Bollywood actor, director and filmmaker Karan Johar’s new autobiography has sparked controversy amongst LGBT+ outlets. Why? Because he kind of comes out.
In his book, An Unsuitable Boy, he writes “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.”
The title is a play on A Suitable Boy, Indian author Vikram Seth’s first hit. Seth is also publicly bisexual and is critical of Indian figures who do not come out.
Though being openly gay in India has its problems due to its antiquated laws where homosexuality is still illegal. Johar says “the reason I don’t say it out aloud is simply that I don’t want to be dealing with the FIRs [police complaints]. I’m very sorry. I have a job, I have a commitment to my company, to my people who work for me; there are over a hundred people that I’m answerable to.”
The law may be over a century old, but India’s Supreme Court upheld it last year.
Fellow filmmaker Apurva Asrani writes in The Wire, “do you realise what message you are giving to LGBTQ [sic] folk who struggle with their sexuality? After years of progressive work by brave individuals who came out and encouraged others to live with dignity; after courageous gay themed films broke the glass ceiling of the mainstream; after groups like Humsafar, Naaz, Lawyers Collective, Gaysi and Kashish worked relentlessly to bring the LGBTQ [sic] movement to respectability, you come up and make this regressive, and I’m sorry to say, cowardly statement.” He also brings up that India’s law is much like New Zealand’s former law – where it is the act of homosexual sex that is illegal, not being gay itself.