For Shalmalee,‘coming out’ never ends,says fight for LGBT rights will go on

Written by Anuradha Mascharenhas | Pune | Published: December 12, 2013 2:59 am

“My partner and I have been together in a loving and committed relationship for 14 years and we’re still going strong. We are neither monsters nor saints. We are certainly not criminals. We are human beings who deserve equality under the law and it is offensive to reduce the richness of our relationship and lives to “unnatural” sex,” said 41-year-old Dr Shalmalee Palekar,professor of post-colonial literature at University of Western Australia and daughter of noted actors Amol and Chitra Palekar told The Indian Express in an email interview.

Shalmalee who ‘came out’ after graduating at St Xavier’s College,Mumbai,left for higher studies three-four months later,recalls Chitra Palekar who had expressed shock and dismay at the SC verdict.

Chitra is among the 19 parents who had filed petitions in the Supreme Court supporting the Delhi HC’s verdict. In the interview,Shalmalee spoke of her disappointment with the verdict. “I am angry about the judgment,which is a huge blow to human rights and social justice in India. It sends the message that equality and progress is only for a few,not all,and discrimination based on sexual orientation is perfectly acceptable,” she wrote.

“The support of my parents has given me a rock solid self-belief. So even when I was very anxious about coming out as a 20 year old,I knew that there was nothing wrong with me just because I had come to realize over my teen years that I was a lesbian. Even with such a liberal and progressive family,though,it’s a difficult thing to come out,” Dr Shalmalee said.

“You agonise whether they will still love you,whether you will still be the daughter they are proud of… And then you do it,and it’s like leaping off a cliff,abject terror and simultaneous exhilaration! Of course,the coming out never ends. Every time you start a new job or make new friends,every time someone asks what your husband does,you have to make a choice to come out or not,so the journey is ongoing,” she said.

She said in Britain until the late 1800s,sodomy was not used simply to refer to anal sex but included oral sex,the use of contraception and many heterosexual sexual positions. “It was an umbrella term that condemned practically every human sexual practice as unnatural,” she said.

Shalmalee said in the days of legal racial segregation in the US marriage between African-American and white people was considered “unnatural”,and was banned in many states.

“These attitudes have obviously changed over the years,and so must attitudes to same-sex love,” Dr Shalmalee urged. “It’s been heartening to see and read the groundswell of outrage at the judgment. So the fight will continue.”

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