men for not being attracted to you?” proposed Dattani, receiving great approbation from the crowd.
It was clear after the session that the public’s minds are more open than ever to accepting people’s freedom to be fluid. Karkaria wrapped it up on the note that if everyone in the enormous audience starts thinking like this, we are headed in the right direction.
By Krysten Maier@Jaipur Literature Festival