The Supreme Court’s dilution of Section 377 is sweeter news for the gay community than it is for lesbians. Bisexual women and lesbians will continue to be misunderstood. This faction of LGBTQ is largely perceived as sexually titillating rather than as a group fighting for equal rights. The first thing men think of when they hear the term “lesbian” is porn, so strong is the association.
Their causes receive less funding than the gay community. This is because most nations have scaled up HIV prevention programming for gay and bisexual men. A 2016 income survey by Prudential found that heterosexual men have the highest incomes, followed by gay men, heterosexual women and then lesbian women, making them the least paid in four categories.
Adrienne Rich, in her essay Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence, explains how society tries to show heterosexuality as the only available sexual orientation, preventing women from recognizing their lesbian orientation. On the one hand, society tries to convince women about heterosexuality by saying that a woman can only be sexually attracted towards a man. Therefore, marriage and motherhood are the only available options for her.
On the other hand, society plays the same trick to convince everyone else of its ideas. That a woman becomes lesbian out of hatred or anger towards men. It is a woman’s way of breaking the symmetry of the society, but this is more questionable than convincing. Rich raised questions about those “women who continue to pursue relationships with oppressive and/or emotionally unsatisfying men.” The double-assault on lesbian orientation is a marker of the oppressive nature of a patriarchal society and its stubbornness to silent anything that is not in tune with it.
A man, even when he does not have society’s approval, at least has economic freedom. He is economically independent to control his world. But for a woman, who is economically bound, and already under societal wrath for being “the other”, it is beyond the bounds of possibility to act according to her lesbian orientation.
The main difference between the experiences of a lesbian person and a gay person in India is the childhood disadvantages, social restrictions, and forced economic dependency of women. The rights of lesbian women are an important demand that needs to be fulfilled to establish equality in society.
This is the first in a series on the LGBTQ community.