Sunday, September 18, 2005

Tumhara khoon khoon hai aur hamara khoon...? Or why is blood donation by gay men unwelcome?

I started donating blood in my first year of college (in the mid-'80s). This became an annual practice for five years since the college had yearly blood collection drives. There was little awareness of HIV then, among people generally and I myself was pretty ignorant. I also donated blood a couple of times after graduation as a 'replacement donor' when dad was hospitalized twice (the first time in a Mumbai hospital and the second in a suburban nursing home).

The second time it involved traveling to a blood bank in a distant Mumbai suburb. On both occasions I had to fill in a form that more or less has a standard questionnaire about the donor's previous medical history. I am not sure about the first instance but the second time (at the blood bank) one of the questions was about (I do not remember the exact verbiage or the year in the question) whether the (male) donor has had sex with a man after 197x.

Was the bloodbank or the government (presuming that was the govt.'s idea to put that question) expecting an honest answer to that from anyone? Well, I gave an honest answer. I admit I was a little scared -- not of being outed -- but of being prosecuted under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code for "unnatural sex".

I got away with it the first time and the next few times that the bloodbank requested my blood (they would call me every few months--I have one of the rarer blood groups).

Someone at the bloodbank actually noticed my answer one time, it seems. They did not take my blood that time. A few weeks later they called me again and I told them that I did not want to come because they have rejected my blood for being gay. Apparently, the person on the other end of the phone line was as shocked as the one who had noticed my affirmative answer previously, and hung up without a word.

I did not donate blood since then, until last year, at my workplace. In spite of being handed a list of (dos and) don'ts that listed sex between men (there was no mention of this on the questionnaire, though).

I do not know what the current official policy is blood donation by 'practicing' gay men, but I was happy that I could help out a patient at a major Bombay hospital who needed blood recently, without killing myself about being dishonest--there was no question this time about my sexuality! Stupid bloodbank or enlightened policy?

It may be true that anal sex without a condom is high-risk behavior as far as HIV and sexually transmitted infections are concerned. But isn't it also true that peno-vaginal sex without condoms are almost as unsafe? So why stop gay men from donating blood when we hear of chronic blood shortages in this country?

Incidentally, methinks screening donated blood for HIV is redundant because of the 'window period'.

Many countries ban blood donation by gay men (does anyone know India's position?), but recently this has been challenged in Tasmania, Australia, as reported last month.

Perhaps we are some years away from decriminalizing homosexuality in India and the blood donation ban. Meanwhile, gay men will die from lack of access to information on HIV and health resources. And heterosexuals will die from lack of gay blood.

Sullivan on the Catholic Church's latest Gay Hunt

The Vatican's plan to exclude gay priests (even those celibate). The news first appeared apparently in the National Catholic Register newspaper: Here's an extract from another report by Laurie Goodstein in the NYTimes of September 15, 2005: "Vatican to Check U.S. Seminaries on Gay Presence":

Investigators appointed by the Vatican have been instructed to review each of the 229 Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States for "evidence of homosexuality" and for faculty members who dissent from church teaching, according to a document prepared to guide the process.

The Vatican document, given to The New York Times yesterday by a priest, surfaces as Catholics await a Vatican ruling on whether homosexuals should be barred from the priesthood.

In a possible indication of the ruling's contents, the American archbishop who is supervising the seminary review said last week that "anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity or has strong homosexual inclinations," should not be admitted to a seminary.

Edwin O'Brien, archbishop for the United States military, told The National Catholic Register that the restriction should apply even to those who have not been sexually active for a decade or more.

And now Andrew Sullivan's reactions on his blog on September 13:

NOT EVEN WHEN CELIBATE: The Vatican document will appear probably by the end of the year, but it appears that the decision has been made. The key point-man for reform of seminaries in the U.S., Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, has now made it clear that, in his words,

"I think anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity, or has strong homosexual inclinations, would be best not to apply to a seminary and not to be accepted into a seminary." ... Archbishop O'Brien, who is coordinating the visits to more than 220 U.S. seminaries and houses of formation, said even homosexuals who have been celibate for 10 or more years should not be admitted to seminaries.

The AP version of the story, where O'Brien prettifies his language, confirms the story. The reason? A response to the appalling clerical abuse of children and minors. Conflating homosexual orientation with pedophilia, and arguing that homosexual priests cannot be expected to maintain celibacy or refrain from raping children or minors, even if they have demonstrated such an ability for up to a decade or more, O'Brien takes the Catholic Church's pretzel-like position on homosexuality to a new level of incoherence. Notice that what is being discriminated against here is not someone's actions or behavior, but their very identity. Notice that the church is implying complete lack of self-control to all gay priests, regardless of their record or potential. Notice that in 1986, the Church officially rebutted the idea that gay men, let alone gay priests, cannot be expected to be celibate, let alone molest children. The notion that all gay men are sexually compulsive was, in the words of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, an "unfounded and demeaning assumption." That "unfounded and demeaning assumption" is now church policy. The 1986 document also proclaimed that the human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation.

Yet all seminarians are now to be reduced and judged solely on their sexual orientation. Some of the basic principles of the Catholic faith - treating each individual as equally worthy in God's eyes, judging people by what they do, not who they are - are being violated by this policy. The astonishing work of gay priests across the centuries and across the globe is being denied and stigmatized and ignored. This is a huge stain on the church - reminiscent of its long, terrible history of anti-Semitism.

HOW TO RESPOND? When you inhabit an institution which is governed by absolute authority, when its current gay priests - who may make up a third of all priests and bishops - have been ordered to be silent about their orientation, when they are forbidden from even dissenting openly about this disgusting new policy, it is up to the laity to respond. This is not just about homosexuality. It is about the integrity of Catholicism as a faith that abhors bigotry of any kind, that demonizes no one, that welcomes all to God's banquet, that actually fights against injustice, rather than instituting and enforcing it. The imposition of bigotry is made all the worse, since it is primarily focused on scapegoating all homosexuals for the actions of a minority of child molesters, while leaving heterosexual child molesters free of any communal guilt, and protecting every heterosexual and homosexual authority figure who covered up the crimes of so many years and decades. I've been following the Church's position on gay people for much of my adult life and can honestly say that this is something I never expected and a wound I never believed would be inflicted. To bar gay people in committed relationships from the church is one thing. To bar even celibate, faithful gays from the priesthood is quite another. It is also implicitly a statement that no gay man can, in practice, live a celibate life, which is to say that the entire basis of the Church's doctrine about how gay men and women should live is false. If the church cannot expect celibacy from one of its own priests who has successfully stayed celibate for over a decade, what does it expect of the rest of us? Under this pope, I think, homosexual persons have become inherently morally sick, Untermenschen in his own language, moral lepers incapable of self-governance and liable to make the church "unclean." They cannot marry or form stable relationships; they cannot remain celibate; and they are all potential molesters of children. What other logical inferences are possible from this new policy?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Tops and Bottoms make lousy sex

How I hate the terms! Always have. Because, like 'active' and 'passive' (prime examples of a misnomer), they stink of politics, and the way we often use them puts 'tops' on a pedestal while implying an inferior status for "bottom" on the sexuality scale. Active people are macho, desirable Adonises whose phalluses should be worshipped, who control all the pleasure buttons of the 'bottoms', on whom they shall bestow favors as they please. On the other hand, 'bottoms' are those pitiable, effeminate creatures who are there for the asking, who need to be given a good fuck, whether in the mouth or the ass.

Here's a fairly interesting article on about this sexual politics and terminology. After all, sex is all about power and play-acting (and this reflects in our choice of words). But should it not be about intimacy and love or at the very least an equal give and take of pleasure?

Here are some extracts from the article if you do not find the time to read it in its entirety:

It's time for gay men to be rid of a drastic misconception about their sex lives, a misconception they've inherited from straight people eager to apply
gender stereotypes to sex between two males. It is not the top who wields all of the power in the bedroom. It is the bottom. I'm not making this call out of some desire for political correctness or a pressing need to divorce gay culture from all forms of heterosexual influence. To put it simply, I am deeply concerned that by accepting the idea that one sex partner is just a docile, weak-willed pillow biter, a large number of gay men are committing a grievous error: They're having lousy sex.

Further, and this is something we have all heard about:

Buying into the gender stereotypes society has assigned to each sexual role often leads gay men astray when they're pursuing what they want most. I've watched far too many friends fall head over heels for the brutish muscle god because he has all the physical qualities they have assigned as being stereotypically masculine. These friends are crushed when they learn that their object of desire wants to assume the very position they've grown accustomed to.

And finally:

I'm not saying we should get rid of this restrictive model of gay sex because it's politically incorrect. Let's get rid of it because it's a form of sexual sloth. It's bad strategy to enter the bedroom with preconceived notions of how things are going to play out based on a partner's mannerisms and physical attributes. Unfortunately, a lot of gay men do this because it allows them to avoid the scariest part of sex: asking a partner what they want and summoning the strength to give it to them.

For reasons of sexual politics or for as a "strategy" (which is actually turning conventional logic on its head, if you know what I mean), these terms are so avoidable. I don't have anything against labels (they are even useful), but top/active and bottom/passive restrict my sexuality, which, as I have written in my previous posts, has different sides. :-)

Monday, July 11, 2005

Why Purab 'Nigel' Kohli acted in 'My Brother Nikhil'

One more celebrity speaks out. (Click on the link to read the Mid-Day article.) It's time for the law and the law-makers to remove their blindfolds.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


This post is NOT about sex but about the language some in India use to describe it--more specifically, "gandu". The word is used more often as a "gaali" (swear word). Although it is also used casually between friends. My knowledge of Hindi, particularly, my vocabulary of four-letter words is not very extensive, so this posting on the blog of a 'linguist' is somewhat informative. I have of course heard of "gand-maarna" (sodomy) but this is the first time I have come across "gand-mara" (the "active partner" in sodomy or anus-beater according to Richard Burton)! I sort of like the term "gand-mastee" though. Besides the hetero-connotation of someone who is asking for trouble (my inference of the meaning comes from Hindi cinema), it also confirms that Indian men look upon sex between two men as "mastee" (casual fun?) rather than as sex proper?

Monday, May 02, 2005

My first time on TV

Correct me, if I am wrong anywhere, because I have poor memory.

Anyone (in India) remember the time Star Plus telecast 'Dynasty' every week. I can't recollect the year now. Of course, Dynasty came to India much after the soap had a successful run in the States. If I am not wrong, it was the more sophisticated version (and perhaps the inspiration) for soaps like 'Santa Barbara' and 'The Bold and The Beautiful'.

Dynasty has many positives, mainly the lead actors (John Forsythe, Joan Collins, Linda Evans). Whenever I think of the show I can still remeber it's theme music. But I'll never forget the show for two reasons.

Possibly, Dynasty can claim to be the first soap seen by Indian viewers where the word 'homosexual' was used (overall, in non-news programming, that honour would likely go to 'Donahue' or 'The Oprah Winfrey Show'). And although, I believe, the movie 'An Early Frost' was telecast before the start of Dynasty, I doubt if the words 'homosexual' or 'gay' were used in the film. It was definitely the first time that my mum (we were avid watchers of the show) heard the word and, although she didn't understand what it meant then, formed some association with the word.

The second reason the show will remain in my memory is the fact that a few episodes featured Rock Hudson (whom I remember as the gay star whose death by AIDS shook Hollywood, and to an extent the world, out of its denial mode over HIV).

Apparently Fox Home Entertainment (2oth Century Fox; isn't this part of the same group of companies that owns the Star network?) has just released the first season of the show on DVD.

Quite a nostalgic trip back in time. Some day I'll watch all the seasons of Dynasty and find out what happens to Blake Carrington's gay son, Steven, towards the end. And super-bitch Alexis Carrington as well.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Frot Age

I don’t mean to get set in a pattern and make this a blog about sex. However, here's an entry about something that we rarely discuss (though I most guys do this and for many like me, it has been the ‘main’ sex act for years). It’s called ‘frottage’ (as per the definition, frottage is a public act and non-consensual—like groping in the train—but then I haven’t come across a term closer in meaning).

Here’s an article on frotteurism (as it also known—the words seem to be of French origin) from Had I written the article myself 15 years ago, it would have begun with exactly the same led: “For years I’ve been doing something that I’ve always considered a little odd, perhaps even subversive. It’s a sexual act that I thought had no official description or wording, and it’s something I’ve had a hard time describing to my friends….”

Of course, like the author, I beg to differ from Luke Shelton and Bill Weintraub of The Man2Man Alliance (I haven't seen the site yet) on their rhetoric on the politics and pleasures of anal sex (the link goes to my related post; see their quotes in the article mentioned above).

The author says that “for a lot of us, frottage is as good as, if not better than, anal sex.” Until recently, that was true for me as well. Right now, I am not sure if frottage is better. :-)

Friday, March 18, 2005

Boyfriend, am I like this?

You Are The Clingy Gay Man (btw, the sic spellings above are not mine!)
Click on the rule below to find out your 'true' gay nature!!
What Type Of Gay Man Are You?
brought to you by

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Mediaah is dead! Long live Mediaha

No spelling error in the title. Go to the link and read about the Slime of India.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Ass hole!

I have always been a late bloomer. I came out to myself at age 21 (after 8 years of sleeping with men). I first experienced oral sex when I was 25. And now in my 30s I have discovered pleasure in anal sex. No, not that I haven't experienced it before--I have been the "bottom" a dozen times or so in all these years of being sexually active (okay, you can also add promiscuous). I never enjoyed it though. It wasn't the pain--no I have used lubrication. It was just that getting fucked never turned me on in real (at best, it gave me the pleasure of satisfying my partner) although it remains a major masturbatory (is there such a word?) fantasy.

I had tried fucking guys (because they wanted me to, and because I wanted to try it) once or twice but I don't whether it was performance anxiety, simply not knowing the technique or not having the patience to keep trying (to shove it in). It never worked. To sum it up, I couldn't understand what was the big deal about anal sex and I guess I had something in common with the majority of gay men (contrary to popular notion, apparently only 30 per cent of gay men have anal sex--that's what I gathered some 10 years ago and I don't see why this should have changed radically).

I believe fucking, being a "top", "active", "panthi"...whatever doesn't make you a "real", "complete" man, "mard", biological male and being a bottom/"versatile" does not make you a freak neither less of a human being. If you believe anything to the contrary, I think you haven't been able to rid yourself of internalized homophobia (it's a lifetime of baggage to discard).

Like I have discovered about myself. It's been only twice since I fucked my boyfriend, and I loved it. Of course, a part of it has to do with my adoration for him. There are other elements as well like wanting to give pleasure to my partner and surely to some extent the experience of a 'new' sexual act.

At the same time, I have started feeling good about having crossed a hurdle so to speak. Feeling proud about doing it and liking it. I tell myself it speaks ill of my sense of self-worth as a gay man.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Other ways of having sex

Came across a report in The Indian Express. (Those who don't want to read the report, it's about how Indian women are enjoying sex and how they are doing so in different ways.) It connects with an aspect of what has come to be called the DPS MMS scandal (from late last year): a topless girl filmed performing fellatio on a boy by the latter on his cell. My point is that Indians are having all kinds of sex—and they have been for hundreds of years if not since the birth of humankind. We know of references to different sexual positions (and behaviours—if not orientations) from ancient art and writing. The very fact that there are terms in our languages (Sanskrit and others) means that peno-vaginal penetration has not been the only way Indians have been having sex down the ages.
Yet not only are we queasy about admitting it (of course, we are uncomfortable talking about sex per se) we even hang on to a law that criminalizes all sex that’s “unnatural”—Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (see Nitin Karani’s blog for a discussion on the Indian government’s official reply to the Delhi High Court about its stand on the section). So how many heteros reading this knew before now that oral sex with anyone, whether their legally wedded spouse of the opposite sex or not, is a crime punishable by life even?
Isn’t this downright stupid and hypocritical. So do politicians and judges abstain from oral sex? Who are we kidding?

Also I am amazed that the media, the police—everyone—has been blind to the fact that underage kids were having sex. That not just Section 377 but also the sections defining rape have been technically violated. Isn’t it time for law reform, especially section 377, definitions of “natural” and “unnatural”? Isn’t it also time we debated a more realistic age of consent for sex, whether with the same-sex or the opposite sex?

Welcome to my blog

Phew! Finally some space to say what I want to without having my speech seen through the prism of my political, religious and other affiliations. Here's to free speech!