23. Januar 2006. Analysen: Kunst & Kultur - Weltweit Queer Spaces, Places, and Gender

The Tropology of Rupa

In ihrem Artikel bietet Roksana Badruddoja Rahman eine Ethnographie der romantischen Erfahrungen von Rupa, einer Frau der zweiten Generation SüdasiatInnen in den USA. Sie hat Rupa im Rahmen ihrer Recherchen für ihre Dissertation über zweite Generation Südasiatinnen in den USA interviewt. Rupa war eine von zwei Frauen, die sich während dieser Interviews als queer identitifiziert haben. Roksana Badruddoja Rahman argumentiert, dass Rupa sich in den meisten Lebensbereichen nicht von den anderen interviewten Frauen unterscheidet. Homophobie in der 'amerikanischen' Gesellschaft und der 'südasiatischen' Diaspora schränken aber die Möglichkeiten der Mobilität und Selbstdarstellung für queere Menschen ein. Rupa und andere haben sich daher alternative, eigene Räume geschaffen. Sie entwickeln neue Wege Gender, Ethnizität und Sexualität zu leben. Roksana Badruddoja Rahman kritisiert, dass Queere Theorie zumeist die Erfahrungen von weißen Männern widerspiegelt, dass die Situation von 'People of Colour' nicht berücksichtigt wird. Sie diagnostiziert eine Schwäche der Theorien in Bezug auf Gender und Rassismus. Mit Rupas 'herstory' will Roksana Badruddoja Rahman hier einen Beitrag leisten.

<p>Much queer theory is based on the white male experience
and privilege, excluding people of color and severely limiting its relevance
to Third World activism (Ingram et al. 1997; Islam 1998; Kawale 2003).<a href="" name="_ednref1" title="">[1]</a>
A majority of people who identify with the GLBT community cannot make sense
of this discourse. Ingram et al. (1997) write,</p>
<p>Women, people of colour [sic], and transgendered people
are wrestling with the complex array of differences and similarities that
complicate the building of alliances, and few canons exost to help define
the specific subjectivities of women, people of colour [sic] and transgendered
people. (7)</p>
<p>Doubly marginalized women like
Gloria Anzaldúa (1987, 1999) have been thinking and writing about their experiences
at intersectional locations, but the way their experiences are framed in philosophy
and social theory remains uncomfortably simplistic. Queer theory continues
to be “thin” on gender and race. </p>
<p>Within the last decade and a half, chronicles from GLBT
communities within the South Asian diaspora like Rakesh Ratti’s <i>A Lotus
of Another Color</i> (1993) and anthologies like Shamita Das Dasgupta’s <i>A
Patchwork Shawl </i>(1998) have appeared, but the richness and the contradictions
that characterize these communities have often been stifled. Too often, the
limitations due to undertheorized South Asian lesbian, bisesexual, and transsexual
“herstory” is compounded with a South Asian queer canon overwrought with the
East/West:traditional/modern equation as well as Hindu-Indiancentrism. In
this short but telling essay, I adopt the spirit of <i>Queers in Space</i>
(1997) and <i>Queering </i>Bollywood (2005) to visit paradoxes, difficulties,
unity, and diversity by unraveling the life of a second-generation South Asian-American
queer-identified woman who was part of a recent ethnographic study.<a href="" name="_ednref2" title="">[2]</a>
<a href="" name="_ednref3" title="">[3]</a> <a href="" name="_ednref4"
<p>Between May 2004 and December 2004, I conducted an in-depth
semi-structured confidential feminist ethnography with a cross-national sample
of twenty-five second-generation South Asian-American women. The women ranged
from the ages of nineteen and thirty-three; traced their heritage to Bangladesh,
India, and Nepal; learned the Bengali language while growing up; and identified
with Hinduism and Buddhism or Islam. The goal of the project was to ascertain
what it means to be a second-generation South Asian-American woman. The purpose
of conducting such a study was to collect rich qualitative data for my upcoming
dissertation. Out of the twenty-five women, two women identify as queer.
I share one woman’s story - Rupa - with you here.<a href="" name="_ednref5" title="">[5]</a>
In doing so, I begin the process of addressing the underdocumentation of literature
on queer South Asians. </p>
<p>Rupa is no different than the twenty-three respondents,
who primarily identify as heterosexual women, on a plethora of dimensions.
The semi-structured day-long interviews with each woman demonstrate that a
queer identity does not necessarily produce alternative meanings and choices.
Rupa shows that she too makes similar choices to validate the categories that
define human visibility and invisibility in public spaces, protecting herself
by adapting banal norms of public behavior while simultaneously using these
spaces of cathexis to produce counter identifications. For instance, unanimously,
women engage in tactics that help them to maintain some form of visibility
within normative white spaces - being able to speak English with an American
accent - and within South Asian communities - refusing to date white American
men. Similar to the twenty-four women in the study, Rupa also feels both
the pressures and privileges of being encompassed by the myth of the model
minority. And, she struggled with her parents while growing up, especially
during her adolescence years, to go out with friends to mall or watch a movie
and date boys. </p>
<p>The point of departure lies in access to spatial locations.
Space has become recognized
as a signifier of a group’s status in society (Ingram et al. 1997, 6). For
minorities, including people marginalized through sexuality, “uneven development”
in space have compounded their sense of isolation (Ingram et al. 1997, 6).
In nodding to Adrienne Rich’s (1986) “politics of location,” Rupa’s herstory
addresses the underlying homophobia resulting in a complex limitation of movement
and self-expression of queer people. Here, she is “out there floating,” even
more disconnected from various communities, limiting her access to resources
and networks, than her counterparts. In the pages to come, Rupa forgoes the
white mainstream space, choosing to work and play in alternative spaces through
her career and friendship choices. She also rejects the South Asian community
(which I call “brown” or “community” spaces), created by her parents upon
immigration and over the years of residence in America, in order to avoid
parental and community gazes which dictate what an ideal-typical South Asian
woman in America is. However, she simultaneously remains resilient in maintaining
ties with the South Asian community, reconstructing a brown community without
parental and community voyeurism: Rupa creates a social network of her own
which includes a majority of queer South Asians and other people of color.
In other words, even though most public spaces for gays, lesbians, bisexuals,
and transgendered are constructed white spaces, and non-whites such as South
Asians are marginalized consumers of such spaces, Rupa indicates that queers
of color do not lack power to construct space. </p>
<p>In identifying
as a queer, Rupa has had to forgo traveling in immigrant-based brown/community
spaces, especially the Islamic circle. To restore the gap here, Rupa became
involved <i>Banana Chutney</i>, an all women, Asian-American and Pacific-Islander
collective involved in multi-media and multi-disciplinary theater and performance
art.<a href="" name="_ednref6" title="">[6]</a>
<a href="" name="_ednref7" title="">[7]</a> Her participation in <i>Banana
Chutney</i> both for pleasure and for economic survival allows Rupa to actively
construct a brown public place that fosters diversity without policing, surveillance,
and erasure. Like the British-South Asian lesbian women in Kawale’s study
(2003), Rupa generates new ways of doing gender, ethnicity, and sexuality.
By removing herself from her Islamic community built by her parents, Rupa
gained the capacity to construct alternative South Asian spaces where the
familial is reconstructed outside the “heterosexual matrix” (Butler 1997).
Kawale (2003) extends,</p>
<p>Being under considerable surveillance from South Asian
communities, the managing of multiple identities such as ethnicity <i>and</i>
sexuality is an essential part of South Asian women’s subjectivity, whether
they are heterosexual, lesbian or bisexual. (193-194)</p>
<p>This conceptualization of identity
helps to appreciate Rupa’s inability to combine her religious identity as
a Muslim, which partially stems from her ethnic identity, with her sexuality.
However, the construction of South Asian queer places enable her to realize
her religion and ethnicity performatively and sexuality together through redefinition
rather than forging one for the other. <i>Banana Chutney</i> offers such
possibilities of “re-homing” (Kawale 2003). I begin unraveling Rupa’s journey
by presenting some facets of her romantic life. </p>
<p>Rupa commenced accumulating romantic experience as a
teenager. She met her first boyfriend, a summer fling, during her junior
year in high school at a summer camp at Harvard. She went through a series
of fleeting relationships, mostly with white men, upon arriving at college
and by sophomore year she entered into a serious relationship with a second-generation
Korean-American man, whom she considers to be her first “real” boyfriend.
Below, Rupa describes her first teen love, being raped multiple times by her
first boyfriend, and how moving into another serious relationship helped her
to leave her abuser: </p>
<p>The first boy that I went out with was when I was at
Harvard for the summer after my junior year in high school. It was like summer
school. That was my first freedom…It was teen love and it was over pretty
quickly after the summer ended. In college, there were a couple of guys that
I really made out with, but my first real boyfriend was [name]…He is Korean-American.
I guess second generation…We started dating and within two weeks he had raped
me…He was very pressuring. He would say things like, “Are you saving it for
the right guy?”…I went out with him for about two months. I thought because
it happened that I had to be with him, and I didn’t call it rape at the time.
I didn’t call it rape until many years later, but I thought that I had to
be with him…At that same time, I started to become really close to [another
guy], who lived right up the street, and he was also in that same network
of friends; we just hit it off. We cooked together, smoked weed together,
and opened up the dictionary and read funny words to each other. It was really
cool. We fit and we clicked. Everything with [my boyfriend] was getting
worse and worse and even when I went home for vacation for the long winter
break in December, I told him he couldn’t call me, but he called me all the
time and he got me in trouble all the time. My folks were asking who the
guy was calling me. This continued to get worse and then somewhere in the
beginning of that winter quarter, [my friend] and I made out and I was still
going out with this other guy; things were exploding all over the place with
that. For some whatever messed up internalized oppression that was in me,
I thought, I just cheated on this guy, I can’t be with this guy, and I really
like [my friend]. That was the thing that gave me the impetus to break up
with [my boyfriend]. I did and [my friend] was like a safety. He was totally
safe. He was beyond non-threatening; he was very sweet and comforting. I
hadn’t really told him what was going on in my life. He was awesome in a
lot of ways and then we fell in love. </p>
<p>As Rupa began dating her friend by the end of her sophomore
year she became cognizant of her depression, forcing her to drop out of school
her junior year and become dependent on her boyfriend in unhealthy ways.
Rupa eventually “ran away” from home to live with one of her closest friends
cross country, abusing drugs and alcohol:</p>
<p>We started going out winter quarter, and I dropped out
of school for the first time then… I didn’t recognize it as such at the time
because I was severely depressed. I had gone to maybe two classes in the
first four weeks of school, going through all that stuff with [my ex-boyfriend],
so I dropped out…[My parents] shocked me; they were surprisingly good about
it and they asked me to come home. I was like “Hell no, I am not coming home.”
I told them I thought it would be “good for me to be in the academic environment”
line and they let me stay. I went back to school in the spring and that was
too soon, I realize in retrospect. Things were really just starting to fall
apart with myself, and I was totally codependent. Well, I was totally dependent
on [my boyfriend] and I was really depressed a lot. He was there for me and
there is no way I was going home; I couldn’t do it. The summer before had
been awful. I wrote to them and then I read them the letter. I didn’t actually
send it; I told them that I was going to [live with my friend] for the summer
and that was what I was planning. [My boyfriend] was planning on going off
to Europe and I was going to go to my friends and maybe even live there… After
all that stuff with [my ex-boyfriend], I started smoking every day…And then
my parents freaked out… I am sure it fit me, dropping out of school, and it
fit how I physically looked less healthy, because I did... </p>
<p>Rupa’s parent’s confronted her
about the drug and alcohol abuse, asking her to think about what community
members, especially the religious leaders, would say about her and the family
if they found out about her recent actions. The intervention ended with Rupa
renouncing Islam:</p>
<p>I think what happened is that somebody from the community,
meaning the Muslim community…told them that I was smoking weed, drinking,
and fucking up… From there, they found out that I was smoking weed, they found
out I was drinking, and then the boyfriend was revealed later on; it was all
downhill from there…So, they asked me on the phone, “Are you smoking marijuana?”
I told them “no.” My dad asked why I was lying, and then I told him I was.
It was all over. They asked me to please come home and I told them that I
was going to live with my friend. They asked if they could come and see me
there. At that point, I had also become vegetarian during my senior year
in high school. They were attributing all those things to being a hippie,
and I totally was. I was such a dead head; I had hair down to here, hair
wraps, big dresses, and all of that. I was really afraid that they were going
to institutionalize me because my dad thought I sounded clinically depressed.
He said they needed to come and help me and that scared the shit out of me…I
was like no, so then I left and went to my friend’s…[My parents said,] “It
is un-Islamic, what are people going to say?” meaning the community and the
larger Muslim community as well. “We have worked so hard for you and now
you are going to do this. We want what is best for you. We know what is
best for you. Ultimately, don’t you know you are going to go to hell for
this?” I was nineteen. I was at the point where I said, “I am not Muslim!”
<p>Rupa decided to return home for her brother’s high school
graduation, but the family reunion ended with Rupa running away again. Feelings
of inadequacy and the incapacity to be the perfect Bengali-Muslim daughter
<p>With the only credit card that I had, I got a plane ticket
to go home for my brother’s graduation and stayed a week, and that was horrible.
That is how much I loved my brother; I wasn’t going to miss his high school
graduation. That was the worst. It was a huge fight to get out of the house
to go back to [my friend’s]…They wanted me to stay at home. I think if I
stayed at home and promised never to do these things again, they would have
been, I don’t know, happier somehow…[They wanted me to be] the absolute ideal
[daughter]: five times a day praying, regular Koran reading, a daughter who
goes to her classes and makes good grades, goes to Muslim student association
meetings, and ask her parents’ guidance in finding the right life partner
for her… It was mostly framed in religious kind of things, and at that point
I did not did not feel safe to say, “Look I am not going to hell because the
hell that you are talking about doesn’t exist.” I was really afraid and I
also hadn’t told them about [my boyfriend] at all, who as far as I knew was
taking active steps to leave the country.</p>
<p>Rupa returned to her friend’s place
a nervous wreck but her boyfriend was a source of solace and re-affirmed her
value as a human being:</p>
<p>In the end of it all, [my boyfriend] was on the phone
with me everyday and was asking if I was okay. Once I got back to [my friend’s]
we were on the phone all the time. I was a wreck, like ready to have a nervous
breakdown. At one point on the phone, he said he didn’t want to go to Spain
without me. I told him I didn’t have any money and my parents have my passport.
I told him, “I don’t have anything. I don’t have ID that would get me a passport.”
He said he didn’t want to be without me and said, “If you tell me that you
need me, I’ll come to [you].” I told him that I needed him and he came to
rescue me. It took him a couple more weeks to get out there. I was looking
for a job this whole time and then we ended up moving into a place [of our
own] for a month. I was working and he wasn’t working…He decided to go back
to [school]; his parents really wanted him to go back to school…So I followed
him back…We were together for two more years…</p>
<p>Here, Rupa, in deciding that she
was in a serious and committed relationship with her boyfriend, felt the need
to tell her parents about him. She used anti-religious discourse to frame
her current relationship:</p>
<p>Over the summer, when I moved with [him], I told them.
I also told them that I wasn’t Muslim at that time… I didn’t know how else
to explain it without telling them. Okay, this is the person that I love
and blah blah blah…What ended up happening was that I was disowned…“You are
not our daughter and we are not going to financially support you.”…That was
the only time I ever smoked a cigarette in front of my parents. I came back
and started waiting tables; that was the beginning of many years of waiting
tables and later bartending. There was screaming all the time when we did
talk. They called…</p>
<p>Rupa’s community priest or Imam contacted her after she
returned to her friend’s, urging her to return him so that he could mediate
a solution between her and her parents. Rupa took him up on his offer and
returned, home, only to be forced to retur n that night:</p>
<p>That Imam; I really hate him, he is nasty. He is kind
of oily. He called me and was “<i>Betti</i> [meaning my daughter in Urdu],
I know it is not your fault. I know it is hard growing up here, please come
home. You and your parents should at least be talking face-to-face. Please
come home and I will mediate.” I said no, we are just going to get into another
fight. He said that he would make sure that everything was okay; “I will
be there for you and your parents. We will talk about this. I know it is
not your fault.” I said okay. My parents sent me a plane ticket and I went
home, and then everything turned upside down. I got home and all of my posters
were taken down from the walls and all of the stuff that was me was just gone.
I met with the Imam for two or three hours and was talking to him, and he
was such an ass. He said, “This is your fault. What are you doing? This
is totally unacceptable.” I wasn’t caving. I wasn’t like, “Yes, okay, you
are right.” He said, “What do you think you are going to do? Nobody is going
to support you if you take this route. What do you think you are going to
do?” I told him I was going to get a job. He just laughed at me. “You think
you are going to get a job, pay rent, and do all these things?” I told him
yeah…He said, “I give you two months, maximum three months. In three months,
you will be back.” I went home that day. I guess he had talked to them and
they told me I wasn’t their daughter and couldn’t support me.</p>
<p>Throughout Rupa’s herstory, being
Muslim and engaging in “un-Islamic” practices is a centrifugal framework,
forcing Rupa to reject the Muslim religion. But, Rupa’s words below show
that it is not the religion per se that she has decided to forgo because she
still identifies as a Muslim:</p>
<p>I have an extremely small community of Muslims that I
identify with, my spiritual community. They are mostly like me. Yes, I think
Islam in essence is this beautiful religion, and I think that it has been
totally warped by patriarchy, and I believe what I believe. I believe that
Islam is about peace, justice, love, and divine love… In my bio, I identify
as Bengali-American-Islam.</p>
<p>Her acceptance of Islam and identification
as a Muslim occurred during a trip to Bangladesh, her ancestral homeland.
She describes it as an epiphany and spiritual awakening:</p>
<p>The last time I went back was several years ago…It is
rice patty fields, barley fields, and just miles and miles of wetland…I felt
so completely at home. It was bizarre. It was like a shock to my system
almost. I felt utterly centered. I felt like the earth was rising up to
meet my feet. I would walk inside the house, which was red clay, and it felt
like…[it] was embracing me… It came from the actual land, the actual air,
the sky, and the water… It was so much older than anything else there. It
was like a spiritual awakening…That was the moment I think I went from like,
“I am not Muslim, I think I am an atheist, to the Goddess exists and she and
at least partly she [is in me].</p>
<p>Hence, when she thinks about her
heritage and her religious background, she feels <i>rocktortan</i>, a Bengali
terms meaning the calling of blood of blood ties. Rupa conjures up the following
imagery when she thinks about her heritage and ancestry: </p>
<p>Fragmented, Bengali, migration, partition, communal violence,
refugees, and I think about food, spirit, gin, and myths. I think about…ancestry
and all of the women on my mom’s side of the family. I think <i>rocktortan</i>
and the pull of land…I think about water, wetland, and I think about being
marooned… </p>
<p>Another watershed in Rupa’s life included her maternal
grandmother suffering from a debilitating stroke. It proved to be the beginning
of the repair process between her and her parents:</p>
<p>Then my grandmother had a stroke in Bangladesh…That killed
me. I just lost it because I was very close to her. I told my dad on the
phone, “Look, if <i>amma</i> [mother in Bengali] is going back, and I don’t
know if she wants this or not, but if she wants me to come, I would go with
her.” He said he would talk to her. I talked to my mom a few days later,
and she told me that she wanted me to go with her. I think that was the turning
point for them. They thought that whatever terrible decisions she is making,
she still loves us and that did it. It was so hard to go back that time,
because my mom and I were hiding this huge secret that we had all fallen out,
everything was upside down and broken at home, and we were taking care of
my <i>nani </i>(grandmother in Bengali) and pretending like everything was
wonderful and okay; we had always been close. It was so strange.</p>
<p>Rupa returned from Bangladesh rejuvenating
her ties with her mother and father and she went back to school part-time.
But, Rupa was also met with a cheating boyfriend. In retrospect, the break-up
with her boyfriend was another fault line in her life - she recognized that
she is queer:</p>
<p>I was also going part time now and again. After the
whole thing with my <i>nani</i>, my parents told me that they loved me and
they didn’t approve of anything that I was doing, but they would send me back
to school if I wanted. So, I went back to school, but I was mostly going
part time and working because I wanted to support myself. If they wanted
to give me tuition, that was awesome, but I didn’t want anything else. [My
boyfriend] moved to San Francisco…He cheated on me with a teenager…We should
never have tried the long distance thing…and it was just bad and silly to
try to maintain something over that kind of distance. We had really grown
apart at that point, but I had left my family for him so I couldn’t even imagine
anything else. In the end it was really good. I think it was sometime when
I was with him [that I realized that I was queer]. I don’t know when I put
that word or label to it. I don’t know. I know that I kissed my best friend’s
little sister in high school, and my girlfriends and I in college were really
affectionate, but most of them are straight identified now. I just never
really was, I don’t know. It was really interesting and exciting when [my
boyfriend] caught me looking at girls and he was okay with it…If he weren’t
around to rescue me with our relationship, I think I would have started dating
women much sooner. Even when we were dating, I felt like it didn’t matter
what sex or gender a person is, and I wasn’t really transgender aware at that
time. But it didn’t matter if it was a guy or girl; it mattered who the person
was. I always carried that with me…</p>
<p>Rupa believes that the emotional
baggage left over from her abusive relationship provided her a forum to develop
an overly-dependent relationship with her cheating boyfriend, which prevented
her from seeing that she was queer:</p>
<p>When I was with [him] and I was giving up all of this
stuff that I didn’t even realize that I was giving up, I didn’t know any better.
I didn’t know that I was losing things. I was just glad that I was safe.
That took a few years for me to figure out…</p>
<p>But, her break-up with her abusive
boyfriend helped her to develop some rules about whom she will date and whom
she will not. One of her principal rules includes physical safety: </p>
<p>I don’t know if I have rules to start with. I feel like
I do now… The rules that I have now are more about safety than anything-safety
in preservation, and preservation of sense of self. I would stay with somebody
who remotely was, and this sounds so simple, insulting… </p>
<p>Rupa describes how she met her
current boyfriend in the context of this rule:</p>
<p>[My boyfriend] is best friends with one of my <i>Banana
Chutney</i> sisters, and I did not know this, but he had a crush on me for
almost a year when we started actually seeing each other. When I noticed
him, it was about ten months after he noticed me. From the start, it was
so different from any of the other people, whether it was men or women that
I had been with before. There was a different presence there, and part of
that was my own issue because at that point, I was very rarely drinking and
very rarely smoking weed, so there is just a different presence there simply
because of that. Also, he was so kind, communicative, open, tender, and sensual,
and he is such a romantic it is really kind of ridiculous. I wasn’t looking
to date anybody at the time, but once we started seeing each other - it just
was so good without all of this shit that I had been through before; without
substance abuse, without emotional abuse, without sexual abuse, and beyond
that. It was just so equal, fun, and sharing. There wasn’t a power struggle
and there was not a sense of losing myself.</p>
<p>Another one of Rupa’s rules involves a bar on dating
white men. She does not want to have to perpetually explain herself:</p>
<p>Currently, I am attracted to men, like bio men, but I
don’t think I would want to date any. I am just going to say it is no to
white boys… The whole thing of the white man-there is such privilege there
and in my experience, it has just gone unrecognized or unacknowledged that
there is that privilege difference… the whole thing of white men is, I don’t
want to have to explain everything about myself and about my culture and what
I mean by this. It is exhausting…I don’t think I would want that in my life…</p>
<p>Rupa struggles with her “no white
boys” rule because she is in a relationship a white man. She circumvents
this fact by stating that he was not born with white male privilege since
her boyfriend is considered biologically female by the medical community:
<p>I am in a relationship right now and he identifies as
transgender. He identifies as he but he was born a woman…It just gets complicated…I
am not going to date any white boy thing, but he is white and he identifies
as a boy, but there is a difference because he wasn’t born with the same privilege…I
guess we have been saying since we started seeing each other, which has been
over a year now, that girls make the best boys, because with him he is definitely
a boy. There is nothing like a girl about him for real.</p>
<p>In supporting her caveat, Rupa
talks about meeting her boyfriend before he transitioned to a man:</p>
<p>He often passes as a man. He confuses people all the
time. Honestly, I think people don’t know what to do with him. He fits right
in the middle I guess. When I first met him, I thought of him as butch and
as “she,” and he was at that point going by Samantha and as she. It was a
week or so before his birthday and within two weeks after that, he came out
to his best friend, who is one of my best friends, as being gender queer,
and I would like you to use “he” and “I am changing my name to Samantha”…
I felt so bad the second time around, because all of the sudden [my friend]
is calling him he and saying Sam, and I am such a horrible person. I can’t
believe I just assumed, and I was using “she” and I hear Samantha, and he
is going to think I am such an idiot. I felt so bad, because I have a couple
of friends that are gender queer. I am such a fucking fool. He was like,
“Oh no, no. I just came out within those last two weeks.</p>
<p>Clearly, an amalgam of potent events beginning with her
abusive relationship with one of her former boyfriends, suffering from depression,
being disowned by her family, renouncing her religion, and leaving a dependent
relationship with another boyfriend helped Rupa to probe her sexuality and
ethnicity. Since the age of nineteen, Rupa has led her life with a strong
mind and made decisions that she thought were best for her at the time. Nonetheless,
fear of losing her parents has always been central and continues to be so
when she makes choices different from her parents:</p>
<p>From the time I was nineteen, I have lived my life as
I needed to…[but,] I think, whenever [I] made those decisions, my first reaction
was always fear about what was going to happen, and fear of losing my family
in the past, and I still do. </p>
<p>Rupa, therefore, has decided not
to share her status as a queer with her parents and the community, even though
it is one of her stalwart identity markers. She voices, “I am out to my younger
brother; he is the only person in the family that knows that.” The following
excerpt about one of her recent shows with <i>Banana Chutney</i> in which
her father saw her perform for the first time is a wonderful example of how
Rupa manages her queer identity while also preserving her relationship with
her parents:</p>
<p>In [<i>Banana Chutney</i>], we are kind of half and half
queer identified and straight identified for some reason for this particular
show. We have a different set list for every show that we do depending who
is there. For this particular show, the first half of our set were all of
these, not just queer-related pieces. I don’t think we have said “pussy”
more times in a single set besides this one. I was freaking out. I had myself
taken out of one of the pieces called “Fiercely Fem” so it wouldn’t be me
directly saying these things. Even so, I was seriously stressed that they
were going to start to wonder and we would have to have this conversation
about it on the way home, which is this two-hour drive in the middle of the
night. I was freaking out and I also realized that the night before in my
hotel room, I had barely slept. I was totally scared. I realized that I
was still afraid of my dad because I was picturing horrible things and picturing
being ousted somehow, him kicking me out of the house, and hitting me. I
don’t really remember him hitting me, but I was just terrified. That whole
day I was physically ill with fear, and before every show we circle up and
dedicate the performance to someone in our lives. I said that my family is
going to be here tonight; the show is for them. I prayed to the divine that
she gives them the strength that they need to receive the work that we have,
and it was hilarious that they ended up being totally late and came right
before I was on for four pieces in a row. They missed all of the other stuff.
It was a relief. I thought everything was fine and we went home. </p>
<p>Undoubtedly, Rupa is successfully
living her life as she needs to, especially in the realm of her career, while
still maintaining ties with her family. She has also been able to talk about
her transgendered (woman to man) boyfriend to her parents by disguising him
as simply her (female) roommate who is her best friend. She expresses, “[My
parents] don’t know that Sam is he, but they hear Samantha. They have never
met him. They don’t know what it is. They hear best friends. I talk about
Samantha all the time.”<a href="" name="_ednref8" title="">[8]</a>
As Rupa and her boyfriend are becoming more and more serious, Rupa is unsure
of how to integrate her boyfriend into her family life or even if it is worth
carrying on a relationship with someone her parents would never approve of.
Rupa painfully states, </p>
<p>I think that is why I haven’t said anything [about being
queer and dating Sam]. Whatever I needed to do in the past I did, but I know
that it would not be worth it for me to have [my boyfriend] and lose my whole
family for it… I don’t know. [My boyfriend] and I would throw out these insane
ideas, and it was kind of like a game about how we would work around this.
There is the crazy idea of [my boyfriend] transitioning and converting to
Islam, and they will never know. Of course, they are going to find out and
it is going to be the same shit, right? I mean physical transition. It was
a joke before, but it is not a joke anymore and it’s not even funny anymore.
I’ll find a gay boy to marry who is <i>desi</i> [loosly meaning someone of
South Asian descent] and Muslim and be in the same boat.</p>
<p>In ending Rupa’s story (and our five hour conservation),
Rupa expressed that she felt lost not only in terms of being an American,
Indian, Bangladeshi, Bengali, and Muslim, but, as a queer-identified person,
she is also “floating” in a hetero-normative world:</p>
<p>I hate to sound so negative about all of this stuff,
but I guess it is different from day-to-day. Some days I think about identity
and I am just at a loss. I know that I am going to go back home [to my parents]
in a couple of weeks and I am not going to fit in. I know that, especially
since these days I don’t feel like I fit in here. I don’t know what that
means, and I don’t what it means when and if I am able to have kids and what
that means in terms of who I raise those children with. I don’t know.</p>

<p>Rupa’s narrative is race-, class-, and gender-specific negotiations of the
transnational experience of crafting a queer identity. Rupa finds that she
is unable to fit in the boundaries of specified definitions, illuminating the
problems embedded within category-work. Hence, the excerpts, in concurrence,
resist essentialist and racialized notions of what it means to be a queer in
America. But, simultaneously, Rupa selectively refuses to challenge some of
the definitions in order to remain within particular community networks. That
is, the various systems in her life are intertwined and concurrently give meaning
to her sense of being: Rupa construct notions of what it means to be South Asian
and queer in America to shape her sexual identity and develop a complex narrative
of an authentic self, refocusing her sense of self and identity in multiple
ways. In sum, Rupa is quick to learn that alternative structures of being do
not fit easily into codified spaces. She has also painfully come to learn that
queer culture is not a “shared” culture: it has boundaries with restrictive
definitions of what it means to be queer. But like <i>the desi experience</i>,
a recent play written by second-generation South Asian-American women who are
attempting to present the “scattered” stories from the diaspora in order to
“unite,” Rupa portrays the fruition of urban dissenting sexual spaces that are
altogether of a different kind. </p>
<p><a href="" name="_edn1" title="">[1]</a> I adopt Désert (1997) and Butler’s (1999) conceptualizations of “queer”
to understand Rupa to engage in coupling practices with people whom she is attracted
to (regardless of any category-work).</p>
<p><a href="" name="_edn2" title="">[2]</a> <i>Queering Bollywood</i>
is a website demonstration of a collection of queer readings in Indian cinema
open and collaborative in nature (see <a href=""></a>).
The idea for doing something like this was born at the Queer film festival organized
by Pedestrian Pictures in 2003, initiating the process of analyzing and collecting
information on queer representations in cinema, especially in the Indian context.</p>
<p><a href="" name="_edn3" title="">[3]</a> In this study, “second-generation”
refers to those who have at least one foreign-born parent and are U.S.-born
or arrived to the U.S. by the age of four. </p>
<p><a href="" name="_edn4" title="">[4]</a> Das Dasgupta and Warrier
(1997) include the countries of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Nepal as constituting
the geographical area “South Asia”. Other theorists like Ludden (2002) include
Sri Lanka and Bhutan. For the purposes of this study, I concentrate on Bengali-speakers
who trace their heritage to Bangladesh, India, and Nepal.</p>
<p><a href="" name="_edn5" title="">[5]</a> The name “Rupa” is an alias
chosen by the respondent herself to protect her confidentiality while at the
same time asserting her agency in her own identity-work.</p>
<p><a href="" name="_edn6" title="">[6]</a> In order to prevent any breach
of confidentiality, I have chosen the fictional name <i>Banana Chutney</i> to
refer to the performing arts collective Rupa is a part of.</p>
<p><a href="" name="_edn7" title="">[7]</a> The performers mix spoken
words with dance, music, video, and puppetry in collaboratively, and all of
the work addresses social justice issues.</p>
<p><a href="" name="_edn8" title="">[8]</a> “Sam” and “Samantha” are
pseudonyms that I have chosen to protect Rupa’s confidentiality.</p>

Dieser Beitrag gehört zum Schwerpunkt: Queer South Asia .


  • Ahemd, Leila. 1992. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Alarcón, Norma. 1988. "Making 'Familia' from Scratch: Split Subjectivities in the Work of Helena María Viramontes and Cherríe Moraga." In Chicana Creativity and Criticism: Charting New Frontiers in American Literature, edited by María Herrera-Sobek and Helena Viramontes. Houstin: Arte Público Press.
  • —. 1991. "The Theoretical Subjects of This Bridge Called My Back and Anglo-American Feminism." In Haciendo Caras: Making Face, Making Soul, edited by G. Anzaldúa. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Press.
  • Anzaldúa, Gloria. 1987. "La Conciencia de la Mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness." In Feminism and 'Race', edited by K. Bhavnani. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • —. 1999. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (2nd Edition). San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.
  • Bannerji, Kaushalya. 1997. "No apologies." In A Lotus of Another Color: An Unfolding of the South Asian Gay and Lesbian Experience, edited by Rakesh Ratti. Boston: Alyson Publication, Inc.
  • Bhattacharjee, Annanya. 1992. "The habit of ex-nomination: Nation, woman, and the Indian immigrant bourgeoisie." Public Culture 5:19-44.
  • Butler, Judith. 1991. "Imitation and Gender Insubordination." In Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories, edited by Dianna Fuss. New York: Routledge Press.
  • —. 1997. "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay on Phenomenology and Feminist Theory." In Writing on the Body: Female Embodiment and Feminist Theory, edited by K Conboy, N. Medina, and S. Stanbury. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • —. 1999. Gender Trouble. New York & London: Routledge.
  • Désert, Jean-Ulrick. (1997). "Queer Space." In Queers in Space, edited by G. B. Ingram, Anne-Marie Bouthilette, and Yolanda Retter. Seattle: Bay Press.
  • Ingram, Gordon Brent, et al. 1997. "Lost in Space: Queer Theory and Community Activism at the Fin-de-Millénaire." (1997). In Queers in Space, edited by G. B. Ingram, Anne-Marie Bouthilette, and Yolanda Retter. Seattle: Bay Press.
  • Islam, Naheed. 1998. "Naming Desire, Shaping Identity: Tracing the Experiences of Indian Lesbians in the United States." In A Patchwork Shawl: Chronicles of South Asian Women in America, edited by Shamita Das Dasgupta. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
  • Kawale, Rani. 2003. "A Kiss is Just a Kiss…Or is it? South Asian Lesbian and Bisexual Women and the Construction of Space." In South Asian Women in the Diaspora, edited by Nirmal Puwar and Parvati Raghuram. Oxford & New York: Berg.
  • Khan, S. 1991. Khush: A SHAKTI Report. Camden: Camden Council.
  • Mani, Bakirathi. 2003. "Undressing the Diaspora." In South Asian Women in the Diaspora, edited by Nirmal Puwar and Parvati Raghuram. Oxford & New York: Berg.
  • Meera. 1997. "Working together: An interview with Urvashi Vaid." In A Lotus of Another Color: An Unfolding of the South Asian Gay and Lesbian Experience, edited by Rakesh Ratti. Boston: Alyson Publication, Inc.
  • Shah, Nayan. 1993. "Sexuality, identity and the uses of history." In A Lotus of Another Color: An Unfolding of the South Asian Gay and Lesbian Experience, edited by Rakesh Ratti. Boston: Alyson Publication, Inc.


Als registriertes Mitglied können Sie einen Kommentar zu diesem Beitrag verfassen.