Jackson School Journal
of International Studies

Volume 3 Number 2 – Autumn 2012

Ashley Bullock

Coming Out from Nowhere

Indian Same-Sex Desire in the 1980’s

This paper dissects the politics surrounding the emergence of lesbian activists
in India in the 1980s and looks at why homosexual female activists chose to initially reject the term ‘lesbian’. With a focus on groups of women in New Delhi, the paper is limited to looking particularly at how educated, urban activists consciously chose to represent the movement. The author tries to place the emergence of the activists into a political and cultural context by giving a brief background of the political tensions in India in the 1980s as well as the current cultural understanding of terms such as ‘lesbian’. The dissection of terms and labels is rooted in feminist theory which urges us to understand not only the prejudice against homosexuality in India but also the potential prejudice against activists who identify using ‘Western’ terms, such as lesbian. India’s colonial history and the varying forms of ‘acceptable’ masculinity, femininity and sexuality that emerged from this past explain the need for lesbian communities to name themselves in a new way. This discussion allows us to better understand the semantics of emerging identity groups and how feminists and lesbians can better address the varying scope of movements now subsumed under their banners.
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