Tamil Brahmins
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    Join Date
    Sep 2010

    Same-Sex Marriage and Hinduism

    0 Not allowed!
    Examining lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues within the Hindu faith


    Changing times: Two women are married in a Hindu wedding ceremony
    FROM THE STONEWALL RIOTS IN NEW YORK back in 1969 to the recent legalization of same-sex marriages, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues have been central in discussions about civil rights and harassment in the Western world. This dialogue has forced individuals, organizations and governments to question their values and beliefs. Many religious organizations have turned to their scriptures, their followers and their spiritual traditions for guidance on how they should respond.

    Well-known spiritual leaders from various faiths have stepped forward to present the views of their respective belief system, but there has been relative silence from the “movers-and-shakers” of the Hindu faith. Now, however—with recent deliberations regarding anti-sodomy laws by the Indian Supreme Court, and growing populations of Hindus in European and North American countries, where these debates have been making headlines—these religious heads are speaking up. Their opinions on LGBT individuals run the gamut from outright condemnation through muted disapproval, apathetic indifference, conservative tolerance, to genuine acceptance. Recent surveys indicate that 3-7 percent of every nation’s population is gay, making a global population between 225 and 525 million.

    Politically and socially conservative factions in India claim that homosexuality or alternative gender identities are an influence of Western ideas. This idea is based on the false assumption that being a homosexual or alternative-gender individual is a lifestyle choice. In fact, gender identity is an inborn trait. Evidence suggests that prior to British legislation targeting what they regarded as “unnatural sexuality,” homosexual and transgender people coexisted with heterosexuals in pluralistic Hindu communities. Ruth Vanita, a scholar who has written extensively on South Asian LGBT themes, wrote in her book, Love’s Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West, “Under colonial rule, what was a minor strain of homophobia in Indian traditions became the dominant ideology.”

    Prior to the 19th century, historical sources that specifically refer to LGBT lives and lifestyles are relatively scarce. However, we can see a subtle intermingling of such perspectives and characters in Hindu legends and stories. Ancient Tamil Sangam literature compiled between the 3rd century bce to 4th century ce contains stories about transgender individuals, referred to as pedi, and stories of deep love and attachment between men, such as the King Koperunchozhan and Pisuranthaiyar, and the King Pari and poet Kabilar.


    I too was unaware, and still feel very uncomfortable in such situations. But this is a reality we have to deal with.

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