Bi & Proud

Sandy, Bangalore

Coming out as ‘bi’ is way different to coming out ‘gay’.

Think about it. One: there is a general opinion that bi people are confused and untrustworthy or that our sexuality is “just a phase”. Two: There’s added pressure to come out to everyone we are romantically involved with. We don’t have to – but then we carry the burden of not being authentic to ourselves or the relationship. Also, biphobic reactions are far too common and almost every bisexual person has horror stories to share about courting a straight or gay person for whom bisexuality was a deal-breaker.

Of course, this entire process can be simplified by coming out before the first date. Still, that is a level of disclosure that is not expected of straight or gay people, whose orientation is assumed by virtue of the gender of their mate. The risk of romantic rejection because of one’s sexual orientation is not a hurdle faced by straight or gay people.

When I came out to Jo, my girlfriend in uni, she dumped me. She said that she couldn’t live in the constant fear that one day I would realize that I was “actually gay”. She said that although she loved me, she’d always doubt my love for her. Years later, my relationship with Andrew didn’t go anywhere either. Worse, he wanted an ‘open relationship’. He said that he could never be serious with me since I was bi. He was scared that I’d leave him the moment my parents asked me to “settle down with a nice girl”.

A harsh truth that I learned when I came out was that for some people, my identity was always going to be defined by my orientation. As “the bi one” in most social circles, people find it easy to attribute whatever characteristics they associated with being bi, no matter how stereotypical, inaccurate, or offensive they are. I have been asked if I was sure I was bi and if I wasn’t “just gay.” I have also been asked if I’ve had trouble being monogamous in my relationships; if I have been sexually satisfied or craved intimacy with someone of a different gender than my current partner. Sometimes, people have the audacity to ask my partner of eight years too, right in front of my face, if me being bi doesn’t bother him.

It would most certainly be a bother to date someone who is bi, if one believed in these stereotypes. However, here’s something we know to be true about stereotypes – that they’re bullshit. They are nothing more than ideas based on stigma and ignorance, and often an inaccurate depiction of the community they claim to represent.

When I first decided to come out, I promised myself to be as authentic as possible. I wasn’t going to let one fear replace another. I am who I am – I am bisexual. My sexuality is not a character defect.

It is not something those who love us get to be bothered by. It is not something they should have to deal with because they’re with us. They should not love us despite our bisexuality, but rather love us, and the identities that come with us, wholly.

My sexuality is just a small part of my identity. But it is valid, it is real, and it is okay.

Femininity, Androgyny, and Masculinity: Lili

I had originally intended to write this after I saw the film The Danish Girl about a year and a half ago. It has taken me so long to gather the courage and conviction to write this, because it is not a review of the film, but a window into my own life story. You see… just like Lili, the protagonist of the film, I too have struggled with gender dysphoria, i.e. discomfort due to a mismatch between one’s internal gender identity and the sex assigned at birth. It means that just like her, I was assigned male at birth, but am now transitioning to live as a woman. The film, set in 1920s Europe, shows Lili’s social and then medical transition from male to female as a pioneering example, so it may seem that our similarities end here, but there are still some important parallels in our stories.

JUST LIKE LILI, I WAS ASSIGNED MALE AT BIRTH, BUT AM NOW TRANSITIONING TO LIVE AS A WOMAN.

Like Lili, I am married to a woman, in a relationship marked with mutual respect, playfully questioning societal norms, and most importantly an enduring love for each other beyond our identities. Like her, my true self was so deeply repressed and hidden for so long that I was barely even conscious of it, until I gradually discovered it in adulthood. Like her, I started my transition with small, tentative steps, and then moved with more certainty, gradually gaining confidence along the way. Like her, I have been out in public as my true self in places where I could afford to, mostly when I was around complete strangers or with those who knew about me.

However, being neither fully out nor fully closeted requires a constant balancing act between femininity, androgyny, and masculinity, in terms of clothing, physicality and behaviours, in order to be able to pass as female or male in different scenarios depending on the extent of my dysphoria, where I am going and who I might run into.

Gradually, though, it has stopped being a choice as I am more frequently perceived as female irrespective of what I wear and how I behave. It has been especially difficult in gendered spaces such as security queues and public restrooms when I began to realize that I was no longer credibly ‘passing’ as a man even if I dressed, behaved and sounded like one.

BEING NEITHER FULLY OUT NOR FULLY CLOSETED REQUIRES A CONSTANT BALANCING ACT BETWEEN FEMININITY, ANDROGYNY, AND MASCULINITY.

Like Lili, I have met or heard of several doctors, ranging from those who did not understand my situation or had outdated views on it, to those who have been extremely helpful. To be fair, my personal experience in this regard has been far nicer than is the norm, because I took my time, educated myself, searched for options, and ruled out the unhelpful ones. That’s not always possible for others like me, so far too often they might end up with horror stories.

Also, like Lili, and in fact like most women, I worry about my personal safety around strangers, especially when there is unwanted attention from men. Like her, I too have struggled with drawing the line beyond which such attention stops being validating and becomes dangerous.

However, our stories are not exactly the same. A century ago as shown in the film, the medical process for gender transition itself was experimental, gender roles were much more sharply defined in society, and cases like Lili’s were treated as tragic anomalies. On the other hand, my experience comes at a time when the understanding of gender itself is far more nuanced, when the protocol for medical transition is much more clearly established and standardized, and when awareness about our existence is greater than ever before.

ALSO, LIKE LILI, AND IN FACT LIKE MOST WOMEN, I WORRY ABOUT MY PERSONAL SAFETY AROUND STRANGERS.

There are also several more personal differences. For example, unlike Lili, I have no ambiguity about my sexuality. In fact, my identity as a queer woman is not only relevant to my relationship with my spouse, but it also affected my journey of understanding how my gender identity differed from my orientation. Unlike Lili, I do not consider my profession a reminder of my past life. In fact, I want to stay in my profession and preserve as much of my life as possible even through transition. Unlike her, I did not simply imitate other women in public as I started coming out, but just allowed my natural expression to appear after decades of repression. Like Lili and Gerda, the journey that my spouse and I have shared, especially after my ‘coming out’, has been one of tears and confusion and yet unstinting love and support for each other, but unlike them, it has also been interspersed with a lot of shared joy and beautiful experiences with each other just like before.

Of course, I understand that the film was just a fictionalized account of a more complex story, as the real Lili and Gerda lived for a much longer time together than is shown in the film. My objective in writing this, therefore, is not just to compare the film with my story, but to open a conversation into the complexity of gender transitioning even in this supposedly modern and progressive era. After all, I am not the only one in such a situation, even in India. There are many others like me.

Moreover, the issues mentioned above, such as self-awareness and self-acceptance, relationships, freely expressing oneself, personal safety, medical care, social awareness, professional opportunities, and media representations, all affect most queer people, not just those who are gender variant or questioning. When I question myself which gender I ‘pass’ as better and whether or not I may face trouble on any given day, it is an experience shared not just with other gender variant people, but also with others who express themselves in non-conforming ways, despite stares, comments, questions, threats or even worse.

It is not even a queer issue alone, as gender norms regarding self-expression apply even to cisgender, heterosexual people, placing limits on all of us. When my spouse and I worry about any possible backlash to my transition, its impact on our lives together, and the continued legal status of our relationship, we know it is a question relevant to other queer couples too. More broadly, in fact, the question of what relationships should be socially accepted is relevant even to other couples who defy boundaries of caste, class, religion etc.

IT IS NOT EVEN A QUEER ISSUE ALONE, AS GENDER NORMS REGARDING SELF-EXPRESSION APPLY EVEN TO CISGENDER, HETEROSEXUAL PEOPLE, PLACING LIMITS ON ALL OF US.

We do not know all the answers, but we do know that there is a need to break the silence, to start conversations to show that we exist, that families like ours exist, even if all of us do not fit into neat little boxes with clear labels. After all, what makes someone a man or a woman? What makes someone queer or not? What makes a relationship queer or not? Is one’s identity or the validity of their love or their relationship completely determined by the individuals involved, or do others’ opinions matter? There are no easy answers, but hopefully, breaking the silence will help in figuring some of them out.

 

Re-blogged from feminisminindia

All picture are linked to their sources.

It was happy yet sad ending

Sozz Siddiqui

Things started with the daily pressure from my parents to tell them if I have a girlfriend or not(May be it was their way to do the detective work to get confirmation if their son is different not) but they never got a clear answer from me ever,  which lead to more question and more detective work.

My brother has always doubted me thinking that I am Bi(bisexual) could be because I had more girlfriends rather than boyfriend.

Part I
One fine day after finishing my job and gym I reached home (You will find my sister in the story too as she was visiting me or may be God has sent her to show her his other CREATION). My mom opened the door with a big smile like she is hiding something or was playing some kind of happiness trick on me. While having dinner my mom started questioning me the same thing but this time there was a twist she asked me if I have a boy friend, she consoled me or I must say took me in her confidence while asking that, where she spread the layer of her understanding telling me that she would be fine if I have a boyfriend too. No wonder we love our mom and when mom loves you , you forget all hide and seek games and with that I told her that yes her son is different, by the time I realized it was too late to understand that she just played it well and I lost the game, I could hear the silence the one which really kills you.

Part II

Her face went from white to red and then pale , the first tear started rolling out from her left or right I don’t know may be simultaneously form both the eyes . While she was crying I was just giggling , it was tough for me to decide what emotions I should show , should I cry as my mom was crying or should I smile as I was finally free but I was just smiling and smiling and smiling I couldn’t stop. It was a fantastic feeling to tell her that her son is not what she thinks but is what she was always afraid of(Don’t think that I am a cruel son or she is a cruel mom, she is the best and most loving mom it’s was just tough for her just like it was tough for me). On the other hand my sister started to command me not to speak THAT WORD yes the same word for which I am writing this, as per her understanding just by saying people become like one, yet again don’t hate her for that as there are certain things which even we don’t understand so she has all the rights to express her feeling.

That was the first and last discussion which happened between me and my mom, my father never got involved in this whole process and still he never tried to talk to me about this(May be that is the way all fathers behave.)

Part III

She still loves me and so my sister and my whole family, you might be thinking that it has one happy ending but I would say it was happy yet sad ending as they accepted me the way I am but they never accepted that their son can be different which of course hurts at time but I am fine. I feel like if they would have abandoned me, it would have been much easier for me to handle that but it really kills me to digest that they accepted me and love me but not my thing.

PS: My brother is the coolest brother as he is the only one who accepted me the way I am, he read the books and tried to understand things for me. We still go out together to a coffee shop to checkout(You know what I mean.) we also play game of identifying who is what 😉

I am a third gender

Dhananjay Chauhan Mangalmukhi

I am a transgender, the first transgender student of Punjab University Chandigarh!

I am from a very middle class family where talking about sex is taboo! I was born in Uttarakhand & my birth was reason for double celebration as a boy was born in the family & my father got a government job. I was also blessed by the hijras on my birth, interesting they also could not identity that I am also as special as them, I am a third gender. Soon after my birth my parent shifted to Chandigarh, growing up I realized I was different from other kids. I was shy & bubbly.

Gradually as I grew, a woman inside me started establishing her identity and at the age of 3-4 I used to do the same thing which my mother or other women used to do! It was an instinctive trend that gets a woman from birth too!

When I was 5 years old, I was enrolled in a government school I was always ahead of all the students, whether it is studying, music or dance. The teachers were always happy with me. Everything was going on normal. I still remember when I was 5 years old, according to religious rituals, I had to be shaved because everybody thought I was a man, so it was necessary to cut the hair of my head so many guests came in the house. New clothes were purchased for everyone! Pant-shirt was bought for me too! But when it was showed me, I rejected it at first sight and refused to wear! I wanted a girl frock. My parents explained to me that you are a boy and boys do not wear frock, I did not listen to one of them! I stuck to my point! They finally brought a frock for me!

Many new friendships were getting formed, but there were a lot of girls; it was not that I deliberately made friends with girls, it was a natural process! The girls understood my feelings well and their choice was similar to my choice! The girls who played the game also liked me too! Boys played hockey or football, which I did not like much!

My family and neighbors were very happy because their sons were roaming all day long, they did not even study, but I used to do studies in addition to helping my mother with house chores.

When I was 9-10 years old, I became friends with a boy living in the neighborhood, he was 4-5 years older than me. Slowly we both began to love each other, we were unable to live without each other! I liked to meet him, live together and sleep together! I used to wait for him for hours! When I was 12 years old, natural changes began to come in my body and a tremendous boom of love and attraction started to feel in my mind! When the love of heart and mind turned into physical love, nothing was known! This series continued when I reached 18-19 years of age! And this time my friend got married! He got busy in his family life. The person who loved me for hours spent my time explaining to me that this is not all right and now we have grown up and now we have to think about our life! He said that he has got married, now he will not be able to give me time and if someone knows about this then his family life can end! He easily told me that if you need any other man then he will also arrange for that too! I told him that you have gone crazy! You do not care about my feelings at all! You were with me just for this that your body’s needs were getting fulfilled!

He had spoken to two of his friends about me that they were to continue to have relations with me! For these people, there is no cost of love with a transgender, because there is no end to this love, they feel that it is not the truth of life! People feel like we are a toy made by nature when you want, play and later throw it away!

Since class 4 the male classmates used to make fun of me, they used to spit on me, always used to make fun of me! All men and women begin to be attracted towards their opposite sex from the age of 12, and I also started getting attracted towards men, which is a natural phenomenon! I started worrying about my sexual identity, I did not understand who I am. I am completely a woman from inside. But the texture of the body was quite like a man. My soul and body were not aligned, they were different. And because of this turmoil my academics began to suffer, I barely passed tenth grade. I tried to commit suicide twice but somehow survived!

In the absence of sex education, and knowledge about gender identity & sexuality, we are losing the lives of millions of people.

I concealed my identity and focused on studies, I got the first prize in my Bachelor Degree in 1993 thereafter I got admission in the Master of History department of Punjab University. I faced a lot of bullying from fellow students & had to drop, later I signed up for evening law classes. Some students ragged me and paraded me naked in the whole class room, and made me perform unspeakable task! I also left the law course. Then I took admission in the diploma course in Computer Science! Discrimination continued everywhere, whether it be a college or a university, a job place, a hospital, discrimination everywhere.

I had started thinking that such incidents would continue to happen with me! I decided that now I have to stand for myself and in order to change such thinking in society, I will have to fight! I am a transgender and there is no harm in it! This is my personal matter how I live! What to wear! Which gender I decide to live in! Whom should I like and with whom I live my life! Society cannot determine what will be my gender!

I had started thinking that before going out of this world I would make such an environment for some incoming transgender where there is no discrimination and there is equal rights for everyone in the society! First of all, I started preparing my family for it!

I started engaging with the community & helping them get access to healthcare, worked hard to get the Pride events started in Chandigarh, getting necessary permissions, arranging funds even putting in a lakh from personal saving. It has been a long journey but now I was getting full support from all sides! I’m very proud of myself! In 2009, I joined the first national level seminar organized by the Foundation in collaboration with the UNDP in New Delhi! This seminar proved to be a milestone for me. From 2010 to 2015, I joined every training session on behalf of the Chandigarh State AIDS Society and got information about AIDS. In 2012, I joined the Red Ribbon Tran Campaign, which went to town and gave information about AIDS to every railway station. From this I got information about AIDS and all the incurable diseases. I was made a Master Trainer on behalf of NACO and India HIV AIDS Alliance, I have been training the health workers of AIDS in many states of India.

In 2016, I joined the Department of Human Rights as a transgender at the University of Punjab! I passed every entrance exam with very good points and I did not need any reservation because my points were very good. I am proud to be the first transgender student of Punjab University but I have responsibilities towards many transgender community too! I am related to the Raikee family of the Kinnar society and my master is Kajal Mangalakumi! My guru gave me a lot! Standing with me in every happiness and sorrow!

Today, when I look back over the past years in which I had to endure grief and discrimination! When I think about the atrocities I suffered, I pray to God that God should not show anyone such a days as I have witnessed!

We do not want sympathy, we need acceptance!

It’s my life and I should live it

Nalin

Bangalore

So, it all started when a YouTuber named Connor Franta came out in a video. It got me thinking, as to why do I invest so much time and energy in trying to keep my gayness under cover. I mean, it’s me, so sooner or later people are bound to find out. But then again, fear came over me and I remained mum.

I watched a few more coming out videos by some other You Tubers. Some reaction videos of people coming out. There were loving and horrific incidents mentioned in all of them, and because of the fear that hatred is what I’d have to live with, I chose to ignore the love that might have come too.

Around the even semester of my third year, I was in college hostel, and would visit home every weekend because my parents stayed in the city. I remember, the entire week I’d just think of all the people living a happy life, out and proud, and here I was, who didn’t know of a single LGBT human. I remember crying myself to sleep. And then on call, I told my mom that I need to speak to both, her and dad, when I get home this weekend.

Now, I don’t know why, but I decided that the first people I wanted to come out to were my parents, I mean they always said that they were my friends, so technically that made them the friends I have had for the longest time. More so, I think I just didn’t want them finding out from some random source. So that weekend, when I got home, they had some party to attend, and that gave me sometime to think as to how was I going to break the news to them.

When they got back, I sat them both down, and just started talking. I was scared I would be disowned. I had no other place to go if I was thrown out of the house, I didn’t have a plan in place (I know, stupid. But yeah..) and that just made me more and more scared.

I tip toed around the topic, asking them questions to find out if I was a decent enough child, if they’d want to disown me, and then I told them I was gay. I couldn’t get the word ‘gay’ out of my  throat. I remember stuttering, struggling to convince myself to tell them. I was in tears, thinking of the disappointment I had caused them. I was sobbing like a baby.

Now, I always knew that my dad would take it better than my mom,so when I did come out, my mother remained quiet (which in her code is utter disappointment and disagreement), and dad said “oh, okay, I thought it was something much serious”.

I was a virgin boy, who hadn’t even kissed a boy, and then came the questions, how do you know you are gay? Have you slept with a man? Has someone taken advantage of you? How can you know you are gay if you haven’t been with a woman?

And it all startled me. You father asking you what turns you on in a man is maybe the last thing you want to answer, especially when you are 20 going on 21.

But yes, he tried to crack a joke at the end of all of it by saying “I actually thought you got someone pregnant and we’d have to get an abortion!” (typical dad jokes he has)

When I came out, I asked them to maybe go see a psychologist, so that it could help with with the shift in dynamics in their head. The stupid thing I did was let them pick one out. And they managed to find the most homophobic, illiterate, fuck ever. He gave me an online quiz about “how gay are you?”, which had questions such as “what would you choose, a sausage or a donut?”

Post the quiz he tell me, see the quiz says you are bisexual, so don’t go around telling people you are gay.

And you don’t even know if you are gay, you are virgin.

And I questioned him, that if a boy walked in asking him why is he attracted to a girl, no one would question him, or ask him his experiences with a man, to which he promptly responded, “I would” and I snapped, I was like, sweety, even I wouldn’t, so don’t you bullshit me on this one. This was maybe the first time I was speaking up about any of it and it felt so good to put that ‘doctor’ to his place.

After this, I never saw him again, and like a good Indian family, we just never talked of things that make us uncomfortable.

Slowly I came out to friends, became more and more accepting of who I am.

2 years later, I came out to my sister, and her reaction was “huh, okay“. When I asked her if that was all, she said, I don’t know what else to ask.

For all this while I had avoided coming out to her thinking that she might be like mom, and not be the easiest person to deal with it, but she did turn out to be the biggest support I have in the family.

The only time my parents ever spoke of my sexuality, was when I was with my dad, and he was telling me about how depressed mom is, and that me being gay is one of the reasons, maybe a major one, and that he has been trying to tell her that it’s my life and I should live it..

Cut to, October 2016, me being in Bangalore, louder and prouder than I had ever been, Being vocal, sharing my views, and then I shared a meme on Facebook, that practically outed me to the whole world, and I was kind of happy!

What I didn’t realize was that most of my family was on Facebook too, so that just ruffled a lot of feathers in the extended family..

Mom got a call from an aunt asking what was up with me, and there she went spiraling again. I heard her cry, telling me things like I have made her want to end her life, and that’s maybe not the best thing one could hear their parent say..

In the process I came out to an aunt of mine, and though it wasn’t received in the best possible way, it want the worst I had gotten.

Cut to May 2017, I was in Chennai for work for a few months, and a drag show was happening there. I had worked with a few drag queens back in Bangalore so I was asked to take part and perform in drag. I didn’t mind, and that gave me a chance to actually try out drag!

So I did the show, and it was the ‘first drag show of Chennai‘ do a lot of online news platforms covered it..

The articles were flooding across my timeline, and then, somehow, mother found out! (I guess they do find out everything, after all!)

The entire shenanigans started again, I was being told to just leave them alone, to stop trying to take revenge for an upbringing they had provided, to stop trying to tarnish the family name.

Some how in all of this, I was just scared shitless what would happen if dad found out. Needless to say, he did.

He gave me a call, started talking casually, and maybe once other things were out of the picture, he just asked me what was up, and what was I up to.

He very calmly asked me about the show, and told me that it was my life, and I was allowed to live it the way I wanted, but that this hurt my mother quit a lot. So maybe I should try and do everything in a way that she doesn’t find out..

Which was more than reassuring because I never thought that any of my parents would ever be okay with drag..

In the process I did have to come out to another aunt of mine, and when I did tell her, she said “so what? It’s not like you are killing people” and maybe that was the second time I ever cried during a coming out.

All I ever wanted was for my mother to say those things, but well, at least someone did. Later I apologized to her for bombing such a news on her, with no prior warning, and she said “never ever be sorry for who you are”

So now, I back in Bangalore, living with my mother, and we haven’t slit each others throats yet, so that’s my coming out story, so far!

I am just the way he made me

 

My name is Ankit. I am a gay man, 25 years old living in Mumbai. I work for an educational institute “VIDYA” which works for under privileged children in urban slum communities.

I realized I was attracted to the same gender in my early teens but did not know what it actually meant or that it is actually a sexual orientation or that there is a community of LGBT people. As a fact I did not even know the difference between the male and female anatomy until I was in my 10th Grade.

During my summer holidays post 10th grade a few of my cousins were visiting us and one fine evening we were hanging out and I noticed a girl child peeing. I was confused and I questioned my cousin, why is it that she is squatting while peeing? We boys do it differently. Laughing out loud my cousins remarked that you are so silly and explained the difference to me. They also teased me that now that I know I would be more inclined to know a girl better perhaps start having attraction towards them.

The very next day I went back to my cousin and said whatever you explained to me yesterday is so true but somehow am not attracted to girls. I find myself attracted to boys. My cousins failed to understand me and mocked that I would always be a kid. I guess that was my very first coming out.

Years passed and it was in college when internet came to my rescue and gave me access to the information I needed. I googled about being gay and that there are others like me. I started searching for ways to find other people like me and chanced upon gaydia.com and it was such an overwhelming discovery. All this while I was caught up with various emotions and found it challenging to come to terms with my sexuality. I was even suicidal under depression as I kept worrying that there is something wrong with me that may be I am a eunuch (Hijra) and what a stigma this news would be to my parents and they may not accept me.

When I found gaydia.com my life changed. I came across so many other queer folks and through them I learnt a lot about LGBT community, our community! I got to know about Pride March in our country, through an organization named GayBombay.

In 2008 I attended my first GayBombay event which was a parent’s meet. The experience of this event was quite liberating. I got to know and meet parents/family of other queer folks and it gave me hope and confidence. The Pride March also liberated me in many ways, most importantly self-acceptance and that there is nothing wrong in being gay and that Pride March is a way we come out and celebrate being Queer. It has been quite a journey since then and today I am one of the organizers of Mumbai Gay Pride. I continued my journey with queer groups like GayBombay, Humsafar Trust etc. and actively engaged into activism and so far it’s been a great journey.

While at home my family knows about me being queer but I have never had the chance to sit down with them and come out to them in person. For my parents ignorance is bliss for now.

In 2013 when Supreme Court re-criminalized homosexuality as per section 377, I was interviewed by Zee news and was part of a debate. I guess that was my official coming out to the whole world through the medium of a television interview.

Later that evening I was in a discussion with Mr. Pallav Patankar (Program Head – Humsafar Trust) about how can we bring in the change in society. He said the interviews that you gave throughout the day is one way but is not the absolute or accurate way. If we want to bring change in the society we need to reach out to masses directly.

This triggered a new emotion in my and when I was returning home with a friend of mine that evening I felt the urge to at least take one step in the direction to bring that change. I stood up in a local train coach full of every day commuters and started a dialogue in Hindi – “Main ek samalaingik hu! Aaj Supreme court ne mere adhikar cheen liye hai” (I am a homosexual man and today my rights have been taken away from me). I got mixed responses, some people ignored me, some argued and questioned and some nodded in acceptance. While I realized it was a risk taken the greater learning was that when a group of people notice/experience something they talk/share the news. I realized that within that moment I was spreading the information to people from different walks of life, I was indirectly educating them that homosexuality is not an American concept and that even in that very coach in which so many Indians commute every day, anybody could a homosexual. That evening I mustered the courage to speak publicly and learnt that people need to learn more about us before they accept us.

I had found my inner calling and my purpose. I resigned from my job and visited Valsad in the state of Gujrat and held my very first public talk about homosexuality and LGBT people and my journey continues till today with over 500 public talks.

To talk more about my experience giving these talks I learnt tier 3 cities/smaller towns are more receptive to such talks/discussions than tier 2 & 1. I have had both good and bad experiences. I was also jailed when I boarded a passenger train from Jhunagargh to Somnath to hold one such talk. I was released with a warning to not repeat the act in passenger trains without permissions; that too speaking against Supreme Court. Being bullied was also part of this journey and one such incident to recall was when I was visiting a small town a little further from Bikaner and was staying in a budget guesthouse. I was bullied by a few men there who somehow noticed that I am gay and was eve teased by a group of men. The came down to the guesthouse & started making vulgar comments “aajao teri pyaas bujhata hun, mard chahiye tujhe” [You like men, come let us quench your thirst]. I was scared to death, I sat in the farthest corner of the room praying for this to pass away.  I was petrified to even move & somehow dozed off sitting there. This incident did scare me but I never gave up, I believed in my role as an activist and that people in India must be educated about our community and rights.

Personally, I am quite rooted to my culture and my religion. I believe in Hinduism and especially in Vaishnavism. I also read a lot but somehow I could never find any story speak of homosexuality but what I noticed is Hinduism never discriminated against anything or anybody in particularly. I find my strength is Krishna, I am just the way he made me!

 

Dreams do come true!

Sandeep Nair

Bangalore

The way I spoke, walked and behaved just seemed natural to me. I’d always been called names ever since primary school. It made me feel depressed and isolated from everyone else. It wasn’t until I was about 12 that I realised what that difference was. Everyone else started passing notes in class and giggling at me, they had their inside jokes, some about me too. I was left out again. Going to school was a torture because going to a place where I know I will have to hide from everyone and smile at people who insult me was getting harder. Being a teenager is hard for most people. But being gay, dark-skinned and having glasses didn’t exactly help matters either!
Not taking part in the sports groups so I could spend more time in the dance club and being the only boy in the school dance group, I suppose looking back now it was pretty obvious.

They say coming out to yourself is the hardest thing but I disagree. The hardest thing was to bury the feelings of shame and difference.

After the struggle in school and college and a failed first relationship, I actually started coming out to people when I was around 20, I told my sister first and then my cousins. I remember inviting my friends out one by one to tell them, and I built it up to be a big revelation in my head. In fact, they either knew of it or weren’t bothered anyway. It’s not like they didn’t acknowledge it, but they just weren’t that surprised!
This initial acceptance built in a lot of confidence in me. But, then things are different in the workplace. I did not come out anyone in the first 3 years of my career. Then, once I was comfortable talking about my then-boyfriend, I started sharing my feelings with my colleagues.

Again, they were not surprised and it did not matter to them. I stopped isolating myself because of the fear of being ridiculed again. To them, I was just another person with feelings, with a life and with a boyfriend.

I had not come out to anyone in my extended family and to be honest, I dint want to. There was this fear of being outed to my parents at the wrong time and then being disowned or forced to  get it “cured”; marriage etc. I had made it very clear to my parents that I will never get married since class 10. But, it took them 15 years to know that I was serious about that decision.
My parents had all of my extended family try to brainwash me, tell me the advantages of marrying at the right age to the right girl, the wishes my parents have for their only son etc. But, I stood my ground, firm and had only one answer – No, I am not interested in marriage. Coming out to my family was not an option at that point of my life.

When the pressure for marriage was mounting and I was suffering another heartbreak after a 7-year long relationship, I was posted to Shenzhen for a project from work. I did not want to go to China, but then the thought of running away from the family pressure seemed more important.

China was where my life changed. I fell in love again. I met the most handsome and loving man  – the man of my dreams. He introduced me to his family as his boyfriend. It was a very happy feeling to be accepted into a family. I knew that I had to come out to my family as well to introduce them to my ‘boyfriend’ and not my “special friend”.

And then on August 11 2014, I wrote an email to my parents coming out to them, told them about my journey so far, my struggles, my dream and finally my fear. My dad was super supportive and said that just like I could not tell him, he could never ask me. I am still his son and he loves me. My mother did not take it well, but after two days, she called me to say that I am never alone and that my parents will always be with me. Then, she asked me not to fall in love and not to do ‘dirty’ things.
I was thrilled, excited and more than ever alive. It was like I got wings and I am flying.

Then, after a few months, I returned to India with my boyfriend, introduced him to my parents and my loved ones in Bangalore. A year after that I married him legally in Portugal and then had a big fat Indian wedding in Bangalore.
A photo of our wedding on Facebook received a lot of wishes, which my extended family saw and my parents started getting calls to verify the authenticity of that news. My parents confirmed that I am married now to my boyfriend.
Now, we are welcomed by all as a married couple at all family functions and treated with respect and love. The ladies in my family said that they are happy that I did not fall for the society pressure and get married to a woman and ruin a lot of lives.

Sandeep & Ruben

The decision to come out is one that no person gets to make for another, and as a gay man it would be incredibly insensitive for me to ever suggest to someone that they should put themselves in harm’s way unless and until they decide they are prepared.

But, to my friends in the LGBT community, who are moving ever closer to the closet’s threshold and feeling you may be nearing that day of stepping fully into the light of complete revelation, I want to encourage you that you have people waiting to walk alongside you; people who believe in you, people who love you, people who will not vanish or fall away or cast judgment or be silent. You are not alone in your walk through this difficult journey.\

To families, friends, advocates and allies, continually and loudly speak your truth, because it matters. As you give voice to what you believe, to your support, you give others permission to as well, and as these voices multiply—change begins to happen. We are seeing it in our daily lives now. This is the result of goodness and compassion.

Bhai Dooj

Unmesh Potdar

 

“Happy Diwali! Happy Bhau-beej!” chimed sister right from the bungalow gate. Mother ran down the steps as usual to shower kisses on her grandchildren. It was Diwali 2015; day of bhai dooj: when both my sisters will come down to Satara to celebrate the festival.

Day went well, exchanging gifts, jokes and family gossips. Once that quota was over, father turned towards his favorite subject: His son’s marriage.

“I am not forcing you to do anything”, he hissed. “I am just curious to know your plans for future. Look around in our colony. Most boys of your age have at least 1 kid now. Your mother and I have to answer people, you know!” By now, I had lost appetite even though there was a plate full of my favourite Chakalis and Khoya Karanjis in front of me. “Let’s have a discussion.” He said. This is his favourite line because in such discussions he’s the only one who gets to talk.

I have not thought about marriage yet, Baba.” I tried sounding disinterested as possible – “You know I am not stable career wise. Let’s take possession of our Pune flat first, let me buy a car and have some savings, then I can think about it. Jaldi Kya Hai?”

I knew I had pressed Play button on a record player. I am so used to this- He starts off by saying how I never listen to him, How I am not serious about my future, How he’s always tried to be my friend more than a father but I always cling on to my mother’s Pallu; etc etc etc. I prefer to keep mum. Else it’s WW III on the dining table.

20 minutes of him going on and on about the same topic, there was a moment when I lost my patience. “I don’t wanna get married”; I barked. “Look around! You think marriage is the ultimate goal of life? Sorry to disappoint you but I don’t think that way. I don’t believe in the institution of marriage. So henceforth don’t ask me anything about getting married.”

I could see his flushed face. “What the hell are you talking about? Did you learn these things in the UK? What now…. you want to be in a Live-in relationship or what? I may even agree to that! Who’s the girl? Is there one? Tell me! I am talking to you!! Tell me!!!”

He had always mocked me and mother with a phrase- ‘Mounam Sarvam Sadhanam’. (Silence can convey everything) I chose the same path. Being quiet. He kept staring at my face with a demanding look. I was still biting my nails. “FINE!!!!”; he suddenly bursts like a volcano, “Don’t tell me anything! I don’t want to be part of this conversation anymore. Talk to your mother and sisters like you always do. I am out of here!”

We heard the car engine growl. Before mother can even utter a word, he was out of the bunglow gate.

“What is the matter, Unu?” She turned towards me. I can sense her concern in that kind voice. “Why are you saying all this? Has anyone said anything to you? See, we all have to get married one day. We need someone to look after us in our old age. Spouse, babies, grandchildren: they give meaning to our life. What’s causing you this fear towards marriage? Why this hatred towards girls?”

“Aie, sit down” I muttered. “You want to know if I am scared to get married? Do you think I have hatred towards women? I’ll tell you something that I have struggled for 28 years of my life. Don’t think that this has dawned upon me overnight. I have given it serious thoughts since last 3 years and only because of that I can gather enough courage to tell you that I don’t have any feelings for women. I have feelings for men.”

I am sure if anyone had dropped a pin, we would have heard its sound. I was just cold and numb. Cold and numb with sweaty palms. Most awkward 5 minutes of our lives.

“Have you considered visiting a counsellor…….”, sister tried to mumble but I cut her off. “I have done the counsellor as well as psychiatrist bit, Tai. As I said, I have given this enough time to gather courage to speak in front of you. I am not saying accept this right now. I have taken years to accept myself. Take your time. But this is me.”

Silence just grew deeper as the night progressed. I tucked myself in the bed yet my ears were stressing themselves to catch traces of whispers outside my room.

Next day was the real struggle. I think it sank into everyone what exactly happened yesterday. I knew: an open dialogue is much needed and that’s what I did.

“Put yourself in that girl’s shoes.” I had told my sisters. “Every girl wants and deserves a perfect husband. Do you think I’ll be able to satisfy her emotionally? You both are married. What if you discover that your husbands are Gay? How will you feel? And who gave me rights to toy with a girl’s emotions?” They gave me a startled stare. “I agree to what you are saying, Unmesh” elder sister spoke. “But what is the future of this? This isn’t legal in India. You know what sort of narrow minded city our parents live in. How are you planning to deal with this?”

I had to explain to them that though it is bit difficult to find a stable partner, but there’s always hope. How we are fighting our battle for our rights and how family is the first place where we get immense support.

“We are always there to support you but you understand that we have our families too. Focus on your career and find yourself someone to take care of you. For god’s sake, don’t die like Parween Babi.”

Talking to mother was extremely emotional for me. I am attached to her deeply since childhood and I always felt like I am cheating on her by hiding this big secret of mine. I knew that behind her disappointed face she was trying to hide her worry for me. More than the society, she was worried for me, haunted by the common question: Humare Baad Tumhara Kya Hoga?

Father had his own doubts about what is homosexuality and I’d never blame him as he belongs to a city which takes immense pride in defining masculinity and femininity: Kolhapur. “I know you watch blue films”, he said in hushed voice, making sure mother isn’t around. “I have seen those CD’s in your room. Dont you feel aroused looking at those women? Khada nahi hota?” “Hota hai”, my tone was cold as ice. “But looking at the man in porn, not because of the woman.”

And then there was silence.

Since then three more bhaidoojs have come and gone. I think they’ve made peace with the fact that I am not going to marry ever, with a girl at least. I still think they are struggling to understanding homosexuality. I am glad that I took a step to take that huge burden off my chest. They are still worried about my future, but at least they are happy, because I am happy.

I am gifted with homosexuality

Rajesh Tiwary

Pune

I always knew I was different than the other boys of my age. I realized that I like men more than I like women when I hit the puberty, but like most of the boys of my age, I was not ready to accept it.

There was this beautiful girl in my class who used to blush looking at me often, I never understood why she behaved like that. All my male friends at that time have started showing interest in girls and kept on discussing about them, I never knew what was the big fuss all about?

Since all my male friends at that time had girlfriends, I convinced myself that I should also have one, so I became close friends with this girl in my class who used to have a special interest in me, I had a girlfriend! She was intelligent, loving, caring, very beautiful and she loved me a lot, but I could never love her back.

She was a good ally to me, but that’s just it.  There was this flamboyant boy in my class, very charming, naughty, flirtatious and excellent in sports, I always felt shy in front of him. Whenever he would come around I will feel like my stomach is going to explode. I felt something for him, but what, I didn’t know.

I happened to go on a school trip with this guy and we shared a room, there we talked and he said he liked me since I was the valedictorian. We connected and instantly become friends. I simply loved being with him.

It was a rainy day after the volley ball match, he and I were waiting for the school bus in the classroom, just us, no one else was there. Something happened to him he held me and kissed me! That was the greatest moment of life. I was flying high and that is when I accepted myself as gay. I knew I loved a man’s body and mind more than those of women.

I told my girlfriend about how I felt and what all I was going through. Luckily, she was understanding and helped me accept my sexuality. From her acceptance, I gained the required strength and I started exploring, met many guys, experienced many emotions and realized that I am gifted with homosexuality.

During my college days, I confided this with my friends and I got acceptance everywhere. I was a lucky enough, as I never faced any criticism and resistance for being myself. My friends, colleagues and my siblings always supported me.

Through one of these dating sites I met my better half, it was love at first sight. We both grew over the course of time, became confident individuals and opened about our sexuality to our parents. Obviously, like every Indian parent, they were shocked and unhappy about it. But they are trying to understand and adjust with our life style.

But I must tell you, be it my siblings, parents or friends, their love has not reduced after knowing about my sexuality, rather it has grown.  The acceptance will come slowly with time, but the relief we feel after coming out of closet is divine.

Everyone deserves to be able to live with whomever they love and this is the basic human right. I am happy that I am towards the path of happiness and I wish all the young boys and girls also receive the love and appreciation that I have received after coming out of the closet.

I gradually accepted myself

“Chaaka hai Kya.”?

“Third Gender hai Tu to”

“Muh Meh LeLe”

“Tere  Boobs Hai.”

These words assassinated athwart me deep into my heart . That group in washroom from who I was always afraid because they were somehow responsible for my abasement.  My chest become a reason for the their fun and jokes. Those jokes have left contravening remarks.

Hello it’s Abhinav here, I belong from a small town where people have narrow mind thinking. I don’t know how to express my views on my sexuality in words, but now it’s high time I don’t want to hide my identity anymore just want to express my views on the sexuality to whole world. The urgency for coming out are those Sleepless Nights,Horrifying threats ,Painful lesions which left his marks.

At age of 13 to 16 which is the most crucial time in a life of a teenagers. At at this age other kids are engaged in playing games , studying ,and creating memories,  God kept me confused in exploring my own identity. And when I finally got to know that I am Gay.! (You read that correct ) .Thanks to my classmate who looks so hot that I got attracted towards him and got to know the truth.

After knowing of this uniqueness was not enough that my fear of being alone and seeking acceptance started hitting me hard. All childhood evenings went crying because of the reason that I m the only person who is suffering from it.

I was stuck in middle of nowhere and was losing my mind, but thanks to my Smartphone from which I explored people ,those people were a ray of hope for me.

I gradually accepted myself as who I am.

My sexual desire was getting  higher day by day. With a lot of courage I visited an unknown person for a hook up. It was something new for me. Gradually I got addicted to the pleasure. One day while sitting I realized that at that age my friends were engaged with bats and ball whereas I was getting into bed with strangers.  That day I pledged to myself that I won’t go with anyone and never cheat any girl in my life .

This is a half coming out hope that God gives me courage for the full one that I can even tell to whole word.

Born Gay Proud to be what I m.!

#abvian