A thread about cross-dressing, trans-genders and homosexuality prompted a friend to write the following mythological/religious reference on a mailing list:
Just consider the following:
1. Shiva cross-dressed as Ardhanarishwara
2. Arjuna cross-dressed as Bruhannala
3. Vishnu, not only cross-dressed, but actually “crossed over” as Mohini, had an affair with Shiva and produced Hariharaputra/Shaasta/Ayyappa.
4. We have a tradition that Aravaan, who was Arjuna’s son was expected to die in the next day’s battle—-such was the prophecy. Aravaan was asked as to what his last wish was. He wanted to marry. No one wanted to marry a person who was going to die the next day. Finally a transvestite/Hijra volunteered. That is why Hijras are also called Aravaanis. There are Aravaan temples which are visited by Hijras and others.
5. Many male Krishna-worshippers, even today cross-dress as Radha and worship Krishna.
6. In the 1500-year old Jambukeswara Temple at Tiruvanaikovil near Tiruchirapalli, even today, every day at noon, the priest cross-dresses as a young woman and performs the puja to Shiva.
7. Sakhi and Sakha are all traditions with enormous homoerotic content and are considered entirely legitimate.
8. Khajuraho has sculptures depicting both male homosexuality and lesbianism. At least our ancestors did not feel these were “dirty” for the temple atmosphere. If they are dirty, it is only because the dirt arises in the mind of the beholder.
In fact, cross-dressing, pursuit of androgyny, homo-eroticism, transvestite identities etc. are so common and frequent in Hindu traditions that they do not even call for excess comment. Arjuna, who is one of our great heroes, exhibited signs of bisexuality, cross-dressing and a refreshing androgynous personality. He was known as “Sabyasachi” because he was ambidextrous and could shoot arrows from both hands. The term also captures his inherent androgyny. Quite cool, if you ask me.
My take on homosexuality/lesbianism:
How on earth does it matter who we sleep with, or not? The people we are are what matters. I too have several friends of a different orientation; when they told me so, my response was that I was waiting for the day when it would no longer be necessary to make these statements at all.
Especially in our repressed, hypocritical Indian culture, where even heterosexual activity is so frowned upon, just imagine how tough life must be if one has a different orientation (it’s been proved that this is genetic and not a cultivated choice.)
We can be in denial, as we seem to be often in denial of there being child molesters in so many Indian families. Or…we can accept an aspect of humanity that has existed as long as humanity does. Believe me, as a naturalist, I know that such behaviour is common to other species too. If we remove the moral tag from so many things….smoking, drinking, non-vegetarianism, and others…we would, I feel, be happier people ourselves, accepting those whom we meet for what they are.
I have several friends on both sides of the spectrum, and the good friends are good friends NMW…No Matter What!
When D’s uncle and his partner (they’ve been together for 20+ years now) came to attend DnA’s wedding, we were rather apprehensive about whether they would face whispers and sniggers. But on the other hand, my friends seemed to perceive them as people, and everyone got along so well!
One of my gay friends in Bangalore laughs about the fact that landlords are so against letting an apartment out to a young man and a young woman, and unthinkingly let their homes out to two men or two women.
Let’s just meet and interact with people as people, and not go by the bodies they inhabit! And let’s remember…love is so precious and rare to find in this world, let’s not scorn it because it may come in an unusual garb….pun intended!