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

6th February, 2017: A report on the GB Versova Meet

6th February, 2017: A report on the GB Versova Meet

Dearest GB,

The meet was glorious as usual, before writing anything else I apologize for not being a part of the group photograph, I do indeed do not photograph well. It was a very pleasant evening, this was the third time in my life I have attended a birthday cake cutting ceremony that was not from my blood related family. Thank you for that beautiful memory, the chocolate cake was delectable and the ambience “Vatavaran”, well, I have no words to describe it.

I wanted to speak of the vibrant sail boats painting on the wall near the window, as I gazed at it, I was enchanted by it, there were so many contrasting elements in that picture, the strong bold brush strokes that made the boats and sails, the softer strokes that created the waters and the reflections, it was as if the painter was so full of angst whilst creating the boats and sails, and had gotten calmer as the reached to the waters. Another contrast was the sky, warm colors flowed from the left to the center and from the right upper corner a flow of cool colors, like the calmness had settled the warmth of that piece as it came to its completion, like as if it declared this creation is done.

Just as these contrasts created a beautiful painting, the contrasting minds have created a little harmony in our world, one voice at GB states a practical approach, if anything takes a piece of your peace, they should have a piece of you (not the pleasant one) and another voice advocates the power of LOVE, and how in LOVE everything can heal. Both these ideas as opposite to each other as poles of the planet, yet so harmoniously reside in each other. These trajectories of quantified thoughts together will change the world one soul at a time.

Humans have always been a comical species, they critique as fast as light, whatever vision serves them, they shall critique, blithely unambiguous that in this elaborate stage of life we all are in a relentless dance, and whilst we are observing how the others are not performing well, we flaw our own performance. I learnt today that regardless of how the other or self has flawed, we should not stop dancing. The earth revolves on belief and just like gravity, belief has an invisible power to change anything, this preeminent power also resides in LOVE.

All these boundaries are mere conventions, waiting to be inaugurated, with conviction we shall transcend these boundaries into conventions. The world will change, it will get better, we have a long tedious journey ahead, but with your hand resting in the clench of mine I know this journey shall be entirely worth it.

Thank you once again for today I have changed in a miniscule way, I have become a little less anxious, a bit more confident Thank you GB

Faithfully Yours

7th Feb, 2016: A report on the GB Bandra Meet

GB’s Post Pride Bandra Meet :
– Vikram Doctor spoke about the Supreme Court Curative petitions ruling & implications. He shed some light on the procedure of order and answered queries raised pertaining to the petition.
– Guys who attended the meet for the first time ever were warmly welcomed.
– People who attended pride shared their pleasant experiences and stated that the size of activist population in pride was remarkable.
– Language barrier within community was highlighted. Sachin Jain notified that an initiative to avert such cause is already taken my publishing hindi articles on Gaylaxy.com blogs.
– One of our friend questioned on attire of few activists. His questions were addressed and justification in regards to it was given.
– Few issues relating to marriage pressures were discussed and a separate workshop needs to be organized to talk through it future was decided.
– Very minimal lesbians/ bisexual girls attend GB meets is observed, we tried to seek reason behind it and still seeking it.
– Few pleasant pictures were clicked on parting to capture the moment.
“Muchas Gracias”
Prince Pratik

GayBombay Special Sunday Meet: “High Fun High Risk”: Substance Abuse (12/2015)

By Sachin Jain

'A vortex of dependence'; Image: Brijesh
Image: Brijesh

Date & Time: December 13, 2015, 5:30-8pm

Venue: The Hive, Chuim Village, Khar (West), Mumbai 400052

Participants: 43

Facilitator: Deepak Kashyap

  • Introduction

We are not aware of statistics in the LGBT community in India on drug usage. In the gay community users seem to be a minority, but within that minority, usage appears to be significant. It has been difficult to find resource persons for holding this workshop though Gay Bombay has wanted to for many years. This is because their philosophies tend to be moralistic and while not condoning usage, we wanted a non-judgmental approach. The aim of this workshop is to develop awareness of risks in order to foster assumption of responsibility by LGBTIQ community members.

  • Resources
    • Websites:
  1. The Science of Addiction
  2. Commonly Abused Drugs and Prescription Medicines
  3. Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse
  4. A Provider’s Guide to Substance Abuse Treatment for LGBTI individuals
  5. Others: Effects of individual drugs: Bluelight.org, erowid.org; underlying issues: Chasingthescream.com
  • Videos:

1) Rise of Chemsex on London’s Gay Scene: In the video, users in the London gay community grappled with deep rooted problems of avoidance, intimacy, hiding self, and hyper-vigilance. Smartphone apps have normalized drug use, with no frame of reference. No causal link between chemical sex and HIV but incidences were on the rise. Study of PREP (pre exposure prophylaxis) use saw reduction in HIV.

2) Addiction and the Rat Park experiments: Persons access to functioning social life as important as reducing availability and penalizing usage. Lack of confidence and experiencing loneliness can make it difficult to quit.

  • Exercise

Participants were asked to write their life aspirations on one side of a sheet of paper and substances they knew on the other, with a tick mark for the substance they came into contact with. Differences between ‘drug’ and ‘substance’, ‘dependence’ and ‘addiction’, ‘substance’ and ‘behavior’ dependency were clarified.

  • Stories

“I think it is a problem in our community. My friend started doing crystal meth, few months later he tested positive for HIV, mainly due to lack of judgment and taking more risks.”

“Sex lives viewed as intrinsically connected to drug usage.”

“Using stopped him from caring and protecting himself. Got into a 12-step recovery program, he feels alive again.”

“A gay friend couldn’t go out and speak what he was feeling. He lost job, got into prostitution. Then he had a grand wedding with a woman who didn’t know he was gay. He was taken to mental hospital 3 months later. Now he is completely incommunicado. As friends we tried reaching out at every stage, but didn’t succeed.”

“His father was alcoholic, and partner of 3 years uses drugs. People want to blame everything on drugs, for not doing things right, for failure. They do take vodka shots as dancers before going on stage. A friend has lost partner due to overdose on drugs, but he has also seen moments of pleasure. They take it as artists when they don’t want to feel nervous or judged.”

  • Aspects

(1) Defining addiction or dependence

“Addiction is a behavior that gets in the way of normal day to day duties and life, doesn’t let you achieve your goals in a persistent way. There is a correlation between factors like loneliness etc, but not necessarily causation.”

The role of neurotransmitters, high and low effect of drugs (highs included feeling loved, acceptance, absence of stress), secondary effects (like weight loss), and difference between physiological (body effects like tremors) and psychological addiction (rationalization with ‘but I only have…’), excitatory and inhibition lowering drugs were discussed.

(2) How it begins

“Friends who are not into drugs, met persons through dating site, and try it on their behest. How to be careful about not getting into it?”

“Curiosity, peer pressure, low self-image, thrill, boredom, ignorance, propensity to try everything once, the need for pleasure, the need to appear cool, narration of a user’s positive experience, cause people to begin. There are few healthy spaces for gay men to meet like picnics or socials. Meeting is largely on hookup sites or parties, where you don’t want to talk about anything, just enjoy. Clusters of guys are formed which are very tight, and these may drive behavior of drug use.”

“Nobody reads the “conditions applied” fine print in life. Blame it on the modern world, but we want something more all the time.”

“I have many friends addicted to methadone, with the idea that it gives you glorious sex, though it is not true, as it kills the erection but makes it horny. Before shooting up, they take Viagra and shoot up, so two substances are taken. And it works. Sex is a sure-shot biological way of feeling accepted, desired and wanted, to be let inside their body, a biological evidence of acceptance.”

“Use not only associated with sex, but there is also the party, socializing drug. People do it for these reasons too. Can you be a healthy user, become an abuser, or get out?”

“It is tough to be disciplined all the time, get to work on time everyday, so these parties become our way to unwind. It’s also a way to process past hurts, like a breakup. When you are emotionally low, you are vulnerable and likely to.”

“Drugs replace some kind of a void, like not being successful at work. It may have nothing to do with sex.”

“A friend who does a lot of weed says it is a natural product so it is good for digestion. Is it really good? Medical marijuana was offered to my mom to reduce pain. A form of heroine, morphine given in a way people can manage, dosage on advice of doctor. Frequency, duration and intensity has to be decided by prescriber.”

For Aspects (1) and (2) please see the website provided in the Resource List above: “The Science of Addiction”

(3) Problems from usage

  • Financial both in terms of cost, as well as lost earnings in future.
  • Health: physical and mental aspect.
  • Socio-cultural
  • Interpersonal
  • Productivity

“In India, a big problem with all illegal substances is there is no quality control and adulteration, side effects. Bad stuff may cause higher intake, without knowing the adulterant.”

“One very common substance right now is Meow-Meow: There is a strong desire to re-dose, craving to recapture initial rush, to increase dose to overcome tolerance, uncontrollable changes in body temperature, dehydration due to not drinking water, impaired short term memory, insomnia, teeth grinding, etc”

“If you have sex with a drug user, does it heighten your risk of infections?”

-“ In case of unprotected sex, yes, but consumed drug is likely not transmitted through body fluids. Please look at resources indicated for accurate information.”

“I feel that drugs help with the creative process when taken correctly. I have a friend who does marijuana every night, but is very spiritually evolved, and talking to him makes me feel better. Sensitivity is different in people, and hence effects vary based on internal make-up.”

“There is a spectrum of education available on different substances. For alcohol, the message nowadays is enjoy responsibly. After a few years, that may be so for certain drugs too. There is not enough support for drug usage, forget about for LGBT.”

“MDMA is the main focus, as that is happening a lot in the community. Risks spiral out of control. People who can’t afford, start injecting (slamming) rather than oral. Then issues with needles begin, most don’t know how to inject, no equipment, not sterilized, bacterial contamination, leading to blood to blood contact for sero-conversion.”

“Initially everyone conscious of individual needles, but in a users party, as progressive control of reality is lost, needles start getting shared.”

(4) Usage Persistence

“Human propensity for short-term pleasure, the attraction of forbidden fruit.”

“A person started seeing someone and quit friends, and when broke up, was all alone. Hence took solace in drugs. When you want to leave it and are not able to you must ask for help.

“A doctor didn’t know what weed is, can we have access to doctors who know more about drugs?”

“Drug use and failure can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Low frustration tolerance is one of the major reasons to continue any addiction.”

For Aspects (3) and (4) please see the websites provided in the Resource List above: “Commonly Abused Drugs and Prescription Medicines” and “Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse”.

(5) How to help

“I have a friend who badly needs help, but if I tell him, he reacts badly. How can I help as he can afford it. Do we have support system within the city?”

“If someone is not willing to get help, when they are in good mood, keep encouraging them by giving them resources and support contacts. Talk to a counselor in earlier stages to figure out the need to get help. Psychotherapist can work on deep seated issues. Clinical psychologist can give you intervention based on which drug you use.”

“In case of an overdose, rush to emergency department of any Grade 1 hospital for anti-toxic treatment.”

“Harm reduction techniques include the ‘gatekeeper policy’, or having a trusted person at hand to make sure one doesn’t do anything harmful to self or others, addressing loneliness and leaving an authentic and social life.”

For Aspect (5) please see the website provided in the Resource List above: “Providers Guide to Treatment for LGBT individuals”

LGBTIQ-positive counseling and support in Mumbai:

1) The Humsafar Trust

2) Ascend Psychology

Gay Bombay Special Sunday Meet: “Privacy & The Law” an A-Z: Report (09/2015)

Sachin Jain

Introduction: People are becoming open online when technology, from WhatsApp to Grindr, collides with real world. Extortion cases and breach of privacy are hot topics now. Even the Supreme Court has been asked to define privacy by government. Vijay Hiremath, an independent human rights lawyer practising in Mumbai, has been dealing with cases related to privacy with LGBT community for over a decade. This report is a transcript of conversations which may provide insights on contemporary privacy issues in Mumbai. It is in no way prescriptory and opinions expressed in discussion are not necessarily of Vijay, Gay Bombay or the report writer.

Blackmail: IPC 389 against blackmail under 377 exists to prevent misuse of 377. Also you have autonomy to reveal if you had sex or not.

Complaints: Cases normally happen in triangles, jilted lovers, etc. That’s the only time police comes. Belgian gay fashion photographer arrested; He had photographed one person, thanks so much reply received. He had rejected another for photo shoot and friendship, who complained. Even though no minors were involved, they still filed case under IT act as nude photo sent on email.

Condoms: Carrying condoms with you, anytime, anywhere, is not a problem and does not signify intention to have sex.

Cross-dressing is not an offense though harassment exists.

Dating Apps: Grinder and PR are a grey area. Men meeting for sex or friendship? Having an account is not an offence, but putting self porno material on is an offense, if someone complains. Nudity as pornography is a grey area, as “prurient interest” is not defined. Previous communication like sexual likes can be used as evidence.

Extortion: After 377 went, extortion cases reduced, but now cases have increased after recriminalization. Typically post-party stranger home-taking drink spiking leading to robbery are common.

Hotels and bars: Using hotels is extremely risky for the community. Precaution may be to use high-end hotel, end up paying more but is safer, and police will think twice. Recently in Mumbai the police raided hotels and took out couples from rooms to police station. They had given correct IDs, and charged them in indecency in public, and produced in court and released them as bailable. It was very humiliating. Case is before high court. Despite backlash, there is no guarantee that this will not happen again. Raids in hotels are easiest even in heterosexual cases, under pretext of cracking trafficking rackets. A Colaba cabaret bar had some topless performances decades ago, patrons filed case of being offended, court dismissed saying you went there yourself. Basic point is not to get paranoid, most of the police or government is not interested despite some busybodies, but its still relatively rare in Bombay. Court has said they will frame guidelines about raids, but none exist yet.

Lawyers: At first instance itself you can ask for a lawyer and wait for 5-10 minutes to speak to lawyer. Technically they need to keep for 24 hours but they can call you everyday and harass you. You can refuse to answer questions, but name and address have to be given.

Minors: Even if counselling informally, always make good intentions clear. If counselling unknown person over email, declare presumption that all conversations are with majors.

Office: In office harassment, document it by sending an email to your boss, and companies take action even when there are no rules.

Parties: Nowadays they are assumed to be easy. The amount of work behind the scenes, who know how to handle cops and excise issues are difficult. Parties also advertise about dark rooms, and sex, which opens self to police raids.

Police entry in premises: Do police have right to enter premises? Generally no, you can ask why you have come, but there is no blanket ban. Only if they fear crime (even sodomy) is being committed, like suspect taking a minor to the bedroom they can enter without a warrant. While dating, anyone even a day below 18 years could cause massive problems due to POSCO law. Case can be filed any time in life, there is no time limit so see ID of people you take things further with if young.

Pornography: Sections 292, 293 and 294 of IPC deal with pornography. The basic rule is that you cannot circulate it, can use it for yourself, including pics and stories. Don’t send it. Child pornography punishable for 5 years. Ensure you do not have any such porn even mistakenly. It is easy to find out through phone or hard disk. Emailing, clips by Whatsapp or DP pictures can be problematic. Police also ask people for passwords to mobile to check for pornography. This is also a grey area. You try to get away by asking reason for why checking phone. Storage of porn is fine: on a raid the police found a room full of porn CDs, and the guy said they are for consumption, the Court and accepted. Watching porn in public, with others watching can be a problem if they complain. Do not send video clips of yourselves having sex on the internet. Carelessness and stupidity have no solution.

Public obscenity: If you show a play or movie where 2 men have sex it is not an offence as long as people don’t object. Then court has to decide, which is why those who come for film screenings we have people sign an undertaking saying they have come here of their own free will and don’t object to films shown. Obscenity in public is not defined. We live in a country where spitting is okay, kissing isn’t.

Resistance: IPC 353 is stopping public servants from performance of duty so it is not possible to stop the police. False cases have been filed when guys get aggressive against the police, so be careful. If somebody stops you in the middle of the night, asks for address, give some address but don’t refuse. Under Bombay Police Act after sunset anyone caught with anything that can be used to break open a lock, for housebreaking. 197 CRPC requires government sanction for prosecuting police while on duty. Important thing is calibrating risk. Anyone can be picked up from questioning anywhere, not only cruising place. If you are scared, they come after u so if u hold your own, rather than crying, don’t tell my parents/wife etc.

Section 377: The biggest problem continues to be 377 sword hanging on our heads and Victorian laws. As long as that is there, peripheral problems, arrest and extortion will continue. 2 consenting men having sex and being found out is an offence and can be prosecuted. Type of prosecutions including wives of gay men finding out their affairs. RTI across Maharashtra reveal numbers are huge. Not only men having sex with each other file cases, but also wives against heterosexual husbands, when they can’t prove rape, or when they discover husbands are gay. What the government is arguing is that 377 is not used is not true; as shown by RTI. Similar RTIs have been filed in Karnataka, Orissa and Manipur. Oral and anal i.e. penetrative sex counts as sex.

Sex toys: Selling is a problem, but having it is not. NGO having dildo to demonstrate condom was used as evidence for sex racket. But there are also NGOs doing programs with police where they learn to put on condoms on dildos.

Suicide notes: IPC 306 most misused, was originally for harassed married women. Cops can question or arrest for abetment, but courts take liberal view, grant bail and quash case. Such things are happening on email, and sending pictures of self-suicide on Whats app such chatting in case gets serious you should tell the police. If you don’t tell and it happens then you are in bigger trouble.

Videographing: Taking videos of police or vigilantes is up to you based on the situation but could lead to aggression so ask first or take a call.