The Erasure of Indian Gay Weddings!

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Just recently, two men from Hyderabad got married, a “promising ceremony’ they said. Abhay and Supriyo are from Punjabi and Bengali backgrounds and have known each other for almost 8 years now. They said they met on an LGBTQ dating app. The ceremony had only 60 close friends, family, and members of the LGBTQ community, and it was officiated by Sophia David, a Hyderabad-based transgender woman. Unfortunately, they cannot register their marriage under the law because same-sex weddings are not yet legal in India.

This news is surely a landmark and marks a strong place for itself in Indian queer history, mostly due to “it going viral on the internet,” but there have been many such incidents in the past. This is probably the biggest news about queerness in the Telugu states, and it went viral, but it is not the first one.  Most of the “gay wedding” images that went viral in the last decade were of Indian-origin people who got married in the US or elsewhere, but there are heart-warming (and sometimes tragic) wedding stories that happened in tiny villages Jharkhand or another tiny village in Gujarat, Odisha, Manipur and so many. Remember the woman Sub-Inspector of the Punjab Police wedding? Most of these don’t have the flashy imagery or set up that the others have, and they fail to go “viral”.

The earliest case that has been documented in Telangana is that of a lesbian couple from Nalgonda district. In 2015, there was a report by a Telugu news channel which spoke about two women who were fighting against their own family. The parents subjected them to physical violence and forcibly got them married to men, and yet they kept fighting and running away. They knew each other from college, fell in love, and have known each other for over 5 years. Sridevi and Annam pleaded with their parents that they love each other and just want to get married and live together.

The erasure of these earlier incidents is hurtful to society and the queer community at large.

As a society, we need news reporters to do their research before claiming something as “first”. From another perspective, the erasure of stories from smaller villages is specifically harmful because, with no balance of reporting, there will be a damaging normalisation of “gay relationships” as a rich person’s lifestyle or a city culture, which it clearly is not.

In 2020, two women, aged 24 and 20, Koderma, Jharkhand, said they got married at a temple and were hoping the courts would legalise their relationship soon. They have been together for the last five years and moved to Delhi as their families were against the relationship. Families didn’t make it easy for them, and the reports said: “We are being threatened of dire consequences by our families, but we don’t care. We are in a relationship for the last five years. We got married at a temple and will soon try for a court marriage, ” the couple said.” In the same year, a lesbian couple got married in the Kendrapara district of Odisha. They garlanded each other at a temple, and since it was a lockdown, there was no possibility of any other wedding formalities.

Way before the legalization, in the early 90s, Aditya Advani’s story is another one that is well documented. He came out to his parents in the early 90s, and in 1993, he brought home Michael Tarr, his partner, to meet the family. It was then that he complained to his mother while attending another family wedding. “I don’t know these people, why do I have to go to the wedding? They would never come for mine”. His mother, a lawyer, half-jokingly said, “Why not? Let’s have a ceremony for Michael and you.” And in 1993, there was one where the two men exchanged garlands and took pheras around a setup that had an idol of Lord Hari Hara, a god that signifies the union of Shiva and Vishnu.

First or not, with couples who are petitioning for the recognition of their wedding, and then the weddings happening without the desire to have validation from the legal system, they are sure to help in normalising the whole “gay wedding”.

So, in conclusion, we know that “Gay marriages” have always been happening, and in all parts of India, among all classes and places, urban or rural, the reporting has clearly been skewed around them. As far as the courts and “gay marriages,” we will just have to wait for the next hearing!

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