To identify the issues and challenges faced by MSM (men who have sex with men). • To understand their socio-cultural aspects of life. • To find out the stigma and discrimination faced by them. • To gauge their economic and livelihood issues. • To understand the identity issues as sexual minority. • To appraise their future plans. Introduction: Kahte hai ki bagvaan jo karte hai acche k liye hi karte hai, phir kyu unhone hame aisa banaya ki unhi k samaj me jene padti hai hame dohari jindagi , sharer ladke ka aur atma ladki ki” (As everyone says whatever happens, happens for the good. Then why we have to live a dual life in this society for no fault of us. God made our bodies like boys and soul like girls. ), said an inquiring Soniya (Sonu), when I asked him how it feels to be a MSM. MSM, an acronym used for men who have sex with men; generic reference to the same sex sexual conducts between men, which may or may not imply gay identity or emotional attractions.
This term gained popularity during the anti HIV/AIDS campaign that focused more on sexual behavior than sexual orientation. People often have misconception that MSM and gays are same. Gays, the adjective used to describe someone whose stable physical, romantic, emotional or spiritual attractions are to the same sex. In contemporary contexts gay is often a preferred term for men and lesbian for women. In this paper, ‘MSM’ refers to a sexual identity while otherwise it refers to a behavioral category. MSMs due to their sexual behavior experience marginalization and stereotyping in their everyday life.
There is a constant uncertainty regarding whether they will receive acceptance in family, friends, colleagues, services and educational institutions. While MSMs are as diverse as the rest of the population still they are discriminated in the society. Here the question arises that why heterosexuality is regarded as the most acceptable sexual orientation and homosexuality is NOT? There was a time when homosexuality was viewed as a mental illness, however, with advent of more scientific enquiry, it has become a past.
Since the 1970s, the consensus of the behavioral and social sciences and the health and mental health professions has moved to believe that homosexuality is a normal variation of human sexual orientation. Gender, race and caste all relate to what a person is, whereas homosexuality relates to what a person does. Indian society is still hesitant and largely conservative which makes it hard for homosexuals to ‘come out of the closet’. Due to the pressure and various other reasons, they leave their homes and families. In recent years, the prejudice has decreased and homosexuals have felt more comfortable being themselves.
The worldwide legal acceptance and the organizations which support homosexuality, help them to gain independent recognition for themselves. It also gives them a platform to boldly come out and talk about their sexual preferences. Brief review of literature Introductory remarks about Homosexuality The shift in the understanding of homosexuality from sin, crime and pathology to a normal variant of human sexuality occurred in the late 20th century. The American Psychiatric Association, in 1973, and the World Health Organization, in 1992, officially accepted its normal variant status.
Many countries have since decriminalized homosexual behavior and some have recognized same-sex civil unions and marriage. The new understanding was based on studies that documented a high prevalence of same-sex feelings and behavior in men and women, its prevalence across cultures and among almost all non-human primate species. Investigations using psychological tests could not differentiate heterosexual from homosexual orientation. Research also demonstrated that people with homosexual orientation did not have any objective psychological dysfunction or impairments in judgment, stability and vocational capabilities.
Psychiatric, psychoanalytic, medical and mental health professionals now consider homosexuality as a normal variation of human sexuality. Human sexuality is complex. The acceptance of the distinction between desire, behavior and identity acknowledges the multidimensional nature of sexuality. The fact that these dimensions may not always be congruent in individuals suggests complexity of the issues. Bisexuality, both sequential and concurrent, and discordance between biological sex and gender role and identity add to the issues.
Medicine and psychiatry employ terms like homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality and trans-sexuality to encompass all related issues, while current social usage argues for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), which focuses on identities. Socio-cultural aspects of life Mahaptra Sanchita, highlighted the socio-cultural aspects of life of MSM. The existence of homosexuality is evident in Indian culture since pre-historic times, as seen in different forms of art like paintings and carvings in temples, homosexuals are not recognized as a separate identity in India and depicted as abnormal human beings.
Intimate same sex behavior in India has always been looked down on as an act of disgrace. According to Indian social structure, a man has to prove his machismo by having sex with a woman and by becoming a father. This generates a social and familial pressure for men to marry women. Men with a preference for homosexuality thus only enter heterosexual relationships to satisfy social expectations, and in order to save their family structure and social status.
The prevalence of homosexuality is difficult to estimate for many reasons, including the associated stigma and social repression, the unrepresentative samples surveyed and the failure to distinguish desire, behavior and identity. The figures vary between age groups, regions and cultures. Anti-homosexual attitudes, once considered the norm, have changed over time in many social and institutional settings. However, “idealistic” heterosexuality is considered the norm and they degrade and stigmatize all non-heterosexual forms of behavior, identity, relationships and communities.
The landmark judgment of the Delhi High Court, which declared that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code violates fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution, was in keeping with international, human rights and secular and legal trends. However, the anti-homosexual attitudes of many religious and community leaders reflect the existence of widespread prejudice in India. Prejudice against different lifestyles is part of many cultures, incorporated into most religions, and is a source of conflict in Indian society.
Tiwari(2010), highlighted that the issue of homosexuality in India is controversial. It is complex matter because of many types of religious life, living in India. It is often said by people that same-sex relationship and love is a western import. While, same-sex relationship and love is not an alien import but rather has existed in Indian society throughout the ages. Nature of engagement About the agency AHF i. e. Aids Healthcare Foundation is an international NGO working to control HIV/AIDS and providing free treatment , care and support services in 26 countries.
The free services include ART services, HIV testing, CD4 test and other laboratory services, positive living counseling, yoga and meditation. Everyday the mobile testing van goes to different places and provides HIV testing, prevention methods, counseling and establishes referral and follow-up mechanisms. Programmes of AHF: • Mobile Testing van: The agency has a mobile testing van consisting of a team of 7 members which tests around 50-60 people per day. The van visits places where the concentration of people with high risk behavior is more.
The medical testing team is the in- charge of doing the ELISA test. If the result for first test comes out to be positive then the client is referred to the agency office where subsequent tests are performed. • Counseling: The agency is engaged in conducting pre and post-test counseling, psychological counseling both for PLHAs and their family members by qualified trained counselors. • Advocacy: AHF works to bring a change in the society by different approaches. The agency act as a catalyst to fight the stigma and discrimination existing in the society towards HIV+ people.
Frequent awareness programs are organized by the agency. ? World AIDS Day, 1st December 2012: AHF organized a national postcard campaign to demand health insurance for People Living with HIV from the Health Minister. As the HIV patients are discriminated not only discriminated by the society but the state also. ? International Condom Day, 13 February 2013: The agency recently organized a ‘SAFE SEX AWARENESS’ event at GB road, Lajpat Nagar and Great India Place Mall in Noida. The aim was to promote condom use as a way to prevent new HIV infections and help people protect themselves. Trainee’s work: Finding out the working of the agency ? Understanding about the epidemic HIV/AIDS and various myths associated with it. ? Understanding the testing and counseling techniques. ? Understanding the functioning of the mobile testing van. ? Organized sessions for PLHAs on Nutrition, Positive Living and Adherence While working with AHF, the trainee got introduced to the term MSM for the first time, prior to her engagement with the agency she was unaware of such terms. The trainee got the glimpse of the issues related to the life of MSM when she interacted for the first time with such group.
She with her testing van then regularly visited these groups. With increasing interaction, the trainee became all the more interested in gaining knowledge about their life and the issues they face in coping with the traumas and discrimination they face in the society. Then with help of an out-reach worker of AHF, I came in contact with DART, a community based organization working for MSMs, where I started my study with MSMs. DART (Development Advocacy and Research Trust) works with MSM and TG (transgender), creating awareness among them related to HIV/AIDS and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).
DART is funded by Delhi State AIDS Control Society. The branch office is at Khanpur, New Delhi. Trainee’s Field work experiences Working with MSM group was a unique experience for the trainee. During the course of interaction with this group, the preformed perceptions that the trainee had, were more or less cleared. The trainee was nervous before meeting them as to how will they react, what if they got upset by any of her query and is it safe to go there all alone. Also I got some moralistic lessons from my parents before going for this small research.
They told me ‘don’t get into bad company’, ‘take care of yourself’ and ‘don’t eat anything with them’ etc. • Experience in context of their life style The trainee was a little scared as well as excited too, during her first visit to meet the MSM group. She interacted with them and they were all open to talk about everything. The trainee came to know how these people are living a dual life. None of them is open about their sexual behavior in their families. They stay at home like males and whenever they come to DART or any other meeting place of MSMs they dress up like girls.
Some of them shared how and why their sexual preferences are different from other members of their family. Some have got married due to family and societal pressures, but are not happy with their married lives. Most of them are into sex work. When they were asked as to how they want their life to be, do they want to get settled with a partner permanently? Some told excitedly that if there is no stigma then they want to settle with their male partners only. But some shared that they can not live with one man for long and so do not want to settle.
Every one has kept an alternative girl name for themselves, and they call each other by this name only. They know one another since long but do not know each other’s real names (the ones given to them by their parents, boys’ names). [pic] None of them knew their exact age (this might be because; since the trainee was meeting the group for the first time therefore they were hesitating in revealing and sharing their personal information with her). Since everyone wanted to engage with a younger partner, therefore this also might be one of the reasons of their hesitation.
Based on some group interviews with self-identified homosexual and bisexual men, it is proved that psychosocial and cultural issues often influence the psychological and emotional well-being of homosexual men. It is largely their perceived femininity, which often leads to violence, harassment, and stigmatization. Those who are not acting like the normative masculinity, experience social exclusion and fewer employment opportunities, which increases poverty and parallel increases the potential for sex work as a survival strategy. Such issues play a significant role in the physical, motional, sexual, and economic exploitation of feminized men, and give rise to a range of sexual health and mental health vulnerabilities. [pic] Retirement is no longer merely a male transition but also a female and a couple transition (Henkens, 1999). The trainee tried to examine retirement planning of MSMs and how their patterns of retirement planning converge or diverge from those of married heterosexual couples. She came to know of the fact that MSM couples in India do not receive any legal recognition as married couples do. I talked to MSMs regarding their plans for old age.
Everyone had a different answer and some said that they never thought of it. Homosexuality apart from being social is at most times psychological. All the MSMs whom I interviewed were sexually abused by some relative or teacher or neighbor in their childhood, due to which they tend to develop homosexual tendencies. Some became homosexual because of exploring their same sex sibling’s or friends genitals which leaves an impression that they like people from the same sex. MSMs face mood disorders due to constant rejection by families and betrayals by their male partners.
They are easy prey for lust fulfillment and are left shattered once someone’s selfish motives are over. Loneliness in them is a silent killer. They are found to be very expressive but when one tries to know them, he find that they are hollow from inside and search for true love every time. They want to have the families of their own and want to live a normal life like any heterosexual couple. Issues to be discussed: Human sexuality is complex and diverse. As with all complex behaviors and personality characteristics, biological and environmental influences combine to produce particular sexual orientation and identity.
We need to focus on people’s humanity rather than on their sexual orientation. References: Tiwari, Nityanand , Homosexuality in India, retrieved on March 19, 2013 from www. ssrn. com. Joseph, Sherry. 2005. Social work practice and Men who have sex with men Pope. Barret. Rankins. Wierzalis. Gay Men and Aging. DART, Khanpur, New Delhi ———————– Pinki (Bhano Singh) is a 35 year old man. He introduces himself as a girl and keeps changing his name, from Chandani, Chandramukhi, Sweety or Pooja to now Pinki. He is basically from Azamgarh, U. P. nd has been living in Delhi since last 17-18 years. He used to work as a carpenter in a furniture showroom, but now has started his own shop on the roof of his rented house where he lives with his brother. He shared that feminine qualities prevailed in him from childhood and his homosexual nature lies on the ground of his feminine nature. He is into sex work since last 15 years. He works as carpenter in the day and at night gets ready like a girl and goes for Sex work. His family does not know anything about it and want him to get married, but he do not want to marry a girl and spoil her life.
He sends 70% of his monthly income to his family and supports his younger brother’s education back home. He told that he has faced many financial crises in his childhood but does not want his family to suffer any more. He earns 1000-1500 every night from sex work, 100-200 per encounter. He is aware of HIV/AIDS and use condoms with all his clients except 2-3 who are his permanent clients. He told about his love life and future plans that he is deeply in love with his cousin who is married and has kids. He shares a physical relationship with him and is happy with the thought that in old age his cousin and his kids will take care of him.
Renu (Ramesh) 34 is the second of all the siblings, the elder and younger being sisters. He always loved to behave like a girl. He used to do feminine part of the house from the very childhood and this is how he guesses he developed feminine qualities in himself despite having a male body. Both his sisters are married and his family pressurizes him to get married as he is the only son, but he is homosexual and do not want to marry a girl and spoil her life. He has his fixed male partners and during an encounter he plays the role of a koti (the wife).
He was born in Delhi and has been living here since then. He shared his first sexual experience, that he was raped by his teacher in the school. He did not share this incidence with anyone neither in school nor at home. He liked to play with the neighborhood girls and all the boys used to tease her. Now he is living a dual life. He dress up and try to behave like a boy/man at home and when he is out, he dress up like girls/women. He discussed his problems that he has to remain conscious all the time, if anyone recognizes him, being dressed up like a girl.
He shared one incident when he was coming back home and forgot to put off the kajal he was wearing. From the door of the home he ran back, washed his face and then he entered his house. People in the neighborhood abuse him and tease him for the way he walks and move his hands. He earlier used to go with hijra for badhali/toil but now works as a outreach worker with a NGO. Regarding his future plans, he told that everyone is forcing him to get married, so maybe he will marry a girl just to protect the honor of the family.