Representation of Homosexuals (LGBT) in Indian Literature, Media and Cinema


This article is aimed at the socio-legal study of the representation of Homosexuals (LGBT) in the literature, media, and cinema with respect to Indian society. Homosexuality became very much contentious because of the representation it got through media and because of media’s attention given to this issue, people got inspirations and started showing their concern through there writings which in a way gave representation to homosexuality n literature. Contribution of these two fields in giving representation to homosexuality gave directors an opportunity to direct movies in the controversial issues going around thus giving representation to homosexuals in film industry.

Representation of LGBT Community in Litreture

Throughout Vedic literature, the sex or gender of the human being is clearly divided into three separate categories according to prakriti or nature. These are: pumsprakriti[1] or male, striprakriti or female, and tritiyaprakriti[2] or the third sex. Generally the word “sex” refers to biological sex and “gender” to psychological behavior and identity. People of the third sex are analyzed in the Kama Sutra[3] and broken down into several categories that are still visible today and generally referred to as gay males and lesbians. While gay males and lesbians are the most prominent members of this category, it also includes other types of people such as transgender and the intersexes.[4] The third sex in Kama sutra is described as a natural mixing or combination of the male and female natures to the point in which they can no longer be categorized as male or female in the traditional sense of the word. The example of mixing black and white paint can be used, wherein the resulting color, gray, in all its many shades, can no longer be considered either black or white although it is simply a combination of both. Third-gender citizens were neither persecuted nor denied basic rights. Gay men could either blend into society as ordinary males or they could dress and behave as females, living as transvestites. They are especially mentioned as being expert in dancing, singing and acting, as barbers or hairstylists, masseurs, and house servants. Transvestites[5] were invited to attend all birth, marriage, and religious ceremonies as their presence was a symbol of good luck and considered to be auspicious. This very feature gave homosexuals a social representation in the society. Lesbians were known as svairini or independent women and were permitted to earn their own livelihood. They were not expected to accept a husband. Citizens of the third sex represented only a very small portion of the overall population, which most estimates place at approximately 5 percent.[6] Moving onto the legal rights enjoyed by homosexuals the Naradasmriti [7] specifically states that homosexual men are “incurable” and should not be married to women. Procreation was not their prescribed duty or “dharma” under Vedic scriptural law.[8]

Now in the present time in literature we have a novel written by Valsad-based interior designer Mayur Patel’s novel, ‘Vivek and I’, is about a teacher who fancies a student in his school. One comes to know about Krishna and Vivek, the lovers of Kaushik, how he loved them, craved them and how he lost them. The writer has also created the character Vidya, and showed the real man-woman relationship. The writer is clever enough not to show acceptance to Gay relationship but finally crushed the craving in a beautiful way as Kaushik relieves himself from the craving of Krishna and Vivek. He in a way has left the issue of acceptance to the time.

The author of Boyfriend comes with another irreverent look at India’s gay subculture. Deadpan humor and sham come together in this entertaining love story, giving us a glimpse of what really goes on in a boys’ hostel. His novel, ‘The Boyfriend’ (2003) is among the first gay novels written in English in India. In the modern day literature one can see that authors are mainly representing the family, society problems faced by the homosexuals because of their sexuality. Rao was one the first to offer a course on LGBT literature at the university level in India. It’s strange how the academic fraternity that has always been quick to accept all kinds of literature Marxist, feminist, Dalit but had a huge reservation when it came to queer literature. For years, the Board of Studies refused to start the course saying that ‘Indian students do not need it’. Finally they clubbed it with Dalit literature and started it under the genre of Alternative Literature.” So we see that through literature homosexuality became an academic subject and I am sure if we see the same progress in our literature then it will sure become a strict ideology like Marxism or feminism. In a way authors are nowadays are writing these novels to fight for the rights of homosexuals  so that they can have a right to have a family and live normal life as everyone in society lives.

Representation of LGBT community in Cinema

Discussing representation in Cinema section I see that literature and principally media to a lot of extent have paved path for directors to make movies related to homosexuals. and this in turn has given representation in the film industry to the homosexuals.

Years ago, Sanjeev Kumar did play an effeminate character in A. Bhim Singh’s “Naya Din Nayee Raat” and so did Anupam Kher subsequently in Rahul Rawail’s “Mast Kalander” and David Dhawan’s “Dulhan Hum Le Jayenge”. But these were essentially comic characters meant to lampoon men who, in every day terminology, aren’t “normal”. Then we see some transition in the portrayal of homosexuals in cinema. India’s first bona fide homosexual film was Riyad Wadia’s “Bomgays” in 1996.[9] A 12-minute film adapting four of litterateur R. Raja Rao’s poems to screen, it featured Rahul Bose. After nine years I still think homosexuality is a long way from gaining acceptability in Bollywood. We hardly have any films on the theme. Nor do we respect the gay community’s space in the way we show them on screen. This film questions complex gay identity and the burgeoning gay community in 1990s India via six vignettes.

Mahesh Dattani’s “Mango Souffle”, was a recent effort to look at the gay community without prejudice. It made a valiant effort to de-marginalize homosexuality in our cinema. But the film hardly got itself an audience worth mentioning. “Page 3” comes closest in Indian cinema to depicting a gay character with some semblance of sensitivity. Director Madhur Bhandarkar says “All the characters you see in ‘Page 3’ are based on people I know. In our films, gay characters are used as props and gimmicks. Rehaan plays an identifiable character. We cannot reduce any community of people to tokens and emblems. We’ve to treat them as real. Hindi cinema i.e. Bollywood is a long way off from pulling homosexuality out of the rut of ‘minorityism’.

Marginalized image and behavior was constructed for homosexuals by people when movies used to be based on homosexuality before the pronouncement of Delhi high court judgement on Decriminalization of Homosexuality (Section 377 Indian Penal Code). And now after the pronouncement of judgement we see that movies are trying to expose the troubles faced by homosexuals in their social as well as professional life. So in 2008 we see the movie Fashion which very casually solves gay problem, the gay fashion designer played by Samir Soni, who eventually settled for a marriage of convenience (to please society and all), with a college buddy played by Mugdha Godse.It is becoming more and more unwrapped matter now. For instance “Dunno Y … Na Jaane Kyun” is a film featuring Bollywood’s first cinematic gay kiss. Movies are intending to change social notions about homosexuality in the society by bringing all the sophisticated issue related to homosexuality in the cine roll. Movies affects society and at the same time story line of a movie is also affected by the questionable activities happening in the society a lot it is a reality just not to be ignored. For instance, after the release of movie “Dostana” homosexuality relations in Indian society got the terminology as “Dostana”. So we see that this kind of transition in the cinema which is the obvious illustration of change in the representation of image of homosexuals in the society.


Concluding I will say that the LGBT community is getting represented in the society through film and literature and in the legal world through media. In the literature section we see that in the Vedic society the representation was very much justified but still the legal right to have family was just not given whereas, in the modern literature section we see the pain and agony faced by homosexuals from their family and also the hatred faced by society.And finally movies which has make youth to talk about it openly and coming on to the streets to fight for the rights of homosexuals.


[1]. The term prakriti or nature, however, implies both aspects together as one intricately woven and cohesive unit.
[2]. There are many examples of these three divisions of gender in Vedic literature. See Srimad Bhagavatam by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (4.17.26, 8.3.24, 4.28.61,and 10.1, notes); The Complete Kama Sutra by Alain Danielou (2.9.1); Beneath a Vedic Sky by William R. Levacy (p. 363) and The Laws of Manu by G. Buhler (p. 84, Manusmriti 3.49).
[3]. Among scholars, there is some diversity of opinion as to the date of compilation of the Vedas by Srila Vyasadeva. According to the scriptures themselves, they were compiled just prior to the beginning of the Kali Yuga, or a little over five thousand years ago. See His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s Srimad Bhagavatam 1.7.8, purport.
[4]. Alain Danielou, The Complete Kama Sutra p. 10.
[5]. Gay men with feminine qualities.
[6]. There is some diversity of opinion as to the exact percentage of gays within modern society, what to speak of within ancient India. Although the Kinsey studies are often cited as documenting that 10 percent of the U.S. population is gay, most research with probability samples now place that figure at 3 to 6 percent, with somewhat fewer females (N. California Community Research Group, University of California at Davis.) As far as ancient India is concerned, it can at least be observed that out of the thirty-six chapters of the Kama Sutra, two are devoted to addressing homosexuality, which is just over 5 percent of the text.
[7]. 12.15 hymn
[8]. Arvind Sharma, Homosexuality and Hinduism, p. 51.

By Harshita S.Chaudhary on May 22, 2012 · Posted in Perspective, Something different.

5 Comments | Post Comment

Nitish Saxena says:

Surprising that an article on representation of LGBT community in cinema did not mention Mira Nair’s controversial film ‘Fire’. It is by far the best and most subtle portrayal of homosexual love. The author is advised to watch the movie to get a deeper insight.

Posted on May 24th, 2012

Nitish Saxena says:

Sorry, ‘Fire’ is Deepa Mehta’s creation, not Mira Nair’s.

Posted on May 24th, 2012

harshita says:

hey Nitin i actually included this movie but then the consequences of this movie was more on the political lines and not in creating awareness about homosexuality. the “hindutavas” politicians said that the two lesbians in this movie were hindu and not muslims! which resulted in shunning this movie and in some palces minor hindu -Muslim riots i found this ridiculous and then i chucked this movie!

Posted on May 24th, 2012

Suresh says:

This is what the third gender, lesbian identified author Vanita Ruth says in her article:

“Another sacred text, the fourth-century Kama Sutra … categorizes men who desire other men as a “third nature,” further subdivides them into masculine and feminine types, and describes their lives and occupations (such as flower sellers, masseurs and hairdressers). It provides a detailed description of oral sex between men, and also refers to long-term unions between men.”

My analysis:

Now this is a complete lie.

Here are the facts.

1. First of all, the KamaSutra, does not regard the third genders as ‘men’ whether or not they like men. Kamasutra, as well as vedic texts, make a clear distinction between ‘men’ and the ‘third genders.’ If third genders were men (albeit, men who like men), then they would no more be a third gender. ‘Man’ and ‘Third gender’ are oxymorons. The Kama Sutra classifies human genders as: Men, women, and the ‘third genders.'[1][2]

2. Kamasutra does not divide third genders into masculine and feminine. Third gender male cannot be masculine. If a male is masculine then by definition he is a man, not a third gender. ‘Masculine male’ and ‘Third gender’ are also oxymorons. Third genders are feminine gendered males.

A male cannot become a third gender (or a napumsak, a non-man), just by being the receptive partner in sex with another man. Receptive sex is simply an artificial gender role of the third genders. It is not a naturally typical quality, peculiar to third gender males. Indeed, naturewise, most third genders are heterosexuals.[3]

Kamsutra talks about third genders as of two types: Strirupini and purushrupini.

Although, it is not clear what Vatsayana, the author of Kamasutra, is talking about in the above distinction, he couldnot possibly be talking about sex between two masculine males as ‘third genders,’ because, (a) these third genders are said to have sex with men, and if just having sex with a male makes you a third gender, then, the clients of these third genders would be called third gender too, however, the clients are referred to as men.

(b) More importantly, Vatsayana talks about sex and even life long exclusive love between two men, pairing off as a couple, in a different section from the third genders, when he is talking about men’s sexuality. He talks about them as being one of the men, not as being third genders or napumsak (non-men), Kamsutra says in this chapter, “sometimes two men* may have exclusive sex (including oral sex) with each other or even live as married partners.” Vatsayana doesn’t talk about these men when talking about ‘third genders’ sexuality for men.

(*note that he doesn’t use the term ‘tritiya prakriti’ or ‘napumsak’ to describe these males, but uses the term ‘purush’).

Definitely, men who desire men are different from third genders who have sex with men, whether these third genders are ‘strirupini’ or ‘purushrupini.’ Exclusivity of sex is also not the distinctive feature here. It should be noted that this concept of man vs napumsak/third gender/gay is universal and still prevalent in the entire non-west, as well as the pre-sexual orientation western societies.

This is what Vanita Ruth is talking about, when she says, “It (Kamasutra) provides a detailed description of oral sex between men, and also refers to long-term unions between men.” She fails to mention that these texts about men are mentioned in a totally different chapter and context than the ones about the third genders.

How conveniently Vanita Ruth merges the two different concepts mentioned in the Kamasutra — (a) the third genders having oral sex with men and (b) men’s sexuality for men, as the samething, according to her, falling under the “Third gender,” category (which is claimed as the equivalent of the modern west’s ‘homosexual’ category).

Third genders like Vanita and Salim Kidwai, do not understand how demeaning it is for men to be seen as a third gender. That men have throughout history preferred to die rather than be called a ‘third gender.’ The category is so extremely stigmatized for men. And to distort history to falsely categorise men’s desire for men as ‘third gender’ is an extremely anti-man endeavour. This is what I call anti-man conspiracy, of which westernized LGBT people are one of the worst perpetrators.

Unfortunately, the gays are blinded by their ideology and they only see what they want to see, so while they take up all the references to third genders having sex with men in the historical documents, they ignore the fact that ‘men’ too had deep, sexual relations with men, which was not part of ‘third sex.’ So, sex between men could not have been the defining feature of ‘third gender,’ as the LGBTs claim.

Various scholars have given the meaning of Strirupini and Purushrupini variously, including, that the former refers to a M to F transgender, and the latter refers to a Female to male transgender. ‘Stri’ means woman, ‘Purush’ means, man and ‘rupini’ means ‘a female (or a feminine male) who puts on the appearance of __.”

I have another explanation as a possibility. That ‘Strirupini’ refers to third genders, who are extremely feminine, and, wear women’s dresses and live like women, like the Hijras. Whereas, the ‘Purushrupini’ are feminine males (and not masculine males as the gay scholars claim!), who may don men’s clothing, even as they have a feminine identity.

In India, this distinction amongst the third genders can still be seen. Hijras are males who live like females most of the time, even dressing up like females. While Kotis are third genders, who, are very feminine, males, often talking to each other or to others as if they were girls, yet, they wear men’s clothes, probably, because they live in the mainstream society, unlike the Hijras.

In fact, the westernised males who most staunchly identify as ‘gay’ are of this nature or gender. They are very effeminate, yet, they wear males clothes. In fact, western gays are not outright Hijras, but like the Indian Kotis, are still a third gender. In fact, ‘purushrupini’ totally describes the ‘straight-acting’ gays.

However, the straight acting gays still aren’t really “men” (who like men). Because, they have a strong femininity about them. Afterall, that is why they are into a separate category from the (straight) men. (sexual preferences can never logically lend themselves into such starkly distinct identities).

And, Kamasutra makes this distinction between ‘gays’ and ‘men who like men exclusively” too. ‘Strirupini’ or ‘Purushrupini’ third genders who like men are NOT classified in the Kamsutra as men who like men.

3. Vanita Ruth: “Hindu medical texts dating from the first century C.E. provide taxonomies of gender and sexual variations, including same-sex desire.”

It is so unpardonable for Vanita Ruth or other third genders, to talk about same-sex desire and ‘gender variations’ in the same breath. It is these very LGBT people who have legitimized the confusion created by the anti-man forces between sexuality and gender (and not only between sex and gender).


[1] Hidden in History: Female Homoeroticism and Women of a “Third Nature” in the South Asian Past, Penrose, Walter;
Journal of the History of Sexuality – Volume 10, Number 1, January 2001, pp. 3-39

[2] Same-sex love in classical Indian literature, Sheo S Rai,

[3] Discrimination Against Transgendered People In America, ICTLEP, the International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy

Posted on November 4th, 2012

Suresh says:

How LGBT distorts history to fraudulently legitimize the western concept of ‘Homosexual’

Analysis of excerpts from:

Hidden in History: Female Homoeroticism and Women of a “Third Nature” in the South Asian Past, Penrose, Walter;
Journal of the History of Sexuality – Volume 10, Number 1, January 2001, pp. 3-39

“third gender” consists of hermaphrodites, women who do not menstruate, as well as passively homosexual and castrated men — all who proclaim they are “neither man nor woman” (Nanda 1990).

An analysis of the above excerpts: Third gender by this definition does NOT include men who desire men. It only includes effeminate males (who are third genders and not men) who take up the sexual role of receptive anal sex from men as an identity, in order to assert their inner-femininity, using their anus as a vagina substitute (note that when a ‘man’ indulges in either oral sex with a man, or receptive anal sex, he doesn’t see his anus as a vaginal substitute, nor himself as a woman, neither does he indulge in exclusive or acknowledged receptive sex). These third genders are not defined by their desire for men, but by their femininity. Furthermore, their gender role is not desiring men, but desiring to be penetrated. There is an immense difference between the two concepts. You can desire men, without wanting to be penetrated (certainly not as a distinctive identity thing). You can desire penises without caring to be penetrated by them.

Furthermore, it is believed in the non-west that all men are capable of desiring another man. People in most societies, pre-modern west included, commonly believed till recently, that if sex between men is allowed, all men will start having sex with each other, and no one will go to women. So, its only social injunctions that are keeping men from being sexual with another man, which leave women as their only available sexual option.

It is not that men do not desire to be penetrated. Many do. But since its artificially fixed as the gender role for the third genders (i.e. the effeminate males), the men do not acknowledge their desire to be penetrated, if its there. But that still does not prevent them from desiring men or penises or from desiring to penetrate men with a manly pride, at least in non-western societies.

Afterall, even in the western, heterosexualized world, men still use the term ‘@!$%# you’ with manly power, over another man — eventhough, to @!$%# a man in modern context would be ‘gay.’ This is a remanant from the past. No one will feel this manly power, if they were to say, ‘@!$%# me.’

And meanwhile these third genders are busy spreading their lies all over the place. There is a saying, “while truth is still packing its bags, the lie has already done several rounds of the world.”

Posted on November 4th, 2012