Report: GB Meet – 6/1/19

Rendezvous with Gay Bombay

The context: 

I attended my first GB meet yesterday, rather my first gay meet ever. I was really excited by the idea of meeting other men from the community outside of the apps or the crazy Saturday parties, where the agenda is mostly unidimensional. And also, a little dubious of the whole idea- what would it be like and what do they do in such meets. I am socially very awkward and weary of any such social outings, but I decided against my better judgement to go for it and I am glad I did.

The take out– The website details out where and when the meet is, however, it would help if it also hinted a little on what these meets constitute and what could be the possible incentive for people to attend them, outside of the samosas and the rum cake- a very potent one at that BTW. The idea of a meet could be a little overwhelming for certain people, unlike a party where one can blend in with the crowd and disappear, here they will be in the spotlight, visible for all to see and judge- so some elaborations on the site or text will help.

The initiation:

So, there I was at the Versova metro station at 6:30, all nervous and anxious. But then I saw a familiar face there and that helped. From there we walked for 10 minutes to arrive at this really quaint housing society and to a house of one of the GB member’s aunt – is that not so cool! She has been an active supporter of the movement and has walked many a prides. Only if we could have more like her.

Departing from the topic- I was also happy to see so many pots and plants, specially a thriving peace lily- I have never had any luck with them. 

It was a cosy gathering of some 10-12 members with few walk-ins later, gathered in the living room, with early birds occupying the couches and the late bloomers sitting on the window sill and the eventually on the floor.  There were also snacks and tea, very kindly organised by one of the members.

The take out– We should all, those of us who can, volunteer to host these events in our homes or at least bring in some snacks- make a fancy potluck gathering out of the event. I propose some Porto Sangria for the next meet.

The interactions:

There was the usual introductory round and it was wonderful having people of all age groups, varied occupations from doctor to an animator to an Ad to an aspiring filmmaker, different geographical and cultural roots. 

Post the introductions, the pertinent questions that was raised was around the relevance of the GB meets- what does it stand for, what is the purpose it solves, and what are the guardrails it needs to set. Post the SC ruling on section 377, there is a sense of purposelessness that has swept in. There were discussions, on whether there is a need to identify the next big thing that GB can pick up or do these meets simply take up the role of being a kind of an orientation programme for newbies, who can listen to the lived experiences of others and share their own. The latter seemed to garner more nods.

There were also discussions on the topical issues like HIV testing, PREPs and PEPs, current environment of frequent scams in the community, abuse of CAPTA (child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act) by the young and few others. There were also discussions around the different activities that GB is organising (other than the usual Saturday parties there is a fancy kite flying event happening on the 13thof this month at the Juhu beach- check out the website for details).

The take out– I left the meet with mixed feelings. I was extremely elated by the concept of such a meet and it was lovely listening to certain stories, both good and bad, scary and humorous. We talked about certain relevant and critical issues, so in that sense it was also informative while still being light and chirpy. But then it also left me a little unsatiated- it did not give me a strong enough reason to return. What would attending the next meet entail- what would we talk then, what would the discussion be. Is there a need to have a more regulated agenda, a theme for every meet? Is there a need to think of ways to make it more engaging and participatory? I do not have the answers- these are also not questions, but more of thought starters. May be the next meet could be around pondering over these.

2nd December, 2018: GB’s Film Screening

GB’s Film Club Screening THIS SUNDAY, December 2nd @ G5A Foundation near Mahalakshmi Station.
– 1.30: The Wound (South Africa, powerful film on where tradition and sexuality cross and complicate)
– 3.30: BPM (Beats Per Minute) (France, one day after World AIDS Day, this is not another film about suffering in the early years of HIV, but on how activists fought homophobia to get proper, affordable treatment)
– 6.00: Love Simon (US, fun film on how coming out and finding love can be complicated, even when you have support from family and friends)


(GB reserves the right to reserve entry for those who respect the space)

2nd September, 2018: A report on the Third Annual Siblings meet

This Siblings GB meet was all about siblings sharing their coming out and acceptance stories with everyone .

Queer coexistence with the rest of the society was widely discussed along with how support from siblings and family makes life all the more bearable. Folks from different age groups shared their experiences with the stigma and stereotypes that they battle and how they overcome their demons.

In the end we broadened our horizon by realising that it’s not just gay men who’re closeted , everybody has a closet , marginalized folks have several closets, women have their closets too. We’re in this together. Having pride in one’s identity is a way to breakthrough such limitations .

The utopian future,where sexuality is normalized, that we so dearly dream of would come into existence once we accept ourselves and take pride in our being.

– Ashmit

A long overdue report

I have been meaning to write this and it is long due. I joined GB in December 2016. When I decided to go for this meet organised by the same people, whose party I had missed the Saturday night before, I was as apprehensive, scared, and excited as every first guy(or girl) for his(or her) meet was. After meeting with people at the metro, I walked to where the meet was supposed to be. When I reached there, I was greeted and welcomed as if I was part of a family. Little did I know, that is exactly what GayBombay would turn out to be.
I was shocked (and eternally grateful) that the meeting place was at somebody’s aunt’s house. This family had opened up their actual homes for LGBT crowd who had nowhere to turn to, and who had accepted people without judgement. What I was even more shocked about and what probably stunned me was the fact that there were so many gay men present. SO MANY? I knew this was a meet and yet I was surprised. It probably comes from the fact that I had never seen, or met openly gay men before.
During the meet, people introduced themselves, gossiped, ate, spoke about issues. A wave of familiarity went through me. All of the people here had gone through the same struggle that I have, more or less – the struggle remains the same. When it came to me, I attempted to explain the state of affairs in my life. After I had come out to my father, which was less than 2 months before I joined GB, I was in a state of sadness, but mostly I was just pissed. It was probably the worst reaction of coming out I had gotten. Regardless, in this time of need, there was GayBombay, proud as ever, ready to welcome unfairly treated souls in their embrace.
I was sitting there and thinking to myself, “There are so many people here; I will be making tons of gay friends! I wonder will anybody among these be my lover? Will anybody be my boyfriend? Will anybody be my life partner?” These questions of which I had never thought before arose in my head, and I thought to myself that these people may become friends, may become lovers, may become life partners, but no matter what, these people will understand me (Here’s to you guys). What I am is not alone.
I have attended many GB meets after that, and the parties, and I am in a relationship now. If you would have asked me 2 years ago, whether I would be in a gay group, I probably would have said yes, but I would never have even imagined the staggering love and unwavering support, and the delicious samoses that I would have received.
What I am trying to say, while expanding on my first meet experience, is – Thank you, GayBombay. What you have done, what you are doing and what you will do is something to be extremely proud of. I am only one of the many whose lives you have touched and changed for the better.

– Venky

Towards Just and Inclusive Communities: A Statement on Sec.377 of IPC

January 11, 2018


We, the members of the National Ecumenical Forum for Gender and Sexual Diversities of the National Council of Churches in India note the decision of the Supreme Court of India on 8th January 2018 to refer to a Constitution Bench a petition seeking to quash Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalizes homosexuality. The apex court has observed that a section of people cannot live in fear of the law which atrophies their right to choice and natural sexual inclinations.

Homosexuality and homo-eroticism have been practiced in India from time immemorial. Homosexual activity was never condemned or criminalized in ancient India. Such activities were tolerated as long as people fulfilled the societal expectations of marriage and procreation.

This is the context in which the British came to India as part of their mission of colonial expansion.

In Great Britain, from the Middle Ages, heterosexuality was understood as the divinely ordered and natural norm for human sexuality, and any deviance from this norm was perceived as immoral and unnatural, and hence a sin against God. Christian sexual ethics based on heteronormativity thus led to the imposition of Sodomy Law in Great Britain.

The understanding of sexual ethics of the British colonial administration was deeply influenced by Victorian morality and its particular interpretation of the Judeo-Christian scripture and theology. So, the British authorities considered tolerance towards homosexuality as a social evil, and based on heteronormative principles, they initiated stringent measures to criminalize homoeroticism as part of their mission to civilize the heathens in India. In 1861, the British colonial administration imposed the Sodomy Laws in India to “purify” and “cure” the Indians of their primitive and deviant sexual practices.

Today, there are around seventy countries in the world which continue to criminalize private same-sex intimacy between consenting adults, and eleven countries that still impose the death penalty for homosexuals. The fact is that most of these countries are former British colonies. However, in 1967, the United Kingdom repealed the Sodomy laws, and the Church of England played a significant role in it. The first report in Britain, calling for decriminalization, was initiated and published by the Anglican Church. Further, there was a significant Anglican presence in the Wolfenden Committee, appointed by the government, which recommended to the Parliament to repeal the Sodomy Law.

In the contemporary context of growing fascism, it is important for us to understand the Sodomy Law as legal codes of fascism as they provide the State the power to intervene, invade, regulate, and monitor even the intimate spheres of human life. The Sodomy Law legally sanctions a regime of imperial gaze where the people are always under the surveillance of the State. This repressive legal code further reduces human body and sexuality into “colonies” that can be invaded, tamed, and redeemed with the display of abusive power by the law enforcement officers and the judiciary of the State, and the violent interventions of moral policing by the Religious Right.

There have been different initiatives, campaigns and litigations to repeal Sec 377. On July 2nd 2009, in a historic verdict, the Delhi High Court repealed Sec 377. According to the learned judges, “If there is one constitutional tenet that can be said to be underlying theme of the Indian Constitution, it is that of ‘inclusiveness’… In our view, Indian Constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconceptions of who the LGBTs are. It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality which will foster the dignity of every individual…We declare that Section 377 IPC, insofar it criminalizes consensual sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution.”

However, the Supreme Court of India, in a verdict given in 2013, set aside the verdict of the Delhi High Court. “We hold that Section 377 does not suffer from unconstitutionality and the declaration made by the High Court is legally unsustainable… However, the competent legislature shall be free to consider the desirability and propriety of deleting Section 377 from the statute book or amend it.”

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India, in a verdict on August 24, 2017, held that “right to privacy is an intrinsic part of Right to Life and Personal Liberty under the Constitution.” “Discrete and insular minorities face grave dangers of discrimination for the simple reason that their views, beliefs or way of life does not accord with the ‘mainstream.’ Sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy. Discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual.” This verdict gave a great boost to the initiatives to decriminalize homoeroticism in India.

Soon after the Delhi High Court verdict repealing Sec 377, the NCCI organized a round table to reflect upon the verdict theologically and biblically. The statement of the round table affirmed that, “We recognize that there are people with different sexual orientations. Our faith affirmation that we are created in the image of God makes it imperative on us to reject systemic and personal attitudes of homophobia against sexual minorities. . . We envision Church as a sanctuary to the ostracized who thirst for understanding, friendship, love, compassion and solidarity. We appeal to churches to sojourn with sexual minorities and their families ministerially, without prejudice and discrimination, to provide them ministries of love, compassionate care, and justice. We request the National Council of Churches in India and its member churches to initiate an in-depth theological study on Human Sexuality for better discernment of God’s purpose for us.”

In the Indian context of religious diversity, it is important to initiate interfaith coalitions to campaign against homophobia. An interfaith round table was organized in 2014 which brought together theologians, clerics and practitioners of all major religious traditions in India. The statement of the interfaith round table affirmed that: “We commit ourselves to critically engage with our belief systems and practices to review and re-read scriptures and moral codes that stigmatize and demonize people who are different from us. We condemn homophobia and bigotry as morally unacceptable, and commit ourselves to eradicate this sin from our religious communities. We pledge to accompany friends who are stigmatized and criminalized due to their sexual orientations and to provide them fellowship and solidarity in their struggles to love and live with dignity. We commit ourselves to transform our worship places to welcome and provide safe spaces for sexual minorities. We discern the need to reclaim and reinterpret our traditions and rituals, festivals and feasts, scriptures and practices, to liberate our religions from the shackles of ideologies of exclusion such as patriarchy, casteism and homophobia. . . We call upon religious leaders to condemn homophobia and to practice non-discriminatory hiring policies in their institutions, and also to follow affirmative action to end the discrimination that transgendered people face in admissions and appointments. We affirm our resolve to work tirelessly to create a new world of compassion, justice, inclusivity and acceptance where the divine gift of sexuality will be celebrated in all diverse manifestations of affirmative love.”

Hence churches in India need to give responsible consideration to the initiative of the Supreme Court of India to review Sec 377 in the light of constitutional rights and the right to privacy, and the gospel of justice and love. As followers of the non-conformist Christ, the one who consistently questioned unjust and non-compassionate traditions of public morality, our call is to reject all laws that demonize, criminalize, and exclude human beings, and work to facilitate just inclusive and loving communities.

In Solidarity,

National Ecumenical Forum of the Gender and Sexual Diversities,
National Council of Churches in India.