[Digging out old stories from The Delhi Walla]
In December 2013, India’s Supreme Court pronounced that gay sex is illegal.
It has been a long journey for gay people in Delhi and across the country.
“Looking for chubby bottoms.” “Looking for good-looking, straight-acting guys.” “Looking for discreet friendship and fun.” “Looking for a real and honest man.” “Looking for sex with hairy men.” On a recent Sunday morning, these were the status messages of five of the 131 people in Delhi who were cruising for men on the international gay dating website Guys4men.com, popularly called PlanetRomeo.
Started in Germany in 2002, PlanetRomeo’s impact on the lives of homosexual men in India’s big cities started much earlier than the Delhi high court verdict in 2009 that legalized gay sex among consenting adults. The website has given people access to other homosexuals without compromising their identity or safety and has 73,000 members in India.
“Whether you are in Delhi, Bombay or Bangalore, PlanetRomeo is the place to be at,” says a Bombay-based investment banker who writes a blog called Johnny Gaydar (Johnnygaydar.blogspot.com) under the name Rajeev. The blog is open to invited readers only.
In his late 20s, Rajeev says the Internet has changed the lives of gay people. “I see 18- to 19-year-olds confidently putting up their photos and listing their preferences,” he says. “While growing up in the 1990s, I was confused and ashamed. There was no way to find like-minded people.”
The 1990s was the decade of quiet consolidation of the gay community networks, and the action began in Bombay. “Those were the years when Indian middle-class gay men started to find spaces where they could feel safe from the harassment by the police and goonda elements, since sodomy was a criminal offence,” says Ashok Row Kavi, co-founder of Bombay Dost, India’s first gay magazine.
Today there are sites and blogs dedicated to discussing Indian male nudity. YouTube has channels devoted to similar videos, with some people posting their own nude and semi-nude videos freely.
The Internet tells only a part of the story in the coming-of-age of gay life in India. In Delhi, the PlanetRomeo website has more than 9,000 members, followed by Bombay with 7,000 men. The much smaller city of Lucknow has 600 members, and Gorakhpur, deep in the Hindi heartland, has 46.
Click here to read the rest of this article originally published on The Delhi Walla in December 2013.