RE: Homosexuals And Their Private Business- An Open Letter To Subramanian Swamy


BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said that homosexuals should conduct their business in private and not flaunt it.

Well, fuck that. (Please don’t pardon my French; I couldn’t care less)

The thing is, Mr Swamy, we are people. We are humans, we are people, and we will be treated as such. We are not second-class and we won’t be treated like we are.

Heterosexuals- people like yourself, Mr Swamy- can ‘flaunt’ their relationship in public (whether they can do so safely is a whole other conversation). They fit into your neat little boxes and therefore they have a place in your idea of India. People like me, and others I know and love, don’t.

I do not fit into any box, not even the one marked ‘homosexual’. My poetry handle describes me as Not interested in being polite or heterosexual. I’m not like you, Mr Swamy, and that’s one thing I will always be grateful for.

No, I’m not talking about your sexuality, because it’s not worth talking about. Although you seem to think that it (or the difference from it) is. I’m talking about your personality.

Mr Swamy, you have a great deal of personality. I wouldn’t dream of denying that. You have forceful views, which I’ve found I almost always disagree with; you are annoyingly articulate, which forces me to confront the fact that fundamentalists are not always uneducated people who don’t know any better. You are cantankerous, which would be deeply amusing if you were less of a bigot and more like the crotchety old grandfather that everyone loves. You know how to use social media, a rare feat in a man of your age, and I can respect that you’re (somewhat) willing to move with the times.

Now, read that again.

Your sexuality means nothing to me, Mr Swamy. It doesn’t factor into my views of you- were you gay, aromantic and/or genderqueer , I would still find your politics divisive, still disagree with you, and still admit your personality. Although, admittedly, I would have thought you traitorous as well, or perhaps pitied you.

But my point is, your heterosexuality doesn’t inform my opinion of you. And mine shouldn’t inform yours either. Because I’m more than my gender or sexuality. I’m a student. A history honours graduate from DU. Almost an English MA. A curly-haired woman. A poet, dancer, writer, dreamer, and many other interesting and uninteresting things. I’m a liberal, politically speaking. You can hate me for that. But what’s the point in hating me because of whom I might or might not sleep with? I wouldn’t dislike your sexual partner of choice because she chose to sleep with a man (also, I’m a #wokefeminist who doesn’t believe in judging a woman’s sexual choices, thankyouverymuch)

Frankly, Mr Swamy, you’re a disgusting old homophobe. Now, normally, I respect people’s phobias. But you’re not afraid; you’re just an asshole. Please, disapprove of me for saying that. However true, it’s very rude and I too would take offence.

One of the tools of poets is anaphora- repetition. I will employ it now:

I am human and I will be treated as such. I am an individual with rights, and I will be treated as such. I am an Indian citizen and I will be treated as such.

How dare you tell me to hide my love, my affection, because you think it’s wrong? How dare you, when the theatres are chock-full of of DDLJs and Humpty Sharmas and every sodding version of Romeo and Juliet that Bollywood has ever dreamt up? The state has no say in who its citizens love, Mr Swamy, and neither do you.

I don’t need your permission to love whom I choose, to hold his or her hand in public. Gay bars are safe spaces that we need because of people like you. And frankly, they’re just fun. AIDS can spread in ways that are not anal sex. Instead of policing people’s private lives, focus on funding the search for a cure. It’ll be a much better use of your time than flippantly reducing human beings to second-class citizens because they don’t happen to be straight OR male OR rabid religious fundamentalist dirtbags.

In sum, Mr Swamy, you want us to not flaunt our ‘business’?

Well, fuck that.

Malavika Subramanyan.

People who are not like you do not need your permission to live.



“They… they’re saying you’re such a slut…”

I was thirteen, and the above line was murmured to me by my then-best friend, whom I’ve rather lost touch with and I hope is doing well. At thirteen, I wasn’t very shocked; not because I’d heard worse, but because I didn’t know what it meant.

“Papa, what’s a slut?”

“It’s a sexually promiscuous woman.”

Well, I didn’t know what ‘promiscuous’ meant either, but rather than talk more during a tense CSK match, I sought out the next best source- a dictionary.

In the columns of the gigantic, moth-eaten Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary Of The English Language, I found that I’d been termed someone who has sex with any man who asked. Please don’t run for the dictionary; that’s not how it’s phrased, but my copy’s halfway around the world.

Which, I reasoned, was rather ridiculous, because we were thirteen; who wanted to have sex anyway? It sounded like an uncomfortable business.

(It had been the late Khushwant Singh who had contributed greatly to my sexual education. I don’t recommend it)

That’s not to say it didn’t sting, of course; which teenager doesn’t dread being gossiped about? On the other hand, a whole new world of insults now opened up before my slightly-shocked eyes, although it took three years for me to actually use any. When I did, though, it was to a boy: with the air of someone delivering her coup de grace, I informed one of my classmates that he was, in fact, a man-whore.

“You should say gigolo.” He replied. I was late to the party, it seemed, and not fashionably.

You might wonder why I’m writing this now. And yes, while there’s a part of me that’s gleefully typing up words like sex, whore, gigolo, for all and sundry, I still feel something like a bee-sting when I type the word slut.

There it is again.

That’s one word I try not to use. It may have slipped out at some point over the years, but I try. There’s something particularly filthy about it- and even, I feel, something maliciously female. I can now easily call a man a whore without tacking the ‘man’ to it, but slut always seems so pointedly female.

Slut-shaming. I hate the term. I hate the practice. I hate the casualness of it, how easy it is when the target is a ‘she’.

A sexually promiscuous woman. But a man is just a playboy. A Man.

This isn’t a rant against slut-shaming; honestly, I don’t quite know what this is, even. I don’t often dislike words in and of themselves- even stuff I’ve made my peace with. But slut is one thing I’ve never been able to find middle-ground with. Maybe it’s personal. Maybe society’s ease with it. I don’t really know.

At any rate, it’s a good word to dislike.

Stop That Right Now!


In a hostel, you might have to take a lot of bullshit, put up with a lot things that you normally wouldn’t. I mean, how else do you survive in a community, right? Wrong! Do. Not. Bend. Backwards. If you don’t like something, make it clear. Play Hitler. Play the Shrew. Drive the point home again and again until those blockheads get that you do not like this, and stop doing it. They’ll bitch and mutter, but they’re going to do that anyway. So, you might as well give them a reason.

There are a few things that absolutely tick me off. No, really. I have no patience with people who do these things.

  1. Banging doors: I had all the girls in my hostel trained not to bang doors when I was within earshot. Seriously, are you really in such a hurry that you can’t pause as you leave the room and close the door gently? Girl, it only takes an extra two seconds! And I live in the same campus as you do, and I’m in the same grade, and I have nearly the same workload, and the same exams, so you are not in an impressive hurry, you just don’t care!
    I hate the sound. I just simply hate it. You can imagine the shock, and subsequent anger, that one feels when you’re studying, absorbed in a good book, sleeping, or just simply enjoying a quiet moment .by yourself (which comes pretty rarely in a hostel, let me tell you), and someone lets the door shut with a resounding BANG! It just ruins everything, shatters the peace and composure of the moment. When I’m closest to what the Japanese call wa, a state of transcendent harmony born of deep tranquility, and some idiot slams the door in her haste or temper or whatever, what immediately flashes across my mind is, “This is it, I’m going to need a damn good manslaughter lawyer!”
    And you slammed the door because you’re angry, did you? Bitch please. Being angry doesn’t authorise you to become a public nuisance. And angry? Do that again and I’ll show you angry.
  2. Reading over my shoulder: When I’m writing, or reading a book, do not, I repeat, do NOT stand behind me and smilingly read along. I will eviscerate you. Painfully. Reading while I’m writing my own stories or poems is like breaking and entering: I did not let you in. My writing is personal, deeply so, and attempting to read it without my permission is a violation of my privacy. I’d probably take it a degree less seriously than if you tried to take a video of me giving birth. Yeah.
    Scene: I’m curled up with a lovely novel- Tolkien or Rowling or Adichie. I’m lost in it, feeling it, breathing it. You walk up behind me, curious as to what’s soooo arresting about the book. You crane your neck to read the words better. I notice, turn, and break your nose. Cut.
    I detest it when you’re reading and someone tries to read along over your shoulder. I’ll react as though you tried to hit on my boyfriend while I was right beside him. Don’t look at me like that. It’s the same principle: this one is mine, you like it, go get your own. I don’t share.

This list could go on and on- taking my stuff without asking me first (I’m not going to say no, it’s just common courtesy), insulting my friends (the whole ‘this one is mine’ philosophy thing again), dismissing others’ opinions out of hand (who died and made you God?), putting words in my mouth (if you can’t read my mind then let me finish, damn you!). What about you? What ticks you off? And what doesn’t? Yeah, there’s the whole ‘twenty reasons to frown but twenty thousand reasons to smile’ philosophy that I subscribe to. I may come across as a shrew in this post, but I’m really not. I promise.

One last thing- my big, red, do-not-push button: Don’t do XYZ. Because you’re a girl.