Queer is normal – Payal Dhar’s Eternal World

3 07 2011

“Well, irrespective of what anyone says,” said Noah, “Stephen’s family consists of Jan. All right? Stephen and Jan.”
[13 year old] Maya digested that. “Stephen and Jan?” she repeated. “Are you sure? They’re always fighting”.
“Absolutely sure. They’ve been together for twenty-five years or so
[…]
“I mean”, said Maya thoughtfully, “like, are you sure? That’s a funny kind of family.”
Noah shrugged. “There are all sorts of families. Parents and children, husband and wife, brothers and sisters, friends. All sorts.”
“Oh”, said Maya. “I thought you had to be related.”
“You do. You relate through love and responsibility, and a commitment to take care of each other.”
Maya nodded reflectively. “Stephen and Jan” she said. “That’s good. I like them both”.

Now, you may not be one of those people who like to read fantasy fiction. But I am. I read a particular kind of fantasy fiction – mostly written by women and preferably with leading female characters. The kind that has witches and wizards and dragons and enchanted things and different worlds. Nothing gory or bloody. Basically, books that my friends’ children would read.

I read them mostly because I lurve these alternate worlds of magic and colour; it is a kind of utopia for me. But I am also interested in how fantasy fiction is written. And while I read, I keep an eye out for characters that are not resoundingly straight. Recently, I re-read A Shadow in Eternity, The Key of Chaos and The Timeless Land – a set of books written by Payal Dhar – and was again struck by how simply and sweetly she has introduced a gay relationship and a non-homophobic world to her young readers. It is ingenious because there is no sudden and didactic introduction of homosexuality into the story and no admonitions to refrain from stereotypes or name-calling.

Instead, what you find is a gradual unraveling of how Jan shares life and home with Stephen, Maya’s Healing teacher and Noah’s friend. We, along with Maya, see the two men cooking, sharing household responsibilities, arguing about life, and caring about each other and the people around them. It is the only family shown up close – other than Maya’s own – and the most ‘normal’. And Maya gradually (and sometime after the conversation quoted above) understands and is told about the relationship between Stephen and Jan.

Gay characters are not unknown in this genre of writing, though queer female characters are rare. Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and Trudi Canavan’s The Black Magician Trilogy are two other instances that come to mind. Maya is an inhabitant of both our world and the Eternal World and there is much interaction between the two worlds. This is different to Le Guin’s and Canavan’s alternate worlds which are very different to our world in geography, climate, customs, etc. The similarity and interaction between our world and the Eternal World normalizes different romantic relationships to the Maya and the reader. The acceptance accorded to queer relationships is highlighted by the questions that Maya asks because of her own realization that it is not possible ‘back home’, which is a successful literary device in this instance. Jan and Stephen stand out for me because they don’t stand out in the story.





How to Eat a Wolf

26 10 2010

– Sharanya Manivannan

Does all lust start and
end like this? Don’t get me
wrong. I loved my wolf.
I held him tethered like
a pussycat. I nursed
the rumble in his belly
with hands gentle as a burglar’s.
He lived on milk
and blood and ocean. He
had violets for his furs.

It’s just that he was
beginning to devour me.
He nuzzled me with claws,
fondled me with fangs
sharp as yearning
He snaked a tongue so
hungry in its kiss it
turned my body to salt.

How do you douse a
dervish swirl? I asked.
Devour it, you said.

So I fantasised
about eating his balls,
rolling them in semolina
seeds and roasting them
golden. I got blooddrunk
on the thought of the
crisp tender cartilage of his ear,
left to simmer in tequila
and cilantro. The dry teats turned
sweet when baked with cinnamon
applesauce, or drizzled with chocolate.
The tangy musk of austerely steamed eyelid.

I set traps.

Mine is the deepest void,
the deepest void you’ll ever know.
And so I lured him to a well.
A wolf can drown in its own
wetness. But mine swam
and lapped and doggypaddled
until I waded back in to get him.

Mine is the darkest smoulder,
the darkest smoulder you’ll ever know.
And so I conspired to let him burn.
A wolf can poach in its own juices.
But mine danced on coals and leapt
ablaze, until I pussyfooted back in to get him.

I became desperate.
I preached to my wolf
about suicide, proselytized
about reincarnation. Come back
as a sleepy kitten, I said.
Come back as a hibernating bear.
Come back as a snail with a flag trail of surrender.
But my love was indefatigable. It was
volcano and oceanic tremor. It was a black lace bra and
too much jazz at 3 a.m.
My love was as big as betrayal.
I pleaded and pleaded until

you finally looked up and said,
You can only kill a wolf
you don’t want to have,

and only then did I see that

your love
was exactly
the size of two fists.

http://sharanyamanivannan.wordpress.com/

Sharanya Manivannan was born in India on 30 July 1985 and grew up in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. She lives in Kuala Lumpur and Chennai. She is well-known for both her unique bilingual (English, Tamil) writing and performances. She is well-known as the first and only writer to use both languages in Malaysia’s modern underground independent writers’ community. She has received positive remarks about her writing from international writers such as Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Indran Amirthanayagam, Francesca Beard, Shreekumar Varma and Laksmi Pamuntjak.





Do you believe in magic?

19 02 2010

Write to us!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rxr1s24Frmc





So what do you do in bed?

17 12 2009

Why are straight men so curious about what lesbians do in bed?

We’ve been researching this phenomenon and comparing personal experiences and for a start let’s be very clear – this is no myth. Most straight men are intensely curious about and turned on by the idea of two women having sex. We’re not sure about the definition of ‘lesbian’ being of any importance whatsoever in this situation, because male  interest in lesbian sex has nothing to do with love or any emotional engagement the women may have with each other. It’s purely about the sex. The women could be perfectly straight and acting out a fantasydesigned for men, (which seems to be the usual case in the porn magazines and movies anyway), it would make no difference to a male audience. They just like the idea of non- threatening action.

One of the theories we read about was that men believe that lesbian women are simply bi-sexual. So they always have a chance to get in there too and this sustains their interest. There is also the belief that women cannot satisfy each other and therefore will always need a man in order to have an orgasm anyway.

What women do together in bed is not something that is discussed in public much (whereas straight sex is incessantly discussed in offices, bars, parties and – well everywhere and all the time…). So it has become a secret, thrilling but unimaginable activity. Very few people in the straight world have any idea what it is, because most of their information comes from porn movies which are just bad acting anyway.

And finally simply that it is a secret or ‘forbidden’ act in many societies and even in a liberated environment, it is still not the norm. So there is a thrill in that fact as well….that it is ‘unnatural’. And that’s always fascinating.

In the end one might actually conclude that most men don’t really ‘believe’ in lesbian sex as real, or at any rate something that could stand comparison in every way with the male-female sex act. It is always something to be mocked, forbidden, tolerated, peered at or indulged. It is not really real.

In the case of straight women and how this phenomenon effects their activities, it does seem to have become ‘cool’ to appear to be the sort of woman who is so liberated she can occasionally experiment with another woman or women. But that does not – god forbid, make them in any way ‘lesbian’ – a definition that remains unacceptable at any level to most.

Dabbling in lesbian sex is also attractive to otherwise straight women because their men often love the idea that their girlfriends are liberated enough to go for same-sex experiments, especially as they often get in on the action at some point anyway. In these cases it’s not an act kept secret from men, it is shared. Such situations are simply about people having sex for the sake of it. Lesbian politics and personal choices do not enter into the discussion at all, which is why many women who define as lesbian find it all somewhat infuriating.

And finally, a thought: do straight women find the idea of two men in bed together sexy and attractive too?

We believe not. But why not? Why is the perception of homosexuality and the sex act between men so different to women?

Is it just that women have been sex objects forever and this is just another example of that sad situation…?





Sleeping Beauty

7 10 2009

she lies still. eyes half closed, she lies still in a place pitch black. she lies still with the pitch black of nothingness around her. in it is held all the breath in the universe. in the center of this place of the pitch black of nothingness is a single pulsating starlight. unbearable to look at directly, always visible from the corner of a half-closed eye. her shadow, this light is. it follows her. she turns and it is behind her. she turns again, half turns and it is still near her. she stays still, looking sideways out of half-closed eyes. clearly now, in the pitch deep of nothingness, she can see this thing, her heart, a mosaic of little pieces glued together. she turns fully to face the light, the air whirling around her, the black settling down. and she knows.

her heart gets ready to break into a million pieces of glass.