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What does Karan Johar’s subtle coming out mean for us?

Karan Johar’s newly released “An Unsuitable Boy” has sparked a conversation about sexuality and privacy in India. Our correspondent tells you how the celebrated director’s autobiography has already impacted the LGBTQ, and otherwise mainstream, Indian society.

The widely publicised release of “An Unsuitable Boy”, Karan Johar’s autobiography, has been accompanied by all sections of society weighing in on Johar’s sexuality and his expression of it. In his own words, Johar states, “Everybody knows what my sexual orientation is. I don’t need to scream it out. If I need to spell it out, I won’t only because I live in a country where I could possibly be jailed for saying this. Which is why I Karan Johar will not say the three words that possibly everybody knows about me.”

Here’s what this means – Karan Johar is gay. Karan Johar will not explicitly state that he is gay. The chances are that many of us who have grown up watching Johar in the public light are not surprised by this ‘admission’. However, while we may be appreciative of his candor, many of us are still disappointed by his lack of explicitness. We place an extraordinary amount of responsibility on Johar to use his platform to raise awareness about LGBTQ issues in as oppressive a society as India. His status as a Bollywood veteran even provides some level of protection and support that many of us fail to identify in our daily lives. As such, surely he owes it to his most ardent followers, and perhaps more importantly, to the thousands of closeted citizens of India, to come out more eloquently and remove the stigma around sexual minorities.

The problem with this assumption and expectation lies in the simple fact that despite his fame and prosperity, Johar is only human. Sure, he may have a voice and the ability to give confidence to people in India who are still struggling to come to terms with their sexualities. And while it is understandable, and even acceptable to some extent, to expect him to “say the three words”, he deserves the same level of privacy that we would expect in our daily lives, away from the limelight. At the end of the day, his sexuality and his expression of it are both his choice alone. Pressurising him to be overtly gay is no better than heteronormative society pressuring him to be straight. Perhaps one day he’ll feel safe enough to declare his sexuality without the fear of law. Until then, we can only appreciate what he has chosen to share with us now.

So if you catch yourself judging him while reading his latest, take a step back to think about the courage he mustered to reveal his sexual orientation at all, and then cut him some slack for only being human.

Feature Image Credits: Blog to Bollywood

Vineeta Rana
[email protected]

An enthusiastic Ravenclaw, Vineeta is a keen learner and does not shy away from expressing her opinions. Her passion for discussion around gender and sexuality is only matched by her passion for French fries and naps. To chat about these or just to say hi, email her at [email protected].

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