I first fell in love in Delhi three years ago, with an Indian classmate during a college semester abroad. The city and the relationship were new and exciting. We spent hours talking in the warm kitchen, a cigarette dangling from my girlfriend’s lips as she cooked. My budding relationships with her and with our new friends were sources of joy and support as I navigated being a bisexual woman in an unfamiliar culture.
That navigation isn’t always easy. As a college student abroad in India, I was told multiple times — even in official program handbooks — not to “date the locals.”
This deeply condescending advice was based on American stereotypes about gender-based violence and Indian men. After the 2012 rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey, a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, the Indian and international media covered the issue extensively. Of course, women and LGBT people — particularly those from oppressed castes, classes or religious groups — suffer horrific violence in India. Yet gender violence is global — a problem in New York as well as New Delhi — and much American reporting about rape in India lacks context, relies on racist stereotypes about Indian men and ignores the fact that Indian feminists have been fighting gender-based violence for centuries.
Read the rest of my article on the politics of dating as a white American in Delhi at the Washington Post.