Okay,this is going to be less a review and more of an outpouring of my personal feelings on my reading that book.
This book by Stephen Bourne is a book that deals with a sample of the materials available;gay men who served in the World Wars despite the difficulties faced by them due to a society prejudiced against them. I found the values of bravery,sacrifice,heroism and over all that,despite official bigotry from time to time;even the most outrageously camp/effeminate types were accomodated in roles as entertainers even if not directly in fighting. And the ones who were in the frontlines;their values of sacrifice,and the permanent relationships they could form(this was relatively successful over time,surprisingly) despite how formally society looked down upon them but unofficially tolerated them-because they were men of virtue beyond just liking men-IMO are ideals to look upto even after all these days and emaluate.
Before I begin,may my speech be blessed by Dakṣīṇāmūrti,that noble fount of wisdom,who wears ornaments of both the sexes in His ears,signifying His eternal union with Śaktī.
While the author of this article appreciates the good work done by Srishti in Madurai and Gopi Shankar Madurai,there are a number of points in their(or their organization’s article) which he feels is not accurate,and which he feels the need to set right.
- The author shall refrain from commenting about some of the sculptural evidence that the blog author there has noted,due to his not having seen them/not having examined them by an expert in iconography,notably
- Neutrois theme in Kala Samhara deity. The deity, typically with a male like body, and represented with lack of any sexual organ typically represents a MTN (Male to Neutrois) person.
- The Sanishwara deity which is the well known Transgendered deity can be seen in the temple
- The author does not discount the possibility of erotic carvings in temples which depict homosexual acts.
- Mīnākṣī being three breasted is not a sign of gender variance. It is one of those sort of tales in which a being loses his/her unique features when they meet a special person(example is Shishupala who was born with three eyes and four arms). Similarly She lost Her third breast when She met Śiva(whom She would marry).
- Also Ardhanārīśvara is not really a gynandromorph condition….it is more of an ‘consciousness as impartial observer'(Puruṣa)-‘everything as the power inherent in that consciousness'(Prakṛti) represented in one mūrti. Gynandromorphs don’t exist in humans.
- Harihara as a deity does not fit in the Procrustean bed of gender ideology in any way. The deity merely represents the concept that ‘śivāya viṣṇurupāya śivarūpāya viṣṇave'(Śiva is a form of Viṣṇu and Viṣṇu is a form of Śiva) along with injunctions that they must never be thought of in any manner except as equal and always both very respectful of each other.
- Sri Pitchandavar=A Tamil name of Bhīkṣaṭana Rudra. As far as I know,there is nothing in His iconography that indicates any third gendered status. The main feature of His form is supreme attractiveness,and which is used in certain tantric rites of vaśikaraṇa(causing attraction of a girl to a boy or vice versa).
- Bhagavān Vīrabhadra=The author would be very interested in knowing about any upāsana krama of this deity that involves being third gendered,and until one can provide that reliably,one fails to note what is third-gender about Vīrabhadra. He is a guru figure(cited from the Raurava Āgama) and greater than a hundred rudras(Mṛgendra Āgama). He is the personified wrath of Rudra,who taught the Gods through his violent actions through the greatness and centrality and glory of Rudra. In this author’s limited experience He was worshipped by mostly wandering Jangama ascetics and Lingadhari brahmins in Andhra. All that is required to approach Him is initiation in His mantras,which,to the best knowledge of the author do not have any bearing on the sex of the person who is being initiated.
- Also,Arjuna ended up in that condition of Brihannala due to a curse by the apsara Uruvashi(which was reduced by Indra to just the duration of one year),which implied that that condition in the times that story was told would be less than a normative/ideal/good one.
- People who weren’t straight or non-trans,etc were generally kept at a distance in society,though not explicitly harmed:The author is right in this one aspect,definitely.
People who are Gender and Sexual Minorities should make their case using well supported evidence,not evidence that is flimsy(at best) on closer examination to earn the good will of Hindus who know and internalize the understanding of śāstra,and can hope for the best for their dignity in the larger society.
Trigger warning:Religion. You can frankly speaking,sod off if you are anti-religious and moan about whatever -ist or patriarch or whatever I am in your cubbyholes.
(It’s primarily a reaction to this glorified blog that is a newspaper column: https://www.hindustantimes.com/bollywood/thank-you-sridevi-our-queer-icon/story-Oy6SST3RhHpSfrWSh9MZZM.html)
we saw the promise of a future where we wouldn’t lie about who we were and what we liked
All of that passes away. Though I wish I had someone in my arms,and someone who I could talk with/at-on the same level.
My queer icons are more off the beat than what activists would put forward. My icons would be the poet Raskhan,and the author Mishima. Only one muddled by activist babblings can not appreciate Mishima’s vīryam(a pale reflection of Samkarṣaṇa’s bala*),or the devotion that Raskhan put to Mādhava,which makes even every single shackle insignificant before long. It is that devotion which grants the freedom from every single shackle as easily as one breaks a rotting thread. And it’s this devotion which is in the very form of jñāna which is very rare to obtain. The yati who carries Lakṣmī’s husband in him has more freedom than any of us will ever have! (Need not even be a yati strictly speaking,Aghoremani Devi is a living testimony to that).
I do recognize that this path(and my inclinations) are not for everyone,though.Few would care,anyway. Maybe I am crazy.
*A reference to Saṃkarṣaṇa’s two predominating qualities amongst the vyūhas.
This is not to say men who were attracted to men did not exist. They have existed since at least the dawn of agriculture in humankind. The definition of gay=attracted to men(and a community that defined itself like that) arose in only the 1920s-1930s Anglo-European world. Before that,there were people attracted to men in the US who would fuck straight men(or as the slang went, ‘trade’). Then people who had feminine mannerisms,and dressed such. Men who fucked other men. None of them came under that modern ‘gay’ label(as defining oneself/having an identity based on the sex one is attracted to). I am basing this on my reading of Foucault and George Chancey’s Gay New York:Gender,Urban Culture and the making of the Gay male world 1890-1940.
Secondly,I would find it grossly wrong to elevate a engendered in a situation like that-Would you endorse buying someone as your property,cutting off his balls and using him as your toy for sexual satisfaction?That’s essentially how the relationship began. There are better gay icons/icons with ambiguous sexuality in the past to look forward to,like Walt Whitman,etc.