We're on our next stop around the world in India, and we're in a g*dd*mn rickshaw.
♪ Who are they tryin' to assimilate ♪
♪ Every winter, b*mb assimilate the glare ♪
♪ It feel like f*re... ♪
From the outside, India may seem like a paradox.
It's one of the few cultures in the world that can trace its roots to the beginning of recorded history, but it's also a new country, celebrating only 70 years of independence.
♪ I'm in b*mb, dancing to a banger ♪
♪ Listenin' to Biggie, ain't nobody with a banger ♪
With a billion people and 22 official languages, there are countless differences between regions.
But what unites Indians is the spirituality of Eastern religions and the legacy of British colonial rule.
♪ I'm on the b*at like a beast with a temper ♪
It's this duality that allows Indian law to recognize a third gender, but also stigmatize h*m*.
So we want to learn more about the LGBTQ experience here in India.
♪ Hey, Savage, ask me, it's madness ♪
♪ Humans is humans who care who they smashing ♪
Both: "Gaycation: India."
♪ Did you see them? ♪
♪ Oh, did you see them? ♪
♪ They're just walking around, yeah ♪
Page: We're in India's largest city Mumbai, formally b*mb, to understand what it's like for the LGBTQ community in contemporary India.
We've been invited to the Godrej Culture lab, an experimental idea space inside one of India's largest conglomerates to meet one of its innovators, Parmesh Shahani.
Page: He wrote the book on being gay in b*mb.
It's called "Gay b*mb."
Welcome to Godrej.
I'm going to give you a big adventure.
We have to hold hands together.
That is how you start out an interview?
Yep. Welcome to India.
Quite the setup.
We clearly know about your book, "Gay b*mb," and that you are an expert in your country on q*eer culture.
And from your point of view, what are some of the questions we should be asking?
What are some of things we should be thinking about?
Sure. I think the first thing that you should think about as you go on India Gaycation is that in India, the trajectory of being LGBT is not...
It's not linear at all, but there are deep historical narratives.
We have are own LGBT mythologies.
So to understand that...
What's happening on the LGBT scene today is an interplay both between our history, our mythology and of our presence in a very globalized LGBT environment.
Um, but I think being q*eer here is really about community.
You are not q*eer alone.
You know, you're q*eer in your family, you're q*eer with your friends, you're q*eer at work.
Every decision you take is not about self.
Maybe you can also speak to the impact of colonialism and sort of what that has meant for the community in this country.
Sure. So, pre-colonial India had a range of possibilities, and you can see it if you look at our text.
The colonial project was about, you know, simplifying and classifying.
The British gave us Section 377, which is very problematic.
And I think the reason why this law stays and why there is so much discrimination in society itself is because of nationalism.
It's because in this imagination of India post-independence, LGBT diversity is something that was ignored.
And I think a lot of people absorbed colonial, in hangover, kind of their colonial values and mind-sets.
Page: Section 377 is a 19th-century British imposed law that criminalizes intercourse "against the order of nature," which has been interpreted to persecute h*m*.
Though it was lifted for consenting adults in 2009, it was fully reinstated in 2014.
And so the fight for LGBTQ rights in India continues.
We can't go back in the closet.
There isn't any such closet now that I can go back to.
Daniel: This law, Article 377, what power does it actually have?
The fact that this law exists means that any man who's LGBT is always afraid.
It's often used as a form of thr*at.
It's often used as an excuse to not give people rights.
It's just something which is fundamental to our being recognized as citizens in our own country.
It's a very base argument.
We just don't want to be criminal.
But in 2009, when that was repealed, right?
People were coming out of the closet.
There was a real celebration, and I would assume, some sort of feeling of liberation that happened.
The High Court thing came, we had all these celebratory marches, and then suddenly, this thing comes as one big slap to everyone's face.
And then what do you do? I mean, you're all out, right?
It made everyone realize that a journey towards equality is not a linear journey.
It's not that we will have progress, progress, progress.
There will be setbacks, right?
So I think the Supreme Court reversal, while very wrong, has actually galvanized the community to act together, to strategize better.
And over the long term, I think it will lay the foundations for a better future.
Walk and talk?
Walk and talk.
This building is beautiful.
Oh, is that a swing?
You want to swing?
Can I sit on it?
You can fit how many people on this?
Three, all right.
I don't trust that.
All right. This is fine.
So, what do you do for fun?
Like, in a gay way, and also in a non-gay way.
So where do you hang out?
So gays hang mostly on Grindr.
We should put you down.
I'm sure yours is a sight to behold.
So wait, there's this law, but it's like actually really easy to get on Grindr and like... like that?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Of course.
Page: Well, it sounds like there still is a network for gay men.
So, as the sun sets over the city, we wonder, what's the gay night life like?
[Dance music plays]
Daniel: So, there's a party for the gay community in Mumbai.
I left Ellen at the hotel, and I'm going to go in by myself and see what's going on and check out the scene.
So, wait, what the hell's going on in there?
Man: It's a gay party, which is hosted by gay b*mb.
People who are out there inside dancing, all of them are not out.
Hence, they need that safe space.
And because they need that safe place, they come to "G" parties because they want the parties completely safe.
Do you know, like, I do have straight friends, and I do go clubbing with them, but I can't do my, like, belly dance or something over there.
I don't really feel comfortable.
Tell me, from your point of view, what it's like to be gay and live in b*mb.
Man #2: You do find h*m* people, but if we actually compared the scenario in India, b*mb's quite a cool place because you have safer space, party every Saturday.
And you feel... you feel totally comfortable just being out and being proud, yeah?
Love that. So, are you a couple?
Wow, the first couple I've seen tonight.
You're out, yeah?
Oh, yeah. Very.
You're open about your sexuality, and you're open about being a couple Yeah. out in public?
Can't help it.
Can't help it? What do you mean by you can't help it?
It becomes fairly obvious at times. [Chuckles]
So the bottom line, this party's, like, really important to your expression, to your identity, and to your future?
I think it has given me the courage to stand strong and be myself and say, "Yes, I am a proud gay man, a h*m* man."
All right. Thanks, guys. I'll leave you alone.
See you, man.
But I'll see you in there.
Nice meeting you.
Page: There seems to be a strong community for gay men, at least under the cover of night.
What's life like in the light of day?
And we can't help but ask, where are the women?
Page: India's known for the tradition of arranged marriages.
Even today, they still make up 88% of all marital unions here.
Matchmaking apps and social listings have modernized the search for a partner, but it's the still the imperative of the parent to make sure their child finds an appropriate husband or wife.
Article 377 in the books, marriage equality isn't up for debate.
But like any mother, Padmav wanted her son to continue in the family tradition, so she placed a matrimonial ad in the local paper requesting a groom for her son.
Hi. I'm Ian.
Nice to meet you.
Pleasure to meet you.
Ian, nice to meet you.
Page: Oh, you're pretty.
He's a gay cat.
Oh, he is?
Both of them are gay.
So, how many people live here?
My mother, my father, my grandmom, my cats.
So if my cats are the next generation, we have around three generations living here.
That's how Indian families have been.
They'll take a big house, and all of them would live together... really close knit.
So, far as the concept of dating is very new.
If you don't find a family for yourself, we'll find one for you.
So, and when they find one for you, they will find somebody from the same language, from the same caste.
So how does... how does love come in to play in all of this?
I wouldn't call it love.
But, you know, staying together, you have to make a lot of adjustments and compromises.
I mean, well, I was going to talk... to talk about the ad you placed because you guys caused quite a stir [chuckling] I suppose.
Harish: My mother was very worried, and she said that, "You're... you're 36, and you're going to be single."
"You're not finding a suitor for yourself."
"This is it. I'm going to find one for you."
And then she asked. "Can we put an ad in Grindr?"
I said, "Grindr people meet on Grindr for something else."
It's called Grindr for a reason.
We were sitting on the bed and we were laughing, and I said, "Are you serious?"
And she said, "Yeah. We should put an ad."
I said, "Okay."
And so how has that just been for your family or with friends, you know?
How has it been for the family?
Woman: Suddenly, I became very famous.
Like, they didn't like to see me, and they said, "Why you have to go and place that ad?"
They weren't very happy.
Was that something you were thinking about, though, when you were making that ad that this would be a public deal, yeah?
No, I never thought about it.
You know, earlier on, I was very introvert.
I didn't want to face the family.
I didn't want people calling me names, like, "Oh, you have a gay son."
I wanted everything to be a secret.
Slowly, I came out. I said, "No. Let them talk."
"I want to do good for my son."
So, did you meet anybody?
Yeah. What was the end result of that?
So, we spoke to a few people, it didn't work out.
And I'm still single.
And Ellen, possibly, you can find me a nice suitor.
I'm coming to the U.S.
I'll keep my eyes peeled.
Keep your eyes open.
What's your type?
As long as he's vegetarian, he's animal loving, he's willing to accept my cats.
I'm willing... I'm... I'm... I'll love him to death then.
Page: Well, they were incredibly sweet, incredibly welcoming.
Daniel: It seemed like it was more important for him to get married than actually to fall in love and not get married.
I guess I've not experienced someone saying that, but no judgment. I just thought that was interesting.
Looking at these things, they ... they stand out strongly.
But when you reflect on your own culture, you know, there's still stigma when people don't get married.
It can be easy to, I think, not look at yourself or look at where you come from.
Page: If just choosing a partner breaks social norms, then the LGBTQ community must face a double stigma.
To understand more of the issues unique to India, we're meeting the person considered to be the grandfather of the movement.
Thanks for having us.
Page: Ashok Row Kavi is the founder of one of India's first LGBTQ organizations, The Humsafar Trust.
Please don't shut down the air-conditioning, otherwise, we're d*ad.
Daniel: I just wanted to know your opinion about what you think the biggest differences are in the movement in America and the movement here.
I see the issues and the way you've dealt with them is totally different.
You know, when you're gay or lesbian, you don't really form part of the mainstream.
You come out, and that's how you have a gay subculture because you are really not wanted in the family.
But here, the gay or lesbian children are left behind children because children are a social treasure.
So we may have to contend with the more conservative movement.
Even today, there's no identity called gay.
They say, "Are you this way?"
It's widely stated that you are the first person to say that...
And, um, maybe you shou...
Could just give us some context for that.
I was a journalist for approximately 28 years, and since then, I've been in activism.
It's been a bitter fight, both with the government and within the community.
Because within the community, they're very divided.
The women's issues are totally different whereas the v*olence against the men is in public spaces.
In a way, men are cruising.
For women, the v*olence is in...
In the domestic scene, you know?
It's in closed spaces.
That's where their oppression takes place.
There is a streak of misogyny that has come in from the Western movements, you know, to gay men here.
But they don't like women in gay bars, you know?
You go out in the evenings in many of Indian cities, there are no women on the streets.
They are just men.
Where are the women?
Page: There are some organizations fighting for community and visibility for lesbian and bisexual women.
Page: Gaysi is one of them, and they've invited us to play a doubles match.
Daniel: I would say I was about 10 since my last game, since I've last held a shuttlecock.
That ain't the last time, you feeling me?
Cheers to a badminton tournament to the...
Cheers to the winner.
Oh, you're the winner.
Cheers to you.
Thanks for, um, annihilating Ian and I on the court.
I'd love to talk to you about Gaysi and talk about the organization.
Yeah, so Gaysi started in 2008 as a way to get Indian q*eer people together to communicate with each other.
And now, we've started doing events in b*mb, sort of to create safe spaces for women mostly, than men to come together because there's lots of parties for men.
There's lots of things for men to do and...
He knows. Don't worry about it.
So, you can...
Show up to a gay party?
... say whatever you want.
Daniel: Yeah, I went to the Gay b*mb party last night.
How was that?
It w... I mean, it was a nice time, but there...
You know, there were not women there.
Maybe you could give us a bit of your individual stories of what it what means to be a woman and q*eer in India.
I think that more than being a woman... [Sighs] and then being q*eer is, you know, two layers of stuff in India.
I can speak for all three of us in the sense that I think we come from a more privileged background, so we have access... and we're allowed these safe spaces. But I think even then, it's still, uh, difficult.
You feel intimidated anyway in a public space.
I mean, you can be, and then...
It's just nice to have a place where people are not looking at you and judging your...
... particular manner, you know? So that... that is really important, actually, I feel.
Well, women in India aren't allowed to have a sexuality...
... whether you're straight or not. Like, your job, as a woman, is to have a womb, get married, produce a baby, and that's it.
And that's it.
The idea that you might even want to have sex is alien.
As a q*eer woman that means you're associated by what happens in your bedroom.
That is just a part of my identity. It doesn't define me.
Page: Ian and I have been in India for a couple of days now, and from the stories we've been told, there seems to be a strong patriarchal tradition.
We want to hear from more lesbian and bisexual women, because for them, just being in a relationship challenges gender roles.
Thanks for coming and thanks for being part of this.
Woman: No, thank you very much.
Clearly, there's difficulty to doing it, so we appreciate it.
Page: We're meeting a young woman to find out how social pressures often keep women from coming out and speaking out.
Maybe you can describe to us what it means to be an independent woman in India.
Mm... [Exhales sharply]
It's not easy.
For a woman, it's just like, "A," how can you leave your house?
"B," you have responsibilities.
So all of that is ingrained in them at a very, very young age.
The son in the house, goes to work, you know, go out and do whatever he wants, and stay out to whatever time he wants, when that's absolutely okay.
But God forbid the daughter wants to do that.
And God forbid the daughter's not attracted to boys.
Yeah. And so... yeah. I think a lot of women don't come out, and these are people who have totally different feelings towards, you know, the opposite sex and have to, like, live and marry and, you know, give them children. It's absurd.
And would you say the majority of q*eer women in this country are in that position?
But, uh, I'm very, very lucky to have an extremely supportive and understanding family.
Why is it that you're...
You're doing this interview anonymously?
Well, I'm doing this interview anonymously because of my partner.
She comes from one of the families that I've been talking to you about.
And, uh, let's just put it this way, that it wouldn't go down very well.
What do you mean by that?
It... It's over, like, your life is over.
Like, believe me when I say that your life is over.
It means that you are locked in the room till I get you married, and that's it.
And you have no say in the matter.
She's actually been my best friend for 10 years.
And I knew I loved her from the day I met her, when, in 2005, when we were, like, 15 years old.
Well, it took me a year to convince her, that we could date, because her thing was, like, "I cannot, because you know the kind of family that I come from."
And I was like, "Okay, I understand that, but I'm not asking you to marry me right now, so I'm...
I mean, I'm not understanding what the apprehension is."
And she's like, "No, 'cause I know where this is gonna go eventually.
"You know, it's never gonna happen in my family."
How does that make you feel? Wha... What do you... ?
You do realize that I'm gonna have to be there organizing her wedding, right?
I don't mean that as a joke.
Because you're... Because you're best friends, or...
Uh, best friends and so close to her family, and if I don't, it'll...
Questions will be raised.
So, basically, I'm gonna have to suck it up and pretty much give her away to someone else.
I'm really sorry.
It's so strange that the one person that I'm genuinely so happy to be with, I have to hide, like it's, like, this shameful act.
The day she gets married, I should be set free...
A very twisted way.
Page: For many lesbian and bisexual women, being with a chosen partner can mean leaving their family and losing their home.
And often, the legal stigma against h*m* dissuades women from reaching out for government support.
But there are some organizations that can help.
The LGBTQ collective Umang harbors women on the run.
Currently, we're in a safe house at an undisclosed location to meet with a lesbian couple that has recently fled their village.
Uh, we're gonna interview them anonymously, and they're gonna share their story with us.
I know you've been dealing with a really difficult experience, so thank you for sharing your story.
Daniel: Can you tell us what it was like to be at home, even before you two met and what it's like...
Once you expressed that you were in love, how that changed?
When you have such a strong connection, and you are so in love, and your family's trying to rip you apart, what does it feel like, then, to be separate from one another?
So, what is that like then, to... to be together now, but to have to be in hiding, and... ?
Is there anything that you would like to say to your family or to anyone else out there that refuses to accept your love?
Page: You look at the reality of what's potentially the majority of q*eer women in this country, and it's...
Makes me feel unbearable sadness.
I think that's something that I've been thinking about a lot, and what it means for a woman to be in the world and how unbelievably fortunate I am to have the life and the freedoms and the control that I have that I think we truly take for granted, I take for granted, for sure.
[All inhale sharply]
Breathe... help to change your emotions.
Breathe... help to change our thoughts.
Inhale, center. Right side.
Not like that. Relax, relax!
[Breathing rapidly] Not like...
Just smiling face. [Inhales sharply]
Like that... is making the good energy.
Page: India has given the world yoga, a spiritual philosophy born from religions that traditionally preach inclusively and tolerance, so it's the last place we'd expect to find a rejection of gender and sexual fluidity.
And yet, one of India's most famous gurus claims that the practice can cure h*m*.
So, Ian and I are going on a pilgrimage to yoga our day away.
After hours of travel, we finally arrive in Haridwar, an ancient city on the banks of the mythologized Ganges river.
It is the sacred space and home to Baba Ramdev, the celebrity Hindu swami.
Ramdev leads yoga every morning on his daily TV show, exposure which must help promote his flagship ashram.
His brand has even expanded to include a popular product line of organic convenience foods and traditional medicines.
But after months of negotiations to interview Ramdev, we have no confirmation he'll meet us.
So, we're visiting one of his associates Dr. Ajay Magan.
He has arranged for us to get aura and chakra healing, which many people seek as a practice to cure a wide range of issues and aliments but also h*m*.
I have done a lot of research on this subject.
So, what I will be showing you, it has got a scientific base.
What did the test show you, exactly?
About your aura.
Like, what's your biomagnetic field.
Are you ready for the test?
Let's just try it out.
I'll be checking your chakras, right?
You have to step forward, please.
The shoulder, the emotional part.
See, this is going clockwise as well as anticlockwise.
It shows you feel very troubled.
You're not stable emotionally.
This is getting good.
Dr. Adavni: The basic chakra is not fine.
It's not natural, we can say.
This is related to sex.
There we have it.
Okay, let me just show you about this chamber.
This is known as "No karma" chambers.
Nine different therapies are working together, so when you're inside that, it's a complete detoxification of your body.
You can be inside.
Just sit down for a minute.
Daniel: Thank you.
Read me a little bit, and then...
... let's see if I have to get in there or not.
One more step...
It's going inside. That means your aura is negative.
Dr. Magan: This is what our science is.
I'm sorry if I'm offending you.
Dr. Magan: I'm taking the negativity out from the chakras.
From health, wealth, happiness, and success...
All the negativity should be gone. Yeah.
Daniel: So, you've had people come here that say, "Hey, I'm... I'm... I'm just struggling with my sexuality," or, "I have gay tendencies."
You do the healing, and they've come to you and told you that they feel better, or...
What are... What are their results?
Tomorrow you're the one who'll tell us what is...
How I feel? Okay.
Well, yes. Absolutely.
That's a deal.
So nice. Thank you so much for welc...
Welcoming us here, and...
[Speaks native language]
Page: Though we didn't get a treatment from Ramdev, his influence has made him an increasingly controversial figure.
While some have likened him to Gandhi, others call his claims that he can cure diseases like HIV criminal.
And last night, we were told Ramdev would meet us, so we woke up this morning, still gay, and headed out to meet the legend himself.
Daniel: Thank you.
Thank you. Please sit down.
Thank you so much for having us here today.
This is your house, this is where you live. It's...
Maybe you can tell us more about your teachings and your philosophy.
And, uh, do you do work involving, um, people who are h*m* or bisexual, uh, curative work for that?
A lot of people, particularly h*m* people [scoffs] feel like they're just, you know, they're naturally born gay.
And I'm just wondering what you would say to those people.
The issue with that is that people, for some reason, believe that it's an illness that can be cured.
So it seems like people coming here with that in mind are spending money and going through these things and it actually isn't going to help them.
I just wonder how you feel about that.
Page: Ramdev's claims seem to oppose the philosophies he himself believes.
With the attention of the nation, we can't help but imagine the impact he'd make preaching acceptance.
[Speaks native language]
Very good. Very good. Very good.
Page: We're back in Mumbai, in a Bollywood recording studio, to meet the Six Pack Band...
India's latest pop sensation.
[Pop music playing]
[Band singing in native language]
Page: With millions of views on YouTube, the band has gained attention, in part because their members are neither male nor female but a third gender.
Their singles describe the struggles that they face on a daily basis... being part of India's hijra community.
Hijra's are considered one of the oldest recorded third-gender communities in the world, dating back to Hindu scriptures.
And yet, today, they are often relegated to the fringes of society with little options for work.
Page: Komal, one of the band members, has invited us to her home where she lives in a hijra community.
Thank you, thank you.
That would be great.
Okay, you go first.
[Chuckling] I'll be right in.
This is amazing.
[Laughs] This is not working.
Has everyone lived here for a long time?
I was wondering if maybe you could talk about just the history of those, in India, who don't, you know, conform to, uh, a specific gender... identify with male or female...
And, uh, and what that means in Indian culture?
And if it's... if it's changed over time?
Why do you think people treat you with disrespect?
And how does hijra fit in to the LGBT community in India and... and... and the current movement for equality and acceptance?
Although deeply marginalized, hijras are accepted as part of India's national identity and are legally recognized as a third gender.
Despite this legal acknowledgment, there isn't the same cultural acceptance for those who are transgender.
But there are some trans people who are speaking out.
And one of them is an aspiring Bollywood dancer.
We've traveled to Delhi to meet with Rajat...
A trans man and his wife, Lakshmi...
To hear their story and to pick up a few moves.
I think we just go in.
[Dog barking frantically]
Page: The couple recently had to leave their hometown and are starting a new life together here.
Please go in now.
Nice to meet you.
How's it going?
My dancing consists of, like, this...
... like, a grandpa dance.
That's about it.
1, 2, 3. 1, 2, 3.
Oh, I like that.
[All chanting 1, 2, 3]
This is harder than it looks, huh?
That's your... That's your dream?
What was it like growing up for you and grappling with your identity?
What was the injection?
To make you go unconscious?
Rajat: Unconscious, yeah.
How long were you in the hospital?
How long were you locked... locked inside?
Page: We're in Delhi meeting with Rajat...
A trans man and his wife, Lakshmi...
Who recently fled from their hometown.
How much are you in contact with your family?
You don't talk to them?
Daniel: Your mom lied and said she was in the... in the emergency room?
They do the chakra work, they do the... to like align you.
Rajat: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Like k*ll, legitimately or are you using that as like a...
I mean, do you really... you felt like they would actually harm you?
I have to say, like...
I know you're feeling the same exact way, but I think it's such a perfect example of what love and that connection to love can actually do.
Because you're just so committed to one another.
I'm bl*wn away by your resilience and your bravery.
Um, but I wonder if you want to say something right now.
Like do you want to say something directly to those in situations like yours?
'Cause I know just sharing your story's gonna mean so much to people.
It's so beautiful you have one another.
You're very fortunate. Yeah.
Page: In Indian philosophy, one of the four aims of life is moksha...
The transcendent state attained by finding your inner wisdom, your true essence stripped of societal expectations.
Throughout our journey, we've heard many stories about the challenges of being LGBTQ in India.
But we see that at its core, India's culture is rooted in traditions and rituals that hold a spirit of acceptance and a celebration of diversity.
We often look outward to bring progress.
But in the case of India, progress may come from looking within, to the wisdom their philosophies already hold.
Daniel: Aw, this honking is out of control.
Can we just, like, honk slightly?
Not so forcefully every once in a while?
Okay, before we came... 'cause Ellen's been here before and she... she was, like, you know, get ready, there's gonna be a lot of honking, as if that's, like, gonna destroy me.
I am kind of sensitive to sound, to be quite honest.
And I will say that there is a symphony of honking going on at all times of the day and into the night.
*** traffic's pretty damn crazy.
I just along for the ride, if you know what I'm saying.
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02x02 - India
Episode transcripts for the TV show "Gaycation". Aired: February 2016 to April 2017.
"Gaycation" follows Ellen and Ian as they set off to explore LGBT cultures around the world. From Japan to Brazil to Jamaica to the USA, the two meet some fascinating people during their travels and hear their stories.
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1 post • Page 1 of 1