Gender and Identity Politics: Beyond Normative Heterosexuality
Any analysis into the world of gender should be of universal interest. After all in the opinion of many, one of the most crucial information about any individual is, whether the individual is born a man or a woman, and there on should acquire traits of masculinity and femininity. Is then not that according to many gender should be perceived as something inevitably built by culture acting upon male and female bodies. In short, we often signify with gender as culturally constructed maleness and femaleness. There is no denying the fact that such an understanding is radical enough as it implicitly reflects the feminist imagination on gender which questions that biology is destiny. However, then are not such views and imaginations too totalizing? After all they typify the entire humanity with two culturally intelligible categories male and female ignoring or undermining all that seems not to fit within the frame of dominant culture.
The article 377 of the Indian constitution is provocative enough posing a challenge to such dominant conceptions. Focusing on certain inclusions it provides a basis to rethink regarding the efficacy of categories like gender and sex and takes us to the realm of post-modern feminism and queer politics. Post-modern feminism calls for a deconstruction and decontextualization of categorises as sex, gender, body, man and woman, so as to realize their exclusionary limits. It carries the idea that gender should not be seen within the framework of binary categories of male and female, but it should be seen as it comes to be intersected and articulated by several modalities and vectors of power like sexuality, race and class etc. It thus, disavows distinction that the main-stream feminists make between sex and gender basing it on nature-culture dichotomy reflecting it as heterosexist and hence, reductive. Instead, it points out that the category of sex is as cultural as the category of gender. The juxtaposition of sex with nature tantamounts to its political use and purely serves the purpose of reproductive sexuality.
And, should it not be that a pervasive heterosexual assumption in the literary theory as well in our daily lives that make presumptions about the limits and proprietary of gender and restrict its meaning to received notions of masculinity and femininity be questioned. As how is that certain kinds of gendered expressions are considered to be false or derivative and others true or original? For homosexuality and categories as gays and lesbians are as natural or social as sex and gender. The need is to come out of the defined and normative understanding of gender. For the markers of gender as Judith Butler, one of the famous feminist theorist puts it are independent of biological body. The “drag-shows” she points sufficiently dispute heterosexuality’s claims to naturalness and originality as these create a unified picture of “women” coming out of men’s body.
The relationship between homosexuality and heterosexuality is a relationship that has a long history of being ignored and mishandled. However, whether we accept it or not homosexuality has been a part of the human scene since time immemorial. It is true to Indian culture as any western counterpart. The Mahabharata one of the foremost Hindu epic, reflects the warrior Prince Arjun taking recourse to a homosexual identity, and being called as ‘Brahanlala’ to hide his true identity. Then, why do we see homosexuality as a western import, a threat to Indian civilisation and Indianness? More so, if homosexuals where so despicable then why would have Prince Arjun taken a persona of being one to hide his true self. Then, again why protest against the article 377 as it offers a corrective to heterosexism that bedevils many feminist writings and popular perceptions on gender. The article opens up the field of possibilities for gender without dictating which kinds of possibilities ought to be realised. There is no single gendered way of life that it sets as a model. A secular nation respects and treats all alike allowing all to practice freely there will, unless it harms or threatens the interests of nation at large. So, what harm could it cause if homosexuals choose to forge families of their own? After all they are creations of humanity and equally feel sorrows and pains of life and require companionship and support in times of hardships and old age. More so, the homosexual unions and kinship anterior to biological parentage give primacy to the notion of adoption. Isn’t then homosexuality spelling out something noble? Then why do we regard it as something immoral?
Kanika Kakar is currently, working as an Assistant Professor on adhoc basis at Janki Devi Memorial College, University of Delhi. She has a long experience of teaching undergraduate courses in Sociology in various colleges of the University of Delhi in varied capacities. She is pursued her Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi and has recently, submitted her thesis titled “Tradition, Modernity and Gender in the Globalising Context: A Study of the Weaving Community of Chanderi”. In 2005 she was awarded with M.Phil. degree by the University of Delhi. She is a graduate and post-graduate in Sociology from University of Delhi.