Ever since the July 2009 judgement by the Delhi High Court was read down by the Supreme Court in December 2013, it is even more vital in our current times, where same-sex sexuality is being accepted by many nations, the recent being marriage equality by the US Supreme Court, to understand and accept that same-sex sexuality is not a ‘disease’ and heteronormativity is not the only ‘normal’.

Here’s a curated – by no means exhaustive – list of books you can read to deepen your understanding of same-sex sexuality in India and sexuality studies in general.

1. Queering India: Same-Sex Love and Eroticism in Indian Culture and Society edited by Ruth Vanita

 

Queering India is the first book to provide an understanding of same-sex love and eroticism in Indian culture and society. The essays focus on pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial gay and lesbian life in India to provide a comprehensive look at a much neglected topic. Specifically, the essays cover issues such as Deepa Mehta’s controversial film, Fire, which focused on lesbian relationships in India; the Indian penal code which outlaws homosexual acts; a case of same-sex love and murder in colonial India among the likes.

2. Myself, Mona Ahmed by Dayanita Singh and Mona Ahmed

 

“Myself Mona Ahmed” is the first book by New Delhi-based photographer Dayanita Singh. It is the story of hijra Mona Ahmed whom Singh met and began photographing more than ten years ago. They witness the story of Mona’s castration and the loss of her adopted child. To preserve Mona’s own voice, and to give her the power of expressing herself, these emails are published in their original form, with as little editing as possible.

3. Queer: Despised Sexuality, Law, and Social Change by Arvind Narrain

 

The last decade of the 20th century in India has seen the emergence of another form of political assertion centring on the hitherto private realm of sexuality. The traditional definitions of activist politics is being forced to engage with new political concerns articulated by people who claim gay, lesbian, hijra, transgender, kothi and numerous other identities. What is common to these identities apart from their roots in sexuality is the fact that they question the heteronormative ideal that the only way in which two human beings can relate romantically, sexually and emotionally is within a heterosexual context.

4. The Man who was a Woman and other Queer Tales from Hindu Lore by Devdutt Pattanaik

 

The Man Who Was a Woman and Other Queer Tales from Hindu Lore is a compilation of traditional Hindu stories with a common thread: sexual transformation and gender metamorphosis. In addition to the thought-provoking stories, one will also find: an examination of the universality of queer narratives with examples from Greek lore and Irish folklore a comparison of the Hindu paradigm to the biblical paradigm a look at how Hindu scripture responds to queer sexuality a discussion of the Hijras, popularly believed to be the “third gender” in India–their probable origin, & how they fit into Hindu society.

5. Made in India: Decolonizations, Queer Sexualities, Trans/National Projects by Suparna Bhaskaran

 

Made In India explores the making of “queer” and “heterosexual” consciousness and identities in light of economic privatization, global condom enterprises, sexuality-focused NGOs, the Bollywood-ization of beauty contests, and trans/national activism. In examining seemingly disparate and high profile events in post/neo colonial India, since the 1990s, Made In India demonstrates the relationships between identity formation and the political economy of trans/national sexualities.

 

6. Love’s Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West by Ruth Vanita

This is the first book to examine same-sex weddings and same-sex couple suicides in India today, discussing these phenomena both in the context of the international debate on gay marriage, and in the context of past and present Indian and Euro-American cultural representations of same-sex union.

7. Because I Have a Voice: Queer Politics in India edited by Gautam Bhan and Arvind Narrain

This anthology expands the reach and scope, and illuminates the presence of queer politics in different spaces in India. What is most impressive, however, is that it confronts the unquestioned, “compulsory” nature of heterosexuality in India, in a language that is not restricted to the academic.

8. Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures by Gayatri Gopinath

By bringing queer theory to bear on ideas of diaspora, Gayatri Gopinath produces both a more compelling queer theory and a more nuanced understanding of diaspora. Focusing on queer female diasporic subjectivity, Gopinath develops a theory of diaspora apart from the logic of blood, authenticity, and patrilineal descent that she argues invariably forms the core of conventional formulations.

9. With Respect to Sex: Negotiating Hijra Identity in South India by Gayatri Reddy

 

With Respect to Sex is an intimate ethnography that offers a provocative account of sexual and social difference in India. The subjects of this study are hijras or the “third sex” of India, individuals who occupy a unique, liminal space between male and female, sacred and profane. Hijras are men who sacrifice their genitalia to a goddess in return for the power to confer fertility on newlyweds and newborn children, a ritual role they are respected for, at the same time as they are stigmatized for their ambiguous sexuality.

10. The Truth About Me: A Hijra Life Story by A. Revathi

 

The Truth About Me is the unflichingly courageous and moving autobiography of a Hijra who fought ridicule, persecution and violence both within her home and outside to find a life of dignity. Revathi was born a boy, but felt and behaved like a girl. In telling her life story, Revathi evokes marvelously the deep unease of being in the wrong body that plagued her from childhood. To be true to herself, to escape the constant violence visited upon her by her family and community, the village born Revathi ran away to Delhi to join a house of Hijras.

11. Same-Sex Love in India: A Literary History edited by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai

 

Same-Sex Love in India offers an eloquent range of writings spanning more than two thousand years of Indian literature. Drawn from Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and contemporary fictional sources these writings convincingly demonstrate that same-sex love has flourished, evolved and been embraced in various forms since ancient times. From the Mahabharata to modern writers and artists such as Ismat Chughtai and Bhupen Khakhar, the eclectic and expressive selections in this anthology include excerpts from devotional books, legal and erotic treatises, story cycles, medieval histories among the likes.

 

12. Loving Women: Being Lesbian in Unprivileged India by Maya Sharma

By a leading feminist scholar, this book covers contemporary lesbian scene in India, religious and social issues, role of lesbian women in the women’s movement and politics. It is journey through lesbian working-class India.

13. Tritity Prakriti: People of the Third Sex: Understanding Homosexuality, Transgender Identity and Intersex Conditions Through Hinduism by Amara Das Wilhelm

 

Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex is a collection of years of research into a topic seldom discussed or easily found within the Hindu/Vedic scriptural canon. Based entirely upon authentic Sanskrit references and modern concurring facts, the book guides one through the original Hindu concept of a “”third sex”” (defined as homosexuals, transgenders and the intersexed), how people were constructively incorporated into ancient Indian society, and how foreign influences eventually eroded away that system.

14. Shikhandi and Other Stories They Don’t Tell You by Devdutt Pattanaik

 

Queerness isn’t only modern, Western or sexual, says mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik. Take a close look at the vast written and oral traditions in Hinduism, some over two thousand years old, and you will find many overlooked tales, such as those of Shikhandi, who became a man to satisfy her wife; Mahadeva, who became a woman to deliver his devotee’s child; Chudala, who became a man to enlighten her husband; Samavan, who became the wife of his male friend; and many more.

15. Me Hijra, Me Laxmi by Laxmi

 

He was born a boy, but never felt like one. What was he then? He felt attracted to boys. What did this make him? He loved to dance. But why did others make fun of him? Battling such emotional turmoil from a very young age, Laxminarayan Tripathi, born in a high-caste Brahman household, felt confused, trapped, and lonely. Slowly, he began wearing women’s clothes. Over time, he became bold and assertive about his real sexual identity. Finally, he found his true self—she was Laxmi, a hijra.

Have we missed any important book in this list? Do add in the comments.

Images and summary courtesy: Goodreads.com

Featured Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

4 COMMENTS

  1. You missed out “A Thousand Dreams Within Me Softly Burn”. It’s the first book in India to talk about a same-sex relationship between two men in a fictional setting. The book has been classified under “Literary Fiction” and has been getting rave reviews for it’s language, theme, and fearless exploration of love.

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