It’s International Men’s Day. What does that mean? What do we celebrate? Masculinity? Machoism? The stache? The muscles? Or the sexual orientation…?
Harish Iyer, Director and Strategic Partner at the Humane Society International/India, and a renowned activist for LGBTQ rights in the country, decided to speak to us this Men’s Day and his words will leave you with enough to ponder over.
“Gender is nothing but a biological accident,” says Harish who would have been just as happy had he been a woman, or a transgender. “My gender is always perceived as the tormentor, the bread-winner, the un-emotive. Masculinity is not a mustache that you grow, the muscles you develop, the abs or the way men fuck; it is about equality.”
Harish is one of the most well known men who have always spearheaded any movement or revolution for those who cannot speak for themselves—be it a member of the LGBTQ community, the animals, or the people who don’t have a voice. He has been the guest speaker for world renowned talks and on television to voice his opinions and make a difference in whichever way he can. As someone who is from the LGBTQ community (http://www.mensxp.com/special-features/today/33320-in-a-new-progressive-move-kerala-might-open-india-s-first-residential-school-for-transgenders.html) in India, Harish knows exactly what it is like to be a man of different sexual orientation; to be gay and proud about it. “It was my friend Sheetal Kher, wife of Kailash Kher, who pulled me out of the closet,” says Harish. “Sheetal did a college journalism profile on me and outed me.”
Speaking about explaining to his family, Harish says, “I told my mother I was willing to marry a woman, but asked if she would willingly marry her daughter to a gay guy.” Harish, like countless other men in our country, was also subject to criticism and social judgment. But, he believes it to be because people are curious. “There have been relatives who wanted me to get married and some nosy neighbours. I sarcastically tell them I can marry their daughter and divorce her if it doesn’t work out.” It pays to have a sense of humour when you’re different from the pack. Ask anyone who doesn’t run the rat race; they’ll agree. “I think there is ingrained misogyny in many of our Indian practices, most of which are patriarchal,” he opines.
According to Harish, there needs to be more liberty for people who want to come out openly. “We should not have to prove time and again that we are just like everyone else who is part of society,” he reasons. “The bisexual community is the most invisible in society.
They face prejudice in the LGBT community and also the heterosexual community,” Harish explains. “Trans people face a lot of discrimination, mostly due to people’s ignorance and refusal to study issues in detail. All this gets augmented, when you also are a person of color, caste, are a woman.” And while society has always been rather vague about the LGBTQ community as a whole, Harish sees hope. “While some members of society see us as ‘diseased and ‘perverted’, a lot of them also see us as creative and dependable individuals which is true.” He agrees that it’s not always easy to talk about it.
We need to keep talking—make the invisible visible and bring issues to the forefront, he says. “It will get easier when we speak at times when it is most challenging to do so.” As for his own sense of self, Harish has never let the words of others affect his being in any way whatsoever. “Living your life truly and unabashedly is the truest form of activism,” he quips in a matter-of-fact tone.
And his message to men on International Men’s Day is simple.
“Yes, we have been privileged. You don’t need to step out and offer your seats to women to be considered a man. Women need no charity; only equality. Also some men are assholes; and some women label all men as that. Learn to give a rat’s left testicle to both of them.”