Interviewer: Akhil Sivanand
Kishor Kumar is a Malayali from Kozhikode, who has publicly come out as Gay. His autobiography and LGBTQ related articles got published in the book “രണ്ട് പുരുഷന്മാര് ചുംബിക്കുമ്പോള് / Randu Purushanmar Chumbikkumbol / When Two Men Kiss”. Kishor talks about his book, perspectives etc.:
1. About the book “Randu Purushanmar Chumbikkumbol”?
“Randu Purushanmar Chumbikkumbol” is a book comprising of my autobiography and articles on same-sex love covering the areas of Human rights, Psychology, Literature, Films etc. Let me state with pride that my Malayalam writings first got published in the prestigious Mathrubhumi weekly. The lengthy article that got published in 2009 July issue was hailed by the editorial team as the “Manifesto of same-sex lovers”. A comprehensive, updated version of that article is included in the book.
Apart from that, newly written articles and the ones already published in various magazines and academic conference journals are also included in the book. They deal with the issues faced by LGBTQ community like pressure-to-marry, unscientific efforts to “cure” their orientation, the tendency to migrate out of the country etc. The detailed study about same-sex love representation in Madhavikkutty’s (Kamala Das/Surayya) writings will be of interest to literature lovers. Similarly, the film studies about ‘Mumbai Police’ and ‘Sancharram’ will definitely strike a chord with movie lovers.
2. When did you decide to write about your own experiences?
The highlight of the book is definitely my autobiography included in it. I had always wanted to include my autobiography if at all my writings got published as a book anytime in the future. Because more than any theoretical writings, narrating your own experiences have the power to educate the public about the natural reality called Homosexuality. My unique life story, covering the huge canvas of Kerala-Bangalore-Kanpur-Delhi-USA, will be truly intriguing to a reader.
3. At what age did you realize that you were Gay? Were there any identity-crisis? If so, how did you overcome that?
In my autobiography, I do narrate about the physical attraction I felt towards a fellow student when I was a 4th grader. But as expected at that age, I didn’t know that there is a name for such attraction or that my future attractions will also be to same-sex only. At that age, it felt only as a `cute’ feeling. It is during the teenage years that everyone’s sexual urges get stronger. But even in teenage or youth years, my thinking was that these feelings will eventually go away or that I will stop them once I get married to a woman. I was in an identity-crisis until I accepted myself as Gay at the age of 25. The details of how I overcame that identity-crisis are given in my autobiography.
4. What was your family’s views about diversity in sexuality?
It is when the family tries to arrange a marriage for you, that you are cornered to reveal about your homosexual orientation to them. Like any family in India, I don’t think they had any specific views about it until I came out to them. But I had extensively researched about homosexuality before I came out to them. It was me only who convinced them that it’s an orientation by birth found in a minority of the society and that it cannot be medically cured. The fact that some of my siblings are well-educated and well-aware of what is going on globally, has immensely helped me in this convincing.
5. How influential were books, reading habits etc. in clinging onto your own interests?
Please don’t simplify it as a “Personal Interest”, “Personal Choice” etc. Ours is a country where people seek medical treatment for curing their homosexuality. Many Gays and Lesbians fall into depression or commit suicide due to pressure to marry. It is very crucial that LGBT people know about the scientific information on homosexuality. I have done extensive readings on that topic. Details about such information and ideas to overcome crisis situations are included in the book.
6. Do you think your improved family and social backgrounds have helped you in resolving crisis situations?
I had the confidence that I can explain and convince my family about my crisis situations. I have that kind of a warm relationship with my family. The fact that I lived independently in different parts of the world ever since I started working, have also helped me in dealing with my crisis situations.
7. If you were living in a socially and financially bad environment, do you think this kind of revelations would be possible?
I come from a family of lower-middle class parents with seven offspring. My father was running a grocery store and mother, a house-wife. In my autobiography, I have mentioned about my family’s financial difficulties that lead me to taking an educational bank loan during my B.Tech studies. Some of us, including me, have improved our financial positions later in life through higher education.
I was able to publicly reveal my identity not because I had better socio-economic backgrounds. I was able to do it because I am an artist and writer. A gay writer has the duty of bringing up the issues of oppressed sections of the society to public discourse. He is their representative. I do whatever I can accomplish in my capacity. And that should be beneficial to the entire LGBTI (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Intersex) population of India, irrespective of their socio-economic status.
8. Your book mentions about how writers like Madhavikutty (Kamala Das/Surayya) dealt with this topic. Do you think creative works on this topic have taken a plunge in subsequent years?
Great writers like Madhavikutty take avatar in a language only once in a while. She was a frontrunner who wrote about freedom of same-sex lovers even before India got its freedom from colonial masters. Even in modern era, writers like K.R. Meera (“Coming Out”) and C.V. Balakrishnan (“Edwin Paul”) have written beautiful short stories about gay male love. I have done a brief survey of such literature in one of the chapters of the book.
9. Can we say that our films also took a serious stance on this issue?
In recent times, Malayalam cinema has started dealing more about LGBT issues. But the themes are mostly about people who hide their homosexuality, the issues faced by people who marry but still secretly pursue their gay life etc. We need a change from this. In mainstream movies, we need to have positive representations of LGBT characters in supporting roles as family/friend of the hero/heroine. Then only can these issues reach the masses.
10. There are many folks in our society who are unable to reveal their identity. What do you have to say to them?
First of all, please try to self-accept that you are gay/lesbian. Please understand that this cannot be changed by medical methods. Reach out to the LGBT community and try to make genuine friendships with people facing similar issues. You can plan coming out to trustworthy family/friends who are very close to you. In cases like severe marriage-pressure, threats from bullies etc., get in touch with LGBT support groups like Queerala, Sahayathrika, Queerythm etc.
11. Of late, our society has started to become more transgender-friendly. But society is still not willing to accept gays and lesbians. Not even the courts. How do you view this?
This is a flaw in our public awareness process. Those who accept transgender people should be able to understand and accept homosexuals too. The difference is just that gays and lesbians want to continue (and be known) by the same gender assigned to them at birth. Even the court ruling is silent about the sexual acts of transgender people. Whoever performs “unnatural” sex (even a male-female couple) is punishable by IPC-377, which is an archaic law imposed on India by the British way back in 1861. It is very important that sexual minorities realise that coming out as Gay or Lesbian (revealing your sexual orientation is different) cannot be punished under IPC-377.
Original Malayalam interview published at Mathrubhumi Online: http://www.mathrubhumi.com/books/interview/kishorkumar-randu-purushanmar-chumbikkumbol–1.2180875
The book can be purchased online at DC Books site: https://onlinestore.dcbooks.com/books/randu-purushanmar-chumbikkumbol