Unlike the West, the Hindu society does not have the concept of 'sexual orientation' that classifies males on the basis of who they desire. However, there is a strong, ancient concept of third gender, which is for individuals who have strong elements of both male and female in them. Third genders include males with a predominant feminine soul or gender orientation. These males are not classified as men. Only non-feminine gendered males are classified as 'men.'
The Hindu society, since the ancient times, does not consider the men's desire or sexual activity with men, the same as that of a third gender's desire or sexual activity with men.Although, the society, formally does not acknowledge sexuality between men, it formally acknowledges and gives space to sexuality between men and third genders as a variation of male-female sex (i.e., a part of heterosexuality, rather than homosexuality, if analysed in western terms). In fact, Hijras, Alis, Kotis, etc. -- the various forms of third gender that exist in India today, all are characterized by the gender role of having receptive anal and oral sex with men. Sexuality between men (as distinct from third genders) have nevertheless thrived, mostly unspoken, informally, within men's spaces, without being seen as 'different' in the way its seen in the West.Like in other non-western cultures, it is considered more or less, a universal aspect of manhood, even if not socially desirable. Its the effeminate male sexuality for men (or for women) which is seen as 'different,' and differently categorised. Men often refer to their sexual play with each other as 'Masti.
Western concept of Homosexuality seeks to break this distinction between third gender and men, and to isolate sexuality between men along with the third genders, with all its negative consequences. As such, men in India have long resisted the concept of 'gay,' and have sex with men without identifying as a 'homosexual.' Gay activists, have sought to introduce a locally acceptable term for 'homosexual' for two decades, without success. Finally, the term MSM was taken, because it was technically difficult for men to avoid, if they had sex with men. However, it too was rejected by Indian men, as if was seen as just another term for 'gay.' In the past few years, however, the concept of 'homosexuality' has finally taken root, as men's spaces have weakened because of Westernization and gay groups becoming strong with years of gay and AIDS activism.
A significant fallout of this has been that sexual desire between men, which was near universal earlier, is now become more and more isolated from the mainstream, as men are distancing themselves from it because of the stigma of effeminacy or third gender attached to the notion of 'gay.' Things have become so bad in some westernized urban spaces, that two men can no longer hold hands -- something which was a common sight in India, not too far back. Contemporary Hindu society
Sexuality is rarely discussed openly in contemporary Hindu society, especially in modern India where homosexuality was illegal until 2009, due to colonial British laws. On July 2, 2009 The Delhi High Court in a historic judgement decriminalised homosexuality in India; where the court noted that the existing laws violated fundamental rights to...