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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Flawed Articulation Or Hidden Homophobia?

Posted: November 15, 2017

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s recent statement regarding homosexuality at JNU has caused an uproar on social media. Is twitter overreacting? Here’s what we think.

Recently at an event in JNU, a gay student asked Sri Sri Ravi Shankar how he should handle the maltreatment that he gets from his friends and family just because of his homosexuality. The reply he gave to this is the matter at hand, seen at 21:35 in the video below.

Quoting from what Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said in the above video,

“You treat yourself better, doesn’t matter how others treat you. You don’t think you are sick or something is wrong with you,” he said. “If you stand up, nobody can insult you, but…if you feel bad about yourself, nobody can make you feel better,” he told the student. “This is your tendency now…just acknowledge it, accept it, and know that this tendency is not a permanent thing. It may change. I’ve seen many men who were gay later turn into heterosexuals, and there are those who are normal, who are called straight people, end up being gay later in life. I would like you to focus beyond the body identity.”

Now these statements if taken leniently might come across as badly articulated, instead of being outright regressive. If we judge him by this measure then, he is definitely talking about the concept of gender fluidity. But the problem with this kind of a reception of the statements is what is pointed out by an equal rights’ activist, Harish Iyer:

“It is rather unfortunate that spiritual gurus make such homophobic statements without thinking. There is an understanding that the guru in question, Sri Sri Ravishankar was referring to fluidity in sexuality when he mentioned that people could turn from gay to straight. However Sri Sri Ravishankar is not challenged in terms of language. He is aware of the word “fluidity” he would have rightfully just used that phrase rather than making a ludicrous remark on sexuality. For years, human rights activists have worked hard to save homosexuals from the gallows of shock treatment and corrective rape in a bid to convert homosexuals to heterosexuals. The American Psychiatric Association, The Indian Psychiatric Association, The World Health Organisation have all delisted homosexuality from the list of mental disorders. He is mighty intelligent to be aware that his words have consequences, considering that he has a huge huge fan following. Many from the LGBTIQ community are his followers too. I am willing to understand, hesitantly though, that he could have not meant to discriminate but just had made a badly worded statement about sexual fluidity. In that case, what’s stopping him from issuing a clarification on twitter. If he is the guru of the people, he would not sit on a moral high ground because people are questioning his stance but step down and explain what he really meant. Is he too big to be humble? Or is he one among all his beings. They say, “to err is human, to forgive divine”. There is also a saying that there is god inside each one of us. I am willing to forgive him. Is he human enough to say sorry?”

Iyer’s words do make sense in this matter. A person with as much influence as him should be aware of the wave that his words can create. Many people took to twitter to condemn this kind of an attitude, including Sonam Kapoor.

And as per usual, trolls came dashing to oppose her stance. I understand that the meaning of his words might be debatable in the popular understanding and that is exactly what she is also complying with! When you are a part of a debate, you take a stance.

The lack of any clarification from the side of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has left most of us with no choice but to evaluate his words at face value because it is not possible for a man of his stature to have missed the furore that his words started. Maybe he is referring to gender fluidity, maybe he is trying to articulate that but a large part of LGBTQ+ movement was based on terminology, so it is natural that they expect respect for it from others.

Calling a straight person ‘normal’ is not an innocent mistake anymore because the world has been made aware of the heteronormative consequences that it has. Better articulation from our ends is the most basic showcasing of the support we have for the community, and by not following that on a very public platform in a country like India where section 377 still exists, has hardly any scope for making ‘innocent’ mistakes.

Let us know what you think of this whole matter below!

Image source: YouTube

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