Internet and the Gay Rights Movement

Internet has been a boon to mankind in many ways. Its effects on the lives of humans have been, in some cases, revolutionary. It has not only connected the world and brought all information on our fingertips, but it has also been a refuge for many to find like-minded people. This has specially been true for movements and communities which have traditionally been shunned by the larger society.

For the LGBT community, the internet has certainly been a boon in many ways. The pre-internet days, for the LGBT community, meant cruising in parks, bars, toilets, or other joints to meet like-minded people. But this also meant that they could be easy targets for homophobic violence by police or others. There was little safety in meeting the way they did, and many indeed had horrible experiences as well. The best example of it remains the Stonewall Inn, a bar popular among the gay and trans community, but also targeted by the police regularly.

The internet suddenly provided the safe space that people craved for. There was now no need to go anywhere to meet or find other gay/bi/lesbian/trans individuals. There were a number of sites you could just log in and start a conversation with people. You could be in the privacy and safety of your room, and still ‘feel’ connected. What you chose to reveal, depended entirely on your comfort level. There was no fear of being ‘outed’ or being seen visiting a gay bar/club. A young gay kid could gather all the information and (virtual) support needed to come to terms with his/her sexuality.

The early days of internet had yahoo chat rooms and email lists. These also acted as forums for discussions of various kinds, on matters related to LGBT community. But soon, as the internet matured, there were “gay dating sites”. What these sites eventually turned out to be were hook-up sites. Conversations mostly began with “Hi”, followed by “ASL”. Attempts to connect with the person were restricted mostly to knowing the preferences on bed. The sudden access to a large pool of men also meant one was always looking to meet more men. The advent of mobile applications like Grindr have brought about further changes. A simple ‘Hi’ can be greeted by instant blocking. Everything increasingly became more self-centered.

sex positionOn the other hand, for queer organisations, reaching out to the LGBT population became easier. This is especially true for countries where homosexuality is still either criminalised, illegal, or is socially frowned upon, and most people prefer the privacy of the internet. In such countries, internet becomes the primary tool for dispensing information related to LGBT events (parties, film festival, pride march) to a larger queer audience. The advent of social networking sites like Facebook and their widespread use has further helped to mobilise the queer community, hold discussions on various topics, things that the gay dating sites lack. Features like “secret group” have ensured that people can be part of such groups and discussions without others in their network being aware of it, and that only trusted contacts get added to such groups.

Despite all this, what is also true is that the internet has stripped  people of the warmth and closeness, and to some extent, the feeling of a close-knit community. The bars and other spots in the pre-internet days were not just cruising spots, but also a place where “real” relationships and bondings happened. You cared about these people, because you knew them somehow, or would have seen them hanging out at the same place. This also gave a greater sense of community to people. This is also a reason why a police “raid” at Stonewall soon turned into a riot. Is such a Stonewall possible today?

gay hugThose who have experienced the pre-internet days rue about the lack of warmth in internet conversations now. Some still prefer to visit the old spots. Contrast this with the chats you have on Grindr or any other such service. Probably what we need is to complement our online activities with bonding with people over community events in the real world.

What if Men Could Conceive?

One argument that you often get to hear from opponents of gay rights and homosexuality is, that gay sex can’t lead to progeny, or rather, that reproduction is the ultimate aim of any species, and hence, heterosexuality is the only “natural way”. Without reproducing, they say, humans will go extinct and hence homosexuality will doom the human species.

But what if men could also conceive? Would that make homosexuality “natural”? Can that be a reality or will it always be science fiction? Hindu mythology is full of stories where men gave birth, but under special circumstances. Yet, that possibility wasn’t discarded.

Exploring such a possibility is the movie Paternity Leave, where one of the men in a gay relationship becomes pregnant. The movie explores the changes that a person undergoes during pregnancy – both hormonal, emotional and physical, and presents before the viewer a possibility that many still dream of.

But these dreams may come true sometime in the future, with advancements of science. A man giving birth is not just anymore restricted to mythology or movies. Thomas Beatie, a trans man who underwent surgery in 2002, became the first man to give birth to a baby in 2007. He has been impregnated thrice. This was made possible because Beatie had retained his womb while undergoing sex reassignment surgery.

Pregnant Man

If pregnancy in Thomas Beatie was made possible because he had the womb, it might not be necessary in the future. Recent research has shown the possibility that same-sex couples could become parents, without the need of a donor egg. Researchers have been able to make sperm cells and egg cells from stem cells.

Science has come a long way. What was a miracle yesterday, is a reality today. While gay men becoming pregnant might not happen so soon, the possibility of it in near future can not be ruled out either. The question is, if you have the chance, would you become pregnant?

4 Upcoming LGBT Movies You Must Watch

Not very long ago, Hollywood was shy to touch upon LGBT themed movies. They were considered too risky, something that might not get a mass market. And so, you would have movies on LGBT theme come out once a year, or sometime not even that. You could count them on your fingers. But as LGBT rights are progressing, so is Hollywood, and the count of LGBT themed movies coming out each year is steadily increasing.

This year has already seen the release of The Intimation Game, that was based on Alan Turing, the gay hero of World War 2 who saved the world by cracking Nazi codes. But there are many more coming up.

Stonewall

Stonewall Movie

Stonewall (as the name suggests) is a movie based upon the Stonewall Riots that happened in 1969. The description on Youtube reads: “STONEWALL is a drama about a fictional young man caught up during the 1969 Stonewall Riots.” However, the movie already finds itself mired in controversy for eliminating the role of trans-individuals who played an important role in the riots and also for the “white-washing” of the gay rights movement. Many people have since given out a call to boycott the movie completely. The movie releases this Septemeber.

Freeheld

Julianne-Moore-Ellen-Page-star-in-Freeheld-trailer

Freeheld stars Ellen Page and Julianne More, and releases in October. The movie is based on the real life story of Laurel Hester, a police officer in Ocean County, New Jersey, who was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. The story revolves around the fight of Laurel Hester to have her partner receive the pension benefits after her death.

The Danish Girl

eddie-redmayne-danishgirl

The Danish Girl too is inspired by a real life story and is in fact based upon a book by the same name by David Ebershoff. The movie tells the story of  Lili Elbe, the first person to undergo sex change operation  and stars Oscar winning actor Eddie Redmayne. Directed by Tom Hooper, it is being seen as a strong Oscar contender already. What’s more, it even received a 10-minute standing ovation at Venice Film Festival. The movie is expected to release on Nov 27th this year.

Aligarh

Aligarh-Movie-Images

This one in the list is from India. It is not often that Bollywood makes a movie on a gay person’s life. But award winning director Hansal Mehta has done just that, and the movie is already traveling the Film Festival circuit and has been selected for the BFI London Film Festival as well as the Busan Film Festival. Like the previous three, this one too is based on the real life (tragic) story of an Indian professor of Aligarh Muslim University -Dr. Siras. In the year 2010, he was suspended from the University after being filmed through spy cameras having sex with another man inside his room. Two months later, he was found dead in his room.