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Queer Themes in Religious Texts:

Updated: Dec 25, 2022

A common misconception in Indian society is that religion and queerness do not mix, and have always been fundamentally different and separate. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, the LGBTQ+ community has always been recognised in famous religious texts; ever since the beginning of history as we know it. While religious texts have been interpreted and changed over the years to fit the orthodox beliefs of close-minded individuals in power, the original word-of-mouth stories have always included those who are LGBTQ+, whether they queer or trans.

One of the most well known texts in Hinduism is the Kama Sutra; it is one of the most ancient texts on sexuality, eroticism, and emotional fulfillment in life. Over tens of thousands of individuals own a copy. It is also standing proof that same-sex unions have been recognised by faith leaders for thousands of years. Chapter 9 from the Kama Sutra, in addition to offering instruction on performing fellatio on an individual, also makes it clear that this skill is acceptably used in intimate homosexual relationships and interactions. This part of the Kama Sutra has been celebrated as an acceptance of homosexuality, and even cited by human rights campaign. The Kama Sutra has most notably existed as a renowned religious text as a source of and celebrating the union of individuals performing sexual interactions with one another, no matter their sexuality.

Numerous deities in Hinduism and Indian mythology are depicted as both male and female at various points in history and in various incarnations, or they may simultaneously manifest as both genders, as in the case of Ardhanarishvara, who was formed by the union of the god Shiva and his consort Parvati and has a body that is split in half, with the right half being male and the left half being female. In order to mislead the demons into giving up Amrita, the elixir of life, Vishnu assumes the appearance of the sorceress Mohini in the Bhagavata Purana. Later, Shiva develops feelings for Mohini, and their connection leads to the birth of a son. Parvati, Shiva's wife, is described as "hanging her head in shame" in the Brahmanda Purana as she witnesses her husband pursuing Mohini. According to some myths, Shiva requests Vishnu to assume the Mohini form once more so he can witness the metamorphosis firsthand. According to one interpretation, tales in which Shiva discovers Mohini's actual identity "note the fluidity of gender in sexual attraction."

There are many other instances of trans figures throughout mythology, such as Shikhandi, reborn to exact her revenge on Bhishma, raised as a boy, Bapiya, considered as and worshipped as the originator and patron of the Hijras, Narada, who was transformed into a woman to greater understand the power of Maya, and more. Many gods displayed instances of queerness as well, such as the gods of the ocean depths and the rivers and shores, Mitra and Varuna. Portrayed as symbols of male affection, they are usually depicted as riding a shark or crocodile together, or may also be depicted as seated close on a golden chariot that is drawn by seven swans. In fact, the origins of the Hindu king Bhagiratha, who brought the Ganga river to Earth, had his divine origins through sapphic means. The king’s name indicates that he was born from two vulvas, according to historians, and was conceived by two widows.

Queerness has always existed throughout mythology and religious texts through these historical, mythological figures, and is proof that queerness is not a new phenomenon. It is just as natural and as ancient as any other form of love.

About the Writer: Shriya Bhatt is a a part-time freelance copywriter. If you want to work with her check out her LinkedIn Profile.

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