soniasarkar26

Wanted, gay men!

Posted on: December 6, 2011

Do gay men make better husbands? Some heterosexual women think so. I found that straight women, wary of adulterous partners, are willingly marrying homosexual men

For Anuradha Basu, marriage was never an option. The Calcutta-based advertising professional found men difficult to get along with — till she met Sanjay. They both liked theatre and music, and got along like a house on fire. Three years ago, Basu proposed marriage to Sanjay. He hesitated, but eventually said yes. They tied the knot — and have been living happily ever since.

It’s not the usual boy-meet-girl story, for the groom is homosexual. Basu, 34, always knew that but still thought he’d make the perfect partner for her. She wanted someone who was understanding and sensitive — and Sanjay was all that. His sexual orientation did not trouble Basu.

“Sanjay is my best friend first, and then my husband. It doesn’t matter if he is gay,” she says.

Tisha Rana of Mumbai can understand Basu’s sentiments. Her husband Kaushik, too, is gay. She met him after she had broken up with her boyfriend of five years. “The warmth that I found in my relationship with Kaushik was missing in my last relationship,” says the call centre executive. Rana and Kaushik have been married for two years.

It’s not quite a trend yet, but many women like Rana and Basu are venturing into an area that few have stepped into even. They are willingly opting for gay men as marriage partners. Most women who earlier married gay men were in the dark about their husbands’ sexual preferences. Now some are zeroing in on homosexual men for a spate of reasons.

“It is said that a gay man has the soul of both a man and a woman. They understand the feelings of a woman in a better way than a straight man does and marriage is all about mutual understanding,” reasons Shashi Bhushan, programme co-ordinator of Naz Foundation, an organisation that promotes positive sexual health and fights for gay rights.

Clearly, the step is taken by women who don’t look at sex as an intrinsic part of marriage. A union between a heterosexual woman and homosexual man is often without sex. “Two people can live happily together if they have emotional compatibility; sexual needs take a backseat then,” says Basu.

Gay men are often stereotyped as sensitive and caring. And while there may well be insensitive gay males, the women who have opted for gay partners have been struck by their compassion. “Straight men can be domineering,” says Rana. “But Kaushik always respects my freedom.”

Indeed, it is the open nature of these marriages that suits both partners. The husbands opt for such a union because it has social sanction; the women find that their partners don’t hem them in. “I always wanted space in a relationship,” says Basu. “I get that from Sanjay.”

A straight marriage in modern times — with men and women as equal partners — can often be fractious. Marriage counsellors stress that changing gender equations can cause a clash of egos, which is often the cause of broken marriages. But when a straight woman marries a gay man, says Mumbai Montessori teacher Prerna Joshi, egos don’t come in the way. “I don’t think gay men have the male ego,” says Joshi, who married her gay friend Atul because he gave her the respect and warmth that she wanted.

Another factor that prompts women to marry gay men is that they face no threat from other women. Adultery breaks marriages, and women who opt for gay men say that they are secure in their marriages because their husbands are not likely to leave them for another woman. Curiously, the fact that their gay husbands will or may have relationships with other men doesn’t worry the women. “I can accept my husband having sex with men but it would have been difficult for me if he’d sought out other women,” Basu says.

Delhi-based photographer Naina Singh seconds that. “These days, one of the major reasons for divorce is extra-marital affairs,” says Singh, who saw the suffering of a few of her friends who had been two-timed by their husbands. “I find it easier to accept my husband’s affairs with other men than being cheated in a marriage,” says Singh, whose husband, Jitesh, is gay.

Because the marriages are untraditional, in many cases the women are free to look for sexual partners outside the marriage, just like their husbands. “If I can have multiple relationships with other men, why can’t my wife find sexual pleasure elsewhere,” asks Jitesh.

Some sociologists believe that the growing violence in marriages has instilled fear among women. “Domestic violence is a reason women remain single,” says sociologist Shiv Visvanathan. “When women are forced to marry to keep their parents and society happy, they find gay men a better choice as they are liberal. Also, these men are more relaxed, easy and compassionate,” he analyses.

Gender rights activist Anish Ray Chaudhuri agrees. “Women feel safe with gay men. Also gay men are gender sensitive, so it is an equal relationship unlike in many straight marriages where the men are mostly in charge,” says the Calcutta-based activist.

Experts warn of generalisations — after all, not all gay men are sensitive, and not all heterosexual males domineering. But the women in these relationships stress that with their gay husbands they have an equal status in their relationship.

Not being bound by gender-specific roles, for instance, means gay men don’t look at household chores as a woman’s work. “Cleaning the house or cooking food is not an issue with them. They are great partners in household activities and understand the pain of working women who manage both work and home,” says Lisa Nagpal, a non-resident Indian who married Vijay, a gender activist, in February.

Nagpal and Vijay were good friends for seven years before they decided to wed. “Gay men make good friends of women. And a good friend will always become a good husband,” Nagpal says.

Likewise, Singh and Jitesh are old pals. “What I liked in him was his sense of loyalty to friendship. Also, he was with me when my parents died a couple of years ago. I knew that he was gay but still couldn’t think of anyone else when I decided to get married,” says Singh.

Jitesh, however, was initially not sure how the marriage would work. So he visited a counsellor with Singh. “The counsellor told us that if we both shared a comfort zone in our companionship, there was no harm in getting married,” he recalls.

Jhumpa Bhattacharya of Calcutta, who fell in love with her gay husband Niladri four years ago, stresses that their “emotional equation” is central to their relationship. All else, including sex, takes a backseat. When her parents put pressure on Bhattacharya, a public relations officer in a pharmaceutical company, to marry, she turned to Niladri.

For Niladri, it was a marriage of convenience. “Though my parents knew about my sexuality, they still wanted me to get married to a woman. I should confess that things have become easier for me after my marriage. At least, now my parents don’t bombard me with uncomfortable questions,” he says.

Bhushan of Naz Foundation points out that for most gay men, a marriage like this is a “win-win” situation. “In India, a homosexual marriage is not legal. Marrying a woman makes a gay man look ‘normal’ in society. Plus, he is not sexually committed to his wife,” he says.

Problems, however, may arise when the couples want to have children. But clearly the partners in these marriages have given the question considerable thought. “If I want a child, I can always adopt,” says Joshi.

Some women activists, however, believe that this is an experimental trend in marriage which may get complex. “Marriage is not just about companionship but also procreation and social responsibility. Both the partners should be prepared to see the social implications of such marriages,” says Malashri Lal, former director of Delhi University’s women’s studies and development centre.

But Tejal Shah, a visual artist and queer activist, stresses that if two adults are making an informed choice, there is nothing wrong in it. “If women gain some independence for themselves in such an arrangement and the gay partner is also happy in it, society should not have a problem,” she says.

For most Indians, of course, the trend is not just new, but difficult to grasp. Actor Mugdha Godse, who played the role of a straight model called Janet who married her gay best friend Rahul, played by Samir Soni, in Madhur Bhandarkar’s 2008 film Fashion, says she will find it difficult to relate to the character of Janet in real life. “I am not sure if this relationship can last for long,” she feels.

Samir Soni isn’t so sure either. “There may be a time when the gay guy would want to move on with another gay person, or the woman may like to spend the rest of her life with a straight person as she may want children. The concept looks very progressive in a film but real life is a different ball game,” he says.

But Basu argues that no marriage is perfect. “So why not take a chance,” she asks. Like any marriage, if it works out, it will be blissful. If it doesn’t, there are ways out.

(The names of some people have been changed to protect their identities.)

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