Breaking the Boy Code

We Don’t Exist: Boys and Patriarchy

Episode Summary

Ash sets the foundation for an exploration of how homophobia and patriarchy in India connect to colonial history, white supremacy, and adolescent boy culture in North America. Guided by the perspective of Love, a gay Punjabi refugee currently living in Winnipeg.

Episode Notes

With the debate about gay rights in the national media last year, homophobia became the mainstay of school hallways in Mumbai. Ash faced this every day with the unplaceable ache of being a closeted gay Hindu boy. “Even though they’re not talking to me,” he said on the podcast, “I feel what they say.” So each day he sidestepped one-sided debates that drove homophobic language through his skin, and gradually his helplessness translated to anger.

“It was enraging to not be able to stand up for myself. That’s one of the things that got to me the most. Because it would be odd for a straight kid to stand up for gay rights. If you take even a slightly pro-gay stance people are definitely going to start questioning you. I can’t risk that. But I can’t just stand and watch them spew homophobia. So what the hell do I do?”

Indian society upholds what Sikata Banerjee calls masculine Hinduism in Mumbai and what Aakriti Kohli calls Sikh martial masculinity in Punjab. Meanwhile Ash is caught on the frontlines, the victim of both the unrelenting pressure and cruel manifestation of a masculine narrative long defined by invulnerability and the domination of others.

The irony is that we can follow this thread from modern India to the perceived crisis of masculinity in the British Empire and the consequent rise of muscular Christianity in 19th-century North America. We are inherently part of the construction of boyhood masculinity as it has been for a hundred years.

Which means we are part of its redefinition.

Continue reading on Medium

Further Reading

I’m going to be sharing more about Love and how to support him through his refugee claim process soon. In the meantime, reach out on social media if you’re interested in learning how to support him.


Sikata Banerjee, Make me a man!: Masculinity, Hinduism, and nationalism in India

Sikata Banerjee, The Quest for Manhood: Masculine Hinduism and Nation in Bengal

Sanjay Srivastava, The making of toxic Hindu masculinity

Aakriti Kohli, Militarization of Sikh Masculinity

Rohini Nilekani, Boys can’t be boys. Here’s how to fix India’s toxic masculinity problem

Amanda Keddie, Little Boys: tomorrow’s macho lads


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Audio excerpt from University of Victoria. Supported by Next Gen Men.