Many have experienced this and there will be many who plan on doing so. Just waiting for the right moment or the right amount of courage they wish they will have in future. Not a particularly pleasant experience like your first car or first kiss but people do it to be true to people around them. To be accepted for who they are or that’s at least what the aim is…
This one goes back to the time of my school days. I never really knew how to acknowledge or describe this feeling that feeling that was in me since what seemed to be forever because right from the beginning I was fed strictly heteronormative ideals of the society. Throughout my childhood I grew without having these feelings fit into any category or name. I could not discuss them with anyone and as I grew older I could neither fit myself into these feelings nor the heteronormative society I was a part of.
There used to be a time when I was in love and peace. The peace one has when they are in the comfort of their home. I was happy and I was loved. But it did not fade away with time. It was stripped of from me in a turning point of my life and it felt like I was in a state of mental and emotional coma. I could see, hear and touch the world but there was a disconnect between the feelings. All I could do in this hollow body was see, hear and touch. I could not feel. I could only feel that I was hurt. As time passed it got harder. I had lost myself to the tides of time once again, worse than ever but I learnt a lesson. I got up and set my goals to get my own place, to get a job and be independent.
My struggle for coming out was not that easy. It all started almost 4 years ago when I anchored a show that was organized to facilitate transgender rights. It was a big event with extensive media coverage and I was not at all upset about my photos being published in the newspaper. Till that time I had explored my sexuality and gender and was quite comfortable with it. I had come out to the world but I hadn’t come out to my family. Now that I was featured in the newspaper as a part of the community. I was presented with a last opportunity to tell my family the truth and come out to them or they would get to know it anyway. I was scared and nervous but these fears weighed nothing against the fact that my family would feel betrayed if I hadn’t confessed to them this time. It was not even a situation ‘do or die’ but rather a situation ‘do and die’ especially when you are raised in a conservative Islamic family. My parents actively confronted me. I was heavily scolded, not allowed to step out of the house and even my mobile phone was confiscated. They thought that this was the result of some supernatural superstitious powers
My mother on the advice of a fakir baba compelled me to watch burning diyas in evening for 40 days. The fakir assured my family that I will be ‘back to ‘normal’ and get attracted towards women. I was just 19 at the time. In the beginning my mother used to sit beside me to ensure that I did not get distracted. For almost a week she was regular but then I think she got bored and stop accompanying me… Or if she had something else in the mind? I don’t know. I was left by myself. Unlike the light of the Diya that illuminated the fading dusk, the light within me struggled to survive. It was a harsh time. My parents compelled me to do so. After 40 days my parents thought that I was ‘back to normal‘. I was the one who suffered through it and nodded yes to their question of being heteronormative.
Being gay in a conservative Muslim family, Acceptance doesn’t come with ease… Time passed by and this event was virtually forgotten in the sands of time. This continued for almost an year. I was living my life in the closet. Then one fine day as I was scrolling through my FB profile and came across this post related to Delhi pride. I participated and wore a woman’s attire. The next day again my pictures were published by newspaper. Being dressed up like that didn’t mean I was a cross dresser or transgender but it was to break the stereotype that clothing defines our gender and that living in a democratic country we have the right to choice!
My family was outraged seeing my photos in pride events again and forced me to consult a clinical psychiatrist. During my sessions the psychiatrist told me to watch straight porn. I followed up her advice and during the follow up sessions told her how much I enjoyed watching men in those videos. She ignored my words and tried other tricks but nothing happened. After almost six sessions she called up my father and told him that I can’t be ‘cured‘. My father said nothing.
3 months later I graduated. My mother used to keep an eye on me that I didn’t spend too much time with any particular person of the same sex. They thought that I was gay because I had a homosexual friend circle. They planned to keep me away from it all and ‘convert’ me into a heterosexual man so they sent me to Dubai just so that I could get separated from my friend circle. I almost stayed for 6 months over there torn away from my friends, family and from myself. I also had to discontinue my academics too. Then one day I finally decided to take a stand for myself and return back to India. I took refuge in my relative’s home. Meeting again the people from my community and my friends felt like I was now a bird once again set free. As long as I was with them these 6 months of being caged didn’t matter anymore. Having passed this ‘test’ I felt more confident about my sexuality.
Today I am an active member of Lucknow queer committee and whenever I get a platform to convey my feelings, I speak my heart out because it is the time when I get to show the world what I have been through and how I have grown over it rather than listening to all the world had to say about me that needs to be changed. It is the blessed time when I get to open up all those feelings and experiences that have been bottled up for all these years. Sometimes people would accuse me that I did all this to seek attention. To them I say that I did it for myself. I did it because I cannot live a closeted life in fear of being uncovered. I did it for people out there who might have faced or might be facing what I have faced and how I grew up to be immune to that gibberish and set my true priorities. I want to reach out to all of them and tell them that they shouldn’t spend their life thinking they are a shame, not even a slightest bit.
After Coming Out to some, people tried to pull me down and criticized my decision. They told me my life would be ruined in the society and all that shit. However I thought that they deserved to know the real me because they had and have that important place in my life. Though I just don’t understand why our orthodox neighbors and relatives are so much concerned about personal things like these and they spread the word like wild fire. Things started getting into a MAELSTROM, all my fears like losing the people closest to me, not independent enough to earn my living were becoming true. Exactly the opposite had happened. Because I could not come out to people before the orthodox society did my orientation was kept above whatever else I had achieved in my life and people failed to understand the real me.
Today when I look in the mirror, I don’t see a person who has been living a life of secrecy. I see the real me, I see someone who was drowned neck deep in shit but managed to pull himself out with his determination, love and support from friends and family. There are little pieces of shit which get stuck onto me here and there but I do what everyone else does wipe it off without thinking much about it. The best thing one can be is being true to themselves. Till you don’t do that forget changing anything else majority. * CHANGE STARTS FROM WITHIN* self-acceptance is very important because if you hide your real you it will develop into something very dark. Something which can later whip itself out and destroy you from within. Cutting yourself with blade or indulging in substance abuse are not the only form of self-harm. JUST BE STRONG!! BE TRUE TO YOURSELF!! Till you don’t do that forget changing the whole world!
Everyone is special in his own way. Some of you embraced your true self being and are vocal about it to world. I still remember my coming out in my college, a friend asked me, you never told you are from third gender? WELL this is not to offend anyone but the awareness on LGBTQ+ people is so less in INDIA that anyone might get confused with the LGBTQ+ community. Just don’t lose your temper it’s not their fault take deep breath and do collect more information for them for the next time.
For them who think IT’S JUST A PHASE? well it is human psychology that whenever you breaks some bad news to a person the initial reaction will be “denial” well just if some of you don’t know WHO( world health org) has removed the homosexuality as an illness almost 30 years ago.
One of the most asked Question, “How will you face the society” for them I would say THANKS FOR CONCERN!! I know what I have faced so far, I know how I was ridiculed and mocked in school for being effeminate. It doesn’t matter to anyone anymore
I would also like to add about my reconciliation of my faith with my religion too? I am very clear on my religion…
I believe in Allah and I also believe that only Allah has a right to judge me.
Homosexuality is sin in Islam but there are other things too. People feel that being GAY is being an atheist, they might not follow their practices and gain accomplishment in their duties.… But it’s not like that what I believe because of this homophobic attitude like this that because suffering to innocent gay people. It is anti-Islamic but it will also lead to such injustice to those people who wish to pray and perform their daily rituals give charity and feed poor but cannot physically bring themselves to be with opposite sex. No doubt religion is a big part of my life.
If I see now, well I do talk to my family… I continued to actively participate in all queer events be it queer prides, queer flash mobs or queer film fests. All of these events were covered by the media and my photos were prominently featured in dailies and on various websites. My family still hasn’t warmed up to the fact that I am gay and continues to remain distant about my sexuality. But I am okay with that- I want to give them some more time to come to terms with my sexual orientation. There is hush hush around my sexuality. Luckily my siblings are very supportive. They have met with my friends and are quite comfortable with them my parents not talking about it which is understandable. I want to give them some more time. And I am sure that there will come a day when they will accept me for who I am. Time heals everything and I am a great believer of that. “And I am sure that there will be a day when they will say – We still love you for who you ARE…
Namaste ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and people of all ages and genders! Venkatesh here, LGBTQ activist from the City of Joy Kolkata.
Since the age of 17, questions about attraction towards the same gender started playing in my mind. Is it wrong? Is it just a phase? Why am I getting attracted to guys and not girls? All of this kept revolving in my mind.
Back then, I was not aware of the term “homosexuality”. But at that age, internet access was very new to me, and I started utilizing it and browsing up on more regarding these questions. After several days of browsing, I realized my attraction towards the same gender was nothing abnormal. It’s very natural but many people just think it’s abnormal. I slowly started meeting guys from social networking sites who had the same feelings as I do. But a year later, things got a little complicated when my mother asked me “Don’t you have a girlfriend?”
My mother is my best friend, she always has been. I share everything with her. But this was something different. I asked her why she asking about a girlfriend. She replied,” You always mention the names of boys when you go out, and I have never heard a single girl’s name. Are you gay?”
I was terrified that if I had told her about my orientation, she would react badly. I tried to change the topic. I was not sure if I was gay or bisexual, back then. I needed time too before I could come out to her. My mother used to ask me this same question once in a month or two. And when I was 20 years old, and pretty sure about my orientation, the day she asked me again, I replied “Yes, I am gay.”
It was pin drop silence then. I thought the silence would lead to a major explosion. Then, after couple of minutes, my Mom said, “I knew about you but I just wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth.” That day I felt I was on the top of the world. A few days later, I asked her if Dad knew about my orientation. She did not reply immediately, but later she said she had discussed it with him. Dad is a very calm and reserved person. He rarely converses. He follows the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. Even though he doesn’t say it, he is aware of everything.
At the age of 21, I first attended a public LGBTQ Event called “Queer Hugs” in Kolkata organized by the online group Harmless Hugs, and it was a turning point in my life. There, I met many individuals who became good friends later on and are still in my life. After that, I began attending all the LGBTQ events in the city. My mother too walks in Prides too, she’s done a total of three, as well as marching on March 31, International Transgender Visibility Day. She has been honored and felicitated for the tremendous support by the Association for Transgender/Hijra in Bengal on April 15th, 2018.
During my journey, I slowly started moving towards activism. Till date, I am not associated with any organization, because I work for the community as an individual—an independent LGBTQ Activist.
I believe the first torture of queer people begins at our own homes. When you have such a supportive family especially mother, you are really blessed. It has been an amazing journey till date travelling across India for so many Prides, and meeting such beautiful souls on the way. None of this would have been possible without having such positive people around me, and most importantly the blessings and support of parents who accept me the way I am.
Teenage kids generally have a hard time coming out to their parents. I came out to my teenage kids. I had come out to my parents almost 20 years earlier. My coming out story is a bit tortuous, not unlike those of many gay men of my generation.
Born in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu at the very end of the flower power 60s, I had my sexual awakening in the early 80s as a teen. I was in an all-boys school and my first sexual experience was a blow job at my home from a classmate who clearly knew what he was doing. Initially I wrote it off as just serving my sexual needs with what I could get. But then we kept meeting at each other’s homes when our parents were out. We would sit so close next to each other in class on those old fashioned benches so that as much of our bodies could touch each other. We even began to share items of clothing.
Don Johnson of ‘Miami Vice’ fame has the dubious honor of witnessing my first hand job orgasm from the cover of a magazine. It was the time when the world first started speaking of AIDS. I remember reading an article in Newsweek about the “gay epidemic” and being extremely worried if I was going to get it. Daytime fantasy was drawing pictures of naked muscle guys making out, while my dream was to marry a woman and have kids. Even then, I never thought of myself as a homosexual. But there was something bothering me in the back of my head.
So when I got the opportunity, I switched to a co-ed school after my 10th grade. I never talked to my parents about changing schools, I just announced it to them, when I got admitted. My dad was convinced I had moved schools for a girl. I was popular in high school both with the guys and the girls and I flirted with several of them. I was a topper in academics but that didn’t stop me from flirting with the younger lady teachers either. I was always obsessed with the male body, especially a muscled one. I was convinced that the male body is the most beautiful thing on earth, perhaps I still am. I would read everything about bodybuilding that I could lay my hands on. But in those days there were no proper gyms to go to. So I convinced my parents to buy me one of those pneumatic “Bull workers” and I trained in my bedroom.
Undergraduate Engineering College, PSG Tech in Coimbatore was when I started having proper girlfriends. These relationships filled my heart, but something still felt not quite right. One afternoon stands with guys continued. I’ve always been a romantic and sometimes I would fall madly in puppy love with some of them. One time, when I as in my final year of college, an hour of flirting lead to making love to a classmate of mine in his dorm room. He seemed completely into me and he spoke that evening about how we had lost all this time and how we could both have girlfriends as fronts, while we would be lovers. But the next morning at college he pretended that the previous night didn’t happen. This was the time I started to seriously question my sexuality but I still wasn’t sure. Isn’t a gay guy supposed to be effeminate and talk and walk funny? How could a masculine guy like me, be gay? And probably for that reason, my sexuality didn’t worry me. “Moi? I couldn’t be gay”.
Going to the US for Graduate school in 1991, clarified things. Philadelphia was reasonably gay friendly even then and the University of Pennsylvania which I went to had a very liberal air about it. It was still the pre internet days but gay erotica and movies which didn’t exist In India shaped my imagination and struck a chord. Even in those pre Grindr days, hook ups like in gym toilets weren’t hard to come by and with them I realized more and more that I definitely preferred guys to girls. After a year, I finally found the balls to attend an LGBT club meet in my university (thinking back I wonder what took me so long) which lead me to my first gay bar experience. I woke up in someone else’s bed the next morning. Suddenly I had a circle of supportive gay friends, an adopted family who accepted my gay side. Gay bar visits became twice a week. I felt liberated.
And then I met my first boyfriend. He went to Law School and was the all American guy. I like men on the shorter side; I prefer their proportions. He was intelligent, articulate, funny and kind. It was love at first sight. We both lost the group of friends we came with and ended up at his home, which I never left for the next 9 months. He introduced me to his friends the next morning and I was immediately assimilated in. His parents lived in New England and they seemed to accept our relationship.
That’s when I decided to come out to my family. I started with my oldest brother, older by 9 years, but he just did not want to discuss it any further with me. When I visited India next, I told my mom and dad. They were obviously very surprised and totally ignorant of my “condition”, not knowing if it was just a phase or a permanent abnormality. But things never became dramatic like being asked to get out of the house. The only comment that is still etched into my skull was from my dad “You are going to be just passed on from man to man”. That disgusted me. I wasn’t the kind of guy who would be ‘passed on’. But I figured this is how most of the world would view a gay man – helpless, weak, and unmanly. None of which I could ever be, because nature had designed me to be confident, proud and even aggressive at times. At the end of that visit, when my parents came to see me off at the airport, my dad broke down. He truly believed it was probably the last time he would see me. He said he had one request: Not to live with my boyfriend in the same apartment. I couldn’t say no to him, seeing him in the state he was.
When I went back to Philadelphia, I told my boyfriend I was moving out. He was understandably very upset. He told me he had been warned about this by his Asian girlfriend – that for an Asian, the family can be very influential and be a deciding factor in determining an individual’s course of action. He was doubtful about the future of our“ relationship and wanted to break up. I was angry at being judged and I didn’t do much to reconcile the relationship. It was a pity and I’ve always felt bad about walking out on him, especially given all that he’d done for me.
Being alone, I had time to think about things. I asked myself if I was going to be happy as an openly gay man. I wanted a “normal” life – get married (to a guy would be preferable), have kids, be a successful entrepreneur, go out in nature that I loved and ride my motorcycle. There were no successful gay role models in the early 90s, even in the western world. No Tim Cook, no Ricky Martin, no Gareth Thomas. Same sex marriage was almost unthinkable those days, even in the US. I didn’t want to be a loser; I didn’t want to sacrifice my dreams just because of my sexuality. It didn’t seem worth it. I had no neutral person to advise me. So I decided to renounce that part of me and get married to a woman. A beautiful woman who I had known since Kindergarten.
While my now ex-wife and I had been friends for a long time, marriage never occurred to us until her parents suggested it. It took a little time for me to see it possible to think of her as a partner rather than as a friend. When I did decide to get married to her, I wanted it for life. I am a monogamous guy by nature and I like to put everything into the relationship with my partner. And that’s how our married life started in the US. We were best of friends and lovers. We couldn’t be separated. We did everything together for 15 years. Life was a dream. We moved back to India. Two beautiful and intelligent kids followed. A beautiful home. We were the perfect couple in the eyes of society. I couldn’t imagine a life without her. I had no extra marital affairs, no one fighters. I was a doting and faithful husband. It’s not that I never longed to make love to a man. I dreamed of licking that portion of a guy’s neck that is just below his buzzed hairline, my favorite part of a man’s body or get a beard burn from kissing him. I would speak about it to my ex but it was all fun and games and she took it very sportingly. I was honest with her always. She knew about my past pretty much from day one. I kept my mind busy with my work and my hobbies. My mountaineering and skiing sojourns. My marathons around the world. The Ironman. Life went from one goal (business and personal) to another. We both couldn’t have been happier.
Things suddenly changed in my late 30s. I was in Singapore in a mall. I saw this younger guy come down an escalator. He must have seen me looking at him. He caught up with me and told me he was a tourist and asked me if I could help him find a pharmacy. I knew this was a ruse. My gay street smartness may have been a little rusty, but I know a male to male call when I see one. And he was a handsome Latino. I have something for Latinos since my Philadelphia days. Their passion is juicy and free flowing. They know how to arouse me with just the way they touch me even if it was with the tip of their little finger. It’s like I can speak to them with my eyes and skin, even if I didn’t know a word of their language. I invited him for a drink leading to a night together that made me feel like a new person. He had his flight the next day and we never saw each other again.
I am an outspokenly honest guy, and I told my ex (wife at that time) about the incident. Things between her and me went south from there. Not because I told her, but because the incident changed something in me. She could sense it in my physical relationship with her and this put stress on me in bed, throwing our relationship into a fast deteriorating cycle. After a couple of years, we asked ourselves if we were happy going about our lives like this. We had many years in front of us. We took time over coming to a decision and the decision was to go our own ways. To be honest, I never imagined a life outside of my marriage with her, even if I has sexual cravings outside of it. Neither did I intend on having affairs. Love goes beyond sex. What if I were married to a guy and all of a sudden he couldn’t have sex for some reason. Would I leave him for that? No, I wouldn’t. Would I have a sexual relationship with a third person? No, I wouldn’t. This is just how I’m wired. In other words, I wouldn’t have broken my marriage unilaterally. But when we both felt this was the way out, the path ahead was clear.
When we decided that our life from now was not meant to be together, we also set ourselves free to find other people. I met my partner and now fiance on a rainy November day in Madrid. And he being Latin, our eyes and skin spoke to each other from the first minute. We were very intensely physically attracted to each other and we spent a weekend of passion. Even though we both knew my flight was at the crack of dawn on Monday, we hoped that there would be more to us, than just a weekend of sex. I changed my travel plans and came back to see him. And that’s when the romance started. We found we wanted the same things in life, while at the same time our interests lay in different areas. He is an architect by qualification and very passionate and knowledgeable about music, literature and fashion, so much so that I feel like a country bumpkin when he starts talking about these subjects. In these five years we’ve never gotten bored of each other. I love to grow and evolve with time and see my partner do the same. And if the two people can accept and adopt to these changes as they continue to create memories together, it makes for an unbreakable partnership.
My ex-wife and I both felt that the only persons we needed to consider in our process of separation and be sensitive to were our kids. Definitely not society and not so much even our parents and siblings. We planned the timing of when best to tell our kids, making sure it didn’t affect their school lives. And so I came out to my kids in the presence of my then wife. The message literally was “I’m gay. Your mum and I are going to get divorced. And I have a boyfriend” . That’s like 3 bolts striking you out of the blue. And there’s no way to pad it. I just paused between each bolt, stupidly hoping a few seconds in-between could help. But the kids seemed to take it amazingly well. Luckily they were old enough and by then independent enough, having been in boarding school. It might not have affected their day to day life, as they lived in different countries but naturally one’s parents breaking up is definitely not a nice thing to happen to anyone. The only solace comes from the fact that it could be worse if the parents continued to live together and fight with each other every day, making home life a living hell. It’s not about if they will not be scarred either way, it’s about which wound is less deep. My daughter said she wanted to meet my boyfriend. My son asked me questions about him. And they both met him shortly after. I feel so blessed to have kids like them for accepting me unconditionally. It’s incredible, this new generation. I find myself learning values from my kids.
Next came our parents. My ex decided to tell her parents by herself and I met them a few days later. It was a huge jolt for them but they dealt with it a civilized way with no drama. There were no desperate attempts to try and keep us together like some parents would have. They seemed to know that it would be futile. But I could sense a need in them to ‘avenge’ their daughter. While things went fine with my ex at the time we planned our separation and divorce, I guess the gravity of what happened took a while to hit her. It turned out to be more painful and emotional than we thought it would.
I stopped being close to my parents from the time I came out to them in my early 20s. I didn’t keep them informed about everything. Just that we were separated. I only told them I was getting divorced on the day we filed for it. My first reaction from my mum was “I hope you are not going to marry your boyfriend”. In the meantime, I had moved to Bangalore where I started my new Business, ZAGO an Urban Lifestyle Beverages Company and set up home with my boyfriend who would spend a couple of months with me at a time, living between Bangalore and Madrid. After a few months my mother called me in Bangalore and said she felt bad about losing me and that as my mother her love for me is unconditional. She said “I love you and therefore I love your boyfriend too”. She met with him and they hit it off. She told him, “You know what. I like you. And I think you can take care of my difficult son”. Ever since she’s been in touch with him. My 90 year old dad needed his own time. In the beginning it was “Why would I want to meet someone who destroyed our family”. And then it was “Sorry I was too harsh in my choice of words”. And finally it was “You know I really like how you’ve gone about things and I respect you for that”. My dad and I never hug. But I hugged him that day. And he hugged me back tighter.
One of my brothers on the other hand has been totally unaccepting “Well I know you are gay and stuff, but do you need to live with a guy” to “You are ruining your children’s lives”. My other brother seems a little more accepting and has visited me and my boyfriend’s home a few times. I have to say my coming out has had my family, my parents and my siblings taking a lot of shit from society. People would make caustic remarks. They stopped calling them. Stopped sending them New Year greetings that they had done for years. They lost a lot of ‘friends’ too. But they never took it out on me and I truly respect and admire them for that.
My boyfriend was born in Cuba. Most of his family moved to Miami. He decided he preferred Spain and moved there when he was in his early 20s. I was the first boyfriend he introduced to his parents. And today his whole family including his sisters, their husbands, the grand kids and the great grand kids (his sisters are much older to him!) accept the Indian as one of them in their very Cuban family.
Once I came out to my family, I only chose to tell a very few close friends of mine. I wanted it to just trickle down to the others in a gradual process through word of mouth and through my social media posts. Some of them couldn’t catch the not so subtle posts. One of them even asked me “So who is this guy who is there in so many of your posts as if he were your spouse!” But with my friends, it’s been overall positive. They are all mostly in their 40s and 30s. My school friends, my college mates, my Motorcycle buddies many of them have been accepting and several of them have told me how much they admire what I’ve done. I have more ‘true’ friends now than before, people who I know will be there for me through thick and thin. These new friendships or the old ones that have been rejuvenated since my coming out more than make up for all ‘fake’ ones that I lost. And I’m out at work too. It does help that it’s my own Company! The only people I feel let down by is the Coimbatore society most of whom to this day treat me like a social pariah.
I come from a privileged position in society with a certain economic independence. I feel thankful for my position as well as for the countless people who have fought for LGBT rights that allow me to lead the openly gay life I lead now. I want to give back in some way and this is an ongoing exercise. I used social media as a PR and communication tool. Firstly to come out to friends and acquaintances in a more efficient way and not to put them in an embarrassing position, not knowing how to react when I announce to them, my sexuality. Secondly, to show them how gay people lead their lives and that they share the same challenges and joys like straight people. Thirdly to give other closeted gay people hope that there are viable options to living depressed or committing suicide. And lastly to communicate to the people back in Coimbatore that I did not ‘run away’ from their town and that I am a proud openly gay man, living life on my terms.Even if my posts help one person’s life, I would be satisfied.
As I write this, the Indian Supreme Court has ruled for decriminalizing “unnatural “sex in the IPC 377. I went about the whole day of 6th of September, 2018 with a lump in my throat. Like any life changing event, today’s Supreme Court verdict takes time to sink in. After years of being the subject of ignorance and ridicule, it’s gratifying to be not just given dignity but also compassion for what LGBT people in this country have gone through. When you have suffered long, you become numb but when a loving hand comforts you, you just breakdown. The Supreme Court has not just been a Bearer of Justice. It has been my mother, father, sibling and friend all rolled into one, by not just accepting me but even understanding my pain. The day my country accepted me (at least legally) was every bit as emotional as the day my mother accepted who I am.
One could wonder what this ruling does for the Urban Queer in India who has been going about her love life fairly unhindered. I think the legality that the Supreme Court’s ruling gives to the community also validates that we are not a bunch of perverted freaks with a mental disorder and the we deserve the same rights as other citizens. The ruling sends a strong message to people like my brother who think it’s wrong for me to live with a guy, to my “friends” from Coimbatore and those of my parents’ who turned their backs on us, to Bollywood, to school bullies, to work colleagues, to the rural masses and even to our political parties. It has planted the seed of change in their heads that we hope will eventually reach their hearts as well. It has signaled that they need to update their “values”. I can now kiss my man at the airport and tell business colleagues what I did with him over the weekend (minus the naughty bits). And such “normalization” of our lives will hopefully help the society at large to understand us better.
The most important words that have influenced my life were those of my daughter’s Head Master at her High School Graduation. They have helped shape my life since. He said
“In life you will face situations occasionally where you have to choose between two paths. One will appear to be the easy path to follow and the other will seem to be the right path to take. Always choose the right path because that’s eventually going to be the path to happiness.”
When I had an opportunity to choose which path to take in my early 20s, I took the easy path. But when I was given the opportunity again later in life, I decided to take the right path. I could have taken the easy path again and still been a sexually promiscuous and closeted ‘straight’ husband but I chose to take the right path and come out.
My life though has been turned upside down, since. It’s been harder, lacking the comforts and security I was used to, but I don’t miss them anymore. The sacrifices have been more than worth it. Many times I felt all alone on this transformational journey that’s almost taken a decade. Until a couple of years ago, things were often times very dark and depressing. There was no one I could talk too. My boyfriend who had spent most of his adult life in Spain was having his own issues dealing with India and its unique culture, for the time that he spent in the sub-continent. The geographic distance that was there between us at the other times was a test of the strength of our relationship. Depression and suicidal tendencies are common among gay people until they get comfortable about themselves and have a support group of friends and family around them. There have been several occasions when I felt that I was done with the world and perhaps even that the world would be a better place for my family without me. I did my research and figured out the best way to go. But I had a passionate dream of how I wanted to forge my new life and I wasn’t going to give up the struggle for this dream so easily. I took one day at a time, purged the negativity from my system and just focused on my dream. My boyfriend and I stood for each other through thick and thin throughout the whole process of transforming our lives. He accepted the baggage I came with. I couldn’t have made it without him. And I knew I was taking the right path, however hard it seemed.
Today, I can sleep well with a clean conscience, holding my man. There is no better luxury in life than a good night’s sleep.
Having just returned from a few days in Auroville, the Matrimandir has become to me a symbol of my coming out, emerging from the earth as it were to shine my light in all its brilliance as authentically and sincerely as humanly possible. My story of coming out as a gay man, the first I reckon in my entire community of neighbourhood, church, school, university and social network of my birth and upbringing, is an on-going challenging and exciting journey of self discovery and discovery of what all my relationships are really made of. I have experienced how being open and proud of my truth has repercussions not just for me but also for all who know me, especially my family. It’s a coming out for all of us not just me!
My first realisations of being gay were very early on in life, well it was not so much being gay but being effeminate. By the age of 7, I was aware that I was different to other boys, I didn’t like the rough and tumble of the playground, I preferred the company of girls and also older women, being creative, participating in domestic things that are typically socially associated with the feminine, into intellectual and spiritual debate. I used to love dressing up in my mum’s saris when no one was home! For being effeminate and sensitive I was teased and bullied, verbally sometimes physically, both by boys and girls and adults alike! The taunting was not just in the school field, but also in church, the neighbourhood and sometimes even at home.“You should’ve been born a girl” was often shouted out, like as though that was a bad thing. I grew up with the very clear notion that it was unsafe and unacceptable to be truly me.
To be loved I had to be what everyone else wanted me to be, my mother included.
So guess what, I did my best to be ‘the good boy’ everyone adored and loved and did that very well indeed right into my twenties, becoming the ‘blue eyed boy’ and shouldered the aspirations of an entire community. I now realise being the good boy is not a unique phenomenon, Dr Alan Downs in his best seller, “The Velvet Rage” talks of it as ‘the good boy trap’ where a lot of gay boys fall into the trap of becoming high achievers, excelling in multiple fields, mostly to compensate for that very deep inner fear of feeling less than our straight counterparts and indeed the shame involved with being gay. The messages that I grew up with was that being gay was sinful, disgusting, dirty, unacceptable, against nature, God and society and that I was going to hell, apart from a host of other negative messages. No one is born with shame. Shame is a learnt emotion. A powerful emotion.
The realisation that I liked boys and not girls happened much later as I was a late developer. The paisa truly dropped when I was about 16 nearing 17, when I realised there was no other way, this is who I am, its intrinsic to me, I’m not wilfully choosing to be attracted to boys, I’ve never been attracted to girls so it wasn’t that I was giving up my attraction for them in preference for boys either. These realisations were very private, I didn’t feel like I could trust anyone with this. There were no teachers, elders or guides I felt I could go to, to talk about this. Using my own initiative I went to a psychiatrist who I found in the newspapers who said that he could perhaps help me become bisexual, and even at that young age I knew he was a quack. There were no affirming messages anywhere to be found. There was no loving arm to hold me. There was no reassurance from anywhere. So I went deeper into the trap of being the good boy and went into the Church to train as a pastor, hoping religion and faith would cure me! Fasting and prayer only made matters worse. The isolation and confusion worsened and there was no one I felt who would understand or support me in this struggle.
Quite by chance while in seminary, a senior told me that his organisation was going over the weekend to a certain park to ‘evangelise’ gay men who met there. Everything changed from that moment on for me. What? Who? When? Where? The fact that there were other people like me? And there is a place where I could go and meet them? I can’t tell you how fast my heart beat! The excitement overwhelming!
Off I went the following week sometime in March 1997 and sure enough for the first time ever, met other men, even to just hold their hand and look in their eyes was like heaven. Soon I came to attend Good As You an organisation set up then for support and advocacy for the queer community which became a weekly support for me on Thursdays. I would sneak out of seminary and drive a 60km round trip just for this support and I’m glad it is still there today doing some amazing work in providing support for those coming out, I was one of their first voluntary counsellors on the telephone switchboard service they started way back then.
I hadn’t yet come out. Being the good boy however had its uses and I was sent off to Cambridge, UK in 1998 to do an internship by the seminary I trained in and was faculty-designate. While in Cambridge, I had the opportunity to talk to the greatest minds and scholars of Christianity both from the conservative and liberal schools of thought to make my own mind up about what the Bible had to say about being gay. As for me I had to find a way of reconciliation between my faith and my sexuality to be able to accept myself and come out. When I realised in a very profound way that the Bible does not condemn me for who I am, and that Jesus himself had much love and compassion for those who were not straight (Matthew 19:11,12) for Jesus was very much on the side of the marginalised of society, the fringe, the condemned. So I was able to come out to myself helped very much by a dear friend of mine who is now the Chaplain of the LSE and Prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. After much research again pretty much in hiding with little support as I was afraid I would be sent back home to India and disgraced if it came out into the open and was afraid of what impact it would have on my family.
The first person I came out to was my one and only older sibling, as I thought I would get a sympathetic ear. I was so wrong. I was in tears. I spoke to her over the phone while I was in Cambridge, only to be told that I was making a choice and that my choice was wrong, against God’s will and that I should never tell my parents as it would kill them and that she would never support this. That view hasn’t changed to this day. It tore me apart. I was unacceptable. For which I was often told, “You are always loved and accepted, its just THAT part of you which is unacceptable!” Is it a part of me or is sexuality a fundamental part of one’s psychological, sociological and sexual framework, of how one views and understands and lives out one’s place in the world? I had to know and understand. So I studied hard and became a psychotherapist and worked in the gay community providing individual and group therapy for the past 15 years. The Church was no longer an option for me as an out and proud gay man. I parted ways with the seminary which still today remains a sore wound it seems. The blue eyed boy had become the disappointment of an entire community, and a cause for gossip from school teachers to shop keepers. People who really didn’t know me much condemned me as a person of bad character! How being gay equated to bad character I would never know. In the Indian context one doesn’t have to explain the impact of such a “fall from grace” on friends and family.
So it was easier for me and them to be as far away from it all as possible. London became home to me for the next 17 years, where I was free to be me, explore who I was, make my mistakes, achieve my goals, have my relationships and break ups. There was not even one person in my network there who didn’t love me fully and wholeheartedly for being gay!
So the next stage was to tell my parents. I had kept saying no to the many proposals of marriage that were coming my way. While in Bangalore I too tried hard to conform and tried to have a girlfriend, and got it so wrong! Finally there was a marriage proposal in 2002 which came along that in the community seemed perfect in all respects! It had to be right, right?! I was in London and these conversations were happening in Bangalore! I was coming for the Easter vacations on holiday – great perfect time to be organising a wedding right? Wrong! I was dying inside! How was I going to say no to this proposal that from all angles and perspectives seemed right? Right except for one thing! That one thing! Suddenly that one thing became everything!
It was Maundy Thursday a special day in my calendar as on that day I was miraculously saved from death as a 3 year old child who had fallen off the roof of his house into a granite stone gutter, this miracle commemorated every year, that God had saved me for a special purpose! I sat my folks down around the dining table, my sister knew what was coming. I told my folks that I couldn’t marry. I could marry this girl or any girl for that matter. There were no words, suddenly no vocabulary sufficient to put the point across effectively. The words “I am gay” felt empty and meaningless. So I said, I’m not attracted to women, I can’t make women happy etc it was excruciating! Tears everywhere. Mum and Dad suggesting medical treatment thinking I was impotent. Slowly over the next few days the penny dropped for them too to a certain degree. Suddenly the conflict between love and faith became real. Tested for the first time in such a fundamental way. I must say I’m lucky to have the family I have for it is their love that binds us all together even though their understanding of the Bible seems to prevent them from accepting me for who I am. I’ve tried fighting and arguing my case over the years. 17 years later I have returned back from London and to find that much of what I ran away from is still very present. There’s much work to be done. What I am in control of is me accepting them for who they are, and love them even though they may not accept me, yet. My father on the other hand has indeed worked very hard in understanding. He has listened to all the debates on TV when way back in the mid 2000s the Delhi High Court had ruled against section 377. He made a scrap book of all the newspaper articles on the subject, saying “son, all the arguments you give, they are also saying.” Bless him. He and I have since become friends. I know he understands. He shows it in his own way and that is enough for me.
In 2005 I met my partner. I had a wonderful long relationship with him a dear handsome Swedish man my first ever real relationship. After almost 4 years of being together we visited India together and met the whole family of course not explicitly. My parents came to London to stay with us twice. On the second visit we decided to have a civil union, my family were very opposed to it and would not approve even though they all loved my partner. We went ahead anyway, the family did not attend. We thought we’d give the family a year to think about it and so we had a big wedding in Stockholm a year later but sadly the family decided not to participate and I was told not to tell anyone about it either, so I had no representation from my Indian side at my wedding. Sadly when we separated a few years later, that process too was without much support for they did not know how to I reckon, and didn’t accept or validate that relationship fully in the first place.
Slowly over the years others in my family have come to understand and support albeit privately. Other childhood friends from school, college and even church community have shown support and acceptance which is truly wonderful. Things are changing for the better. When people realise that the Queer community is actually PRO-community in so many wonderful ways, and when we are allowed to freely be who we truly are as equals, society will see what an immense blessing we can be in our homes, communities and in the work place, we tend to bring a certain quality of joy, colour and life.
Yes it is lonely being the minority of one in such a vast sea of community. However, as in the words of Polonius to his son Laertes in Hamlet “Above all else to thine own self be true” this is worth all of the hardship. To live one’s own life, not the expected life of the community. To shine one’s own light, to know, love and live out one’s own truth. What value can you put on that?
To those still thinking of coming out, I would say as a friend once told me, “If it is truth you have to suffer for, then that suffering is worth more than anything else in the world.” I would say work on your love with your family, trust your love, love conquers all. Where there is love, there is victory. What my sister feared would happen, “don’t tell them, it will kill them,” is what I too believed and feared would happen, it never did. In fact, our relationship is more real that it ever was, its not easy or smooth sailing by any means but at least it is authentic. Where there is love there is no fear.
My first touch with homosexuality was when I was 12 years old, by a new student who just joined my class. His touch felt something different, sitting in the back bench of our class, the touch got engrossed every day. I was a child unware of the facts and fictions. I was a child who was bullied every single day for my name, for my postures, for who I am. I belong to a small city called Bhubaneswar, the so called Temple City.
I was born to a middle class Brahmin family in one of the holy place or dham according to Hindu mythology that is Puri where Lord Shri Jagannatha resides, the 10th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. I was admitted to a central government school, where students from all over the India with different religion, caste and race studied together. I was a care-free, cheerful and happy student all the time, regardless of what I was facing every day. I am Soumitri, rare and unique in my own way. But not to everyone, for the past 13 years I was bullied and eve teased for my name as its sounds like a female name. I was named swamistri ( Husband & wife ) , Chakka ( Transgender ) and the list goes on . I was effeminate and used to talk very politely so was again bullied. For a small child like me, it was just unbearable, I used to complain to my teachers, and to my surprise they said it was my fault and you know in India Teachers are God so, I thought ya it was mine, I tried hard, very hard to change myself because I was tired of crying and moaning every night for what I was going through. You must be thinking , why didn’t I complain to my parents , as I said I am a middle class student , so my parents main concern was to get me educated. And due to which I never got into any fights or raise voice because I have this constant fear that if my parents come to know about it, even though I won’t be guilty, but still I will be beaten up. Studying in a government school, I got to knew that how rapidly a rumor can spread and how easily the students start believing in that. After the summer vacation I was in 7th standard and there was this tall , lean , fair guy whom I was seeing for the 1st time in my class , for the 1st time I was dumbstruck seeing this guy . I remember the movie ” Tare Zameen Par ” and my school screened that movie for us in our school , I was sitting in the ground and to my surprise this new guy was also sitting at the back , I was completely into the movie when , I literally cried and he hugged me and said its ok and asked if I can join him to the washroom and I said a yes , we went and nobody was there and he suddenly kissed me , I was kissing a guy for the 1st time and started liking it more . Few days passed and I got to hear that I tried kissing him and the rumor spread like virus and it became my worst nightmare. Nature helped me a lot to get through all these, it gave me strength and power to stand still and face this bloody world. I soon passed my 10th, chose biology and my experiment with boys started with fake profile in Facebook, then PR and later on Grindr. 3 years passed and I came to Chennai for my UG studies, while I was in my 1st year, I used to stay in hostel and that too boys hostel. Later on I got to understand that am GAY , but still used to blame God and used to ask why me and used to cry a lot for that .
Then when after lot of studies and realization. It took me hell lot of time to accept myself as GAY, because I was left alone and scared to talk about it. It was the last few months left to complete when I came out to one of my classmate and he supported me, like for the 1st time I accepted myself in front of other and was smiling for what I am. Then in second year of my college I came out to my only roommate and again he accepted the way I am, he is straight and till now we share a single bed and he even helps me in dating, dressing up, flirting and lot more. Then that particular year I came to all my dearest friends and they all accepted the fact, I didn’t even loose a single one of them. Then I entered into third year of my college and thought that this year I will come out of my closet to my parents, but kind of scared so dropped the plan. But on November 12 , suddenly I came out to my parents with no preparation , no advance planning and they accepted me and advised me to focus on my career , soon I came out to whole world . I am the only openly, out and proud GAY in my college, some accepts me and some don’t. Though my relatives doesn’t know about it but then I think one day they will also understand because love is never wrong. And currently continuing my 3rd year and probably searching for my true partner.
It was 2012 when I had my first brush with the reality that someone can be “Gay”.
It was an ordinary weekend and my dear friend Ram finally agreed to meet over lunch. He can be quite difficult to get hold off over phone or otherwise so this meeting was a rare gift. During the course of conversation Ram told me about his sexual orientation.
And here was my reaction, on the inside –
2) But I kind of knew
3) Is he going to be fine? I hope he doesn’t get a lot of shit from people for this
4) Heck…what does this mean?
On the outside –
1) That is so courageous of you!
2) Good for you!
When I came back home that day and thought over it more, I was really awed by the amount of courage he had really shown in accepting himself and in coming out. So I dedicated the following post to him – http://ankit-rastogi.blogspot.in/2011/10/charge-of-light-brigade.html
All awesome up to the point, right? Well now starts the real story.
A couple of weeks later, I met Ram again for coffee. I do not know what we talked about but I know what I kept thinking – “what will other people think of me when they see us?”
You see, I wasn’t all that courageous.
Now I had up to this point always considered myself a very open minded person. But this meeting and what went through my mind challenged me to the very core. It disturbed me to the point that I thought about not meeting someone I had called a very dear friend and avoid him. It really wouldn’t have been that difficult given that you really need to make an appointment to meet him. You see my shallow thinking was at the verge of costing me my dear friend.
So I did what anyone would normally do in this situation. I decided I needed to know more about this new thing I’ve been introduced to. I remembered Ram mentioning some dating site, so i went ahead and joined it. And for two days I was bombarded with messages from other gay men. So, I did the next best thing and quit. This experience had me realize two things –
1) It didn’t matter
2) Our friendship was more important to me than my shallow thoughts and insecurities and hence I needed to get over them
Its 2018 and man I am glad I have Ram at my side. He has stood by me in every up and down in my life and I sure hope we continue to do so.
It really doesn’t matter, does it? Who you decide to love? It’s really difficult to find someone who you love and who can love you back, should we really begrudge someone that basic human right?
And really what does change about someone when they come out? Really nothing. What really does change is your assumption about them. They really just remain the same person they were before – just a little more courageous!
I’ll end it again with this blogpost, this time dedicated to all the people out there who have shown the courage to accept
Let me tell you a story, A story about a person. Meghana was born on 7th of May 1999. Happy and healthy,they weren’t prepared for the world ahead. At the age of 15, Meghana felt a very different set of emotions for a senior, a beautiful girl this senior was. Meghana then realised that something is different. This was not in the biology books, this was not something their parents spoke about. Now you see there are two parts of this story. Let me tell you my story.
My definition of attraction changed when I met her, she was beautiful and fabulous and I was always found speechless in her presence. Now this feeling I had, I was never exposed to. I took about 6 months to accept myself and then I did. Now accepting is only the beginning. I started to learn, I had an intimate relationship with learning and exploring. I explored my sexuality, learnt and understood that I’m not alone and I have my lovely community. The first person I confided in was my friend and she seemed okay but months later my messages took rounds and I was devastated as from my small town, I could only think of the humiliation I would face. I went to length and bounds to talk to the people and I was outed to complete strangers. That’s when depression hit, I didn’t know what to do with myself anymore.
A few months later I got my acceptance letter and flew away to a university in another country and I felt freedom, I learnt more about myself and I dated the first girl, I dated her and loved her, well that was my perception of love at the time. Time passed by! I came down to visit my family, so I flew back but I was still in love with my girl. I felt lovely when she was around and one day I got a call at a very odd hour telling me that my girlfriend, took her own life. I wanted to know why. It was cuz her parents didn’t accept her sexuality. All the confidence I had to come out to my parents? Gone. Just like the wind. After a month of just silence and anxiety. I sat my dad down, we decided to watch all the Narnia movies. I then turned to him and said, you see all the adventure, happiness and love that they get in the closet, I only wish they could bring it outside the closet. That was the first step.
You see I come from a very orthodox family who doesn’t really believe in love to begin with, but my parents were gems. I once wrote a mail down to my dad, “Good Evening Papa. I have to tell you something. I’ve been keeping it a secret for too long. I’m pansexual. I’m more attracted to girl and I’ve had a girlfriend in the past. Please don’t tell this to Amma, she’s not ready to hear this. Remember Narnia, I want to bring out the happiness and adventures outside the closet. I’m sorry, please accept me. I love you unconditionally.” My heart skipped a beat when I sent him this mail, I was scared. I sat on the floor crying, praying that he doesn’t ask me to pack my bags.
Now you see with my mom, she still doesn’t accept it but she doesn’t say anything against it. I sat her down and just said it, she walked away into the room. She cried and didn’t talk to me for days. She was disgusted when I smiled at her but now she has come to terms with it. She loves me unconditionally no matter what. Now let’s come to the part where I came out to everybody I knew, Instagram was the best way. I added the words pansexual to by bio and I put up a story, which was it. My direct messages were flooded and I got a lot of support initially but most of the other messages were just that the person was lost and he/she didn’t know what it means. Now in the meantime of all this I knew from the time I could understand the word he and she, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the facts that I had to be labelled. Now I was confused if I was genderfluid or didn’t like being specified into a gender. Then I realised that I got irritated the moment someone said she or he and then I realised, now this was hard explaining to my family but my cousins and everyone who loves me dearly respect my pronouns. Back to Instagram, I updated it as Agender pansexual, now I thought it would be support or just being lost but this was the first time I got a death threat in the mail, then multiple calls shaming me on the phone. I got followed, thrown stones at and I lost a lot of friends and family. I will in the future too. There will be people who don’t understand it but to every one of you I shall say only one thing. If you are opening up, do it with pride and confidence because believe me when I say everyone has their own tale of Narnia in that closet. Bring the adventure, emotions, love, hate, challenges, joy and happiness out into this world, we all need it.
Everyone deserves to be happy and comfortable with their own soul. Love yourself and let no one take it away from you. So pick up your crown, Be the mighty Aslan and take your life into your hands. Express the beauty inside you. In the end I can say only one thing, Love wins, whatever the factors may be one, love made us, love brings us together and can destroy the most evil forces. Love free, live free.
Hi, this is Tanishq Tokas
I think my story is different because I never came out the right way in front of my family. My whole family was aware of me since my childhood that my actions are somewhat different, like wearing saris, makeup etc., etc. Even while ignorant, I did not knew about my sexuality in childhood I only knew that I like female characters but in the childhood I was never attracted to anyone for sex. The new lesson was added in my life when one of my cousins got physical with me and from then I know the meaning of it. As I grew up, I came to know that I was only attracted to boys in school and this continued in my college and I define myself and put me into gay category. There were so many fluctuations in my life since childhood from the age of 7, I struggled too much to face the audience whether my classmates or relatives because when I usually talked to others they make fun of my voice and expressions whether I was in college in graduation, post-graduation or in school. Even I also attempted suicide once but I managed to save myself as I want to complete my dream , I want to chase my dreams as a educationist and a successful filmmaker. So I went to a psychologist because of the behavior of my mates as well as family members as when I was suffering from the teasing in my education life, on the other hand in home too I suffered from the same from my siblings even today also. But again now too I am managing myself.
I came out in front of my siblings but all rejected me and dismissed me like I am not the part of this world. But I decided to come out in front of everyone in Delhi. I know it was too much difficult for me as at that time my family doesn’t know me except my siblings as I know if I out now i.e. in 2016 than they can boycott me easily while at that time I was pursuing my film production course as well as masters. But I couldn’t live with the dual faces. So I decided to come out through a documentary film made on me i.e. “Tanishq: The Untold Story”.
It was most appreciated movie in Delhi International Theatre and Film Festival 2016, was emotional and fully based on my reality. On that day I came out in front of more than 2000 audiences and got relief from the dual life concept of my life. From the movie “Tanishq” I realized that if I have so much of problems in life because of my sexuality then there are so many of my community people that are also suffering from the same problem or if not they should have some great motivational message to the LGBTQ Society. Then I decided with my close friend Raghuveer Sandhu to open a show name “Miss Woomaniya” LGBTQIA Interview Series which is totally based on the stories or the life of people and today also more than one lac people are appreciating this show from India and some from world.
Today this show covered 6 episodes including Homosexuality, Asexuality, The Exploration of Trans, Aspects of Gay marriage, Come out as Gay and Queer Charcha. In the next coming episode 7 we are focusing on the Effeminate and the Sissy one. Really it’s all possible because of the end of my dual life.
If I am talking about my today situations all are going well my life, my movie work and all Woomaniya work too. In fact in December Miss Woomaniya is the official partner of DIQTFF 2017 and I and my team are coming with a positive documentary movie name “Inaayat”. But on the other hand my sexuality is now a problem in my family today also because of their conservative thinking’s and all but today I am managing myself and continuing my work with and for my community because I and my god knows that I am not wrong just believe and move in your life.
I hope & dream India gets a transgender Prime Minister.
On this Transgender Day of Remembrance sharing my dream of an India where we can imagine to have a transperson as the head of the country.
My Radio interview with RJ Shilok at Radio Active 90.4 Mhz where I share my coming out story, the genesis of 101ComingOutStories.com, how organizations can be inclusive and how as a society we can do better.
I am the second and youngest child to my loving parents, raised in a Malayali Catholic family in Northern India. I was a shy kid and my memories go back to my childhood days when I was 7 perhaps. My parents found their joy in me and they didn’t leave any stones unturned to bring me up soothingly. My sister was always protective of me and we grew playing our own invented games. Christmases and Easters were largely celebrated, and we shared other festivals as our own. We truly lived and cherished unity in a diverse lifestyle and culture. The biggest predictors of my family’s happiness wasn’t linked to money or luxury, instead it was our faith in each other, lessons on compassion and selfless commitment to human kind. To the outside observer, I was living the most contented life. I grew up with a sense of belonging and a feeling of something larger, yet there was something missing within me. This missing portion was nothing materialistic, rather it was an intimidating and scary feeling of being different from other boys. I was emotionally inclined towards boys and the feeling was not subtle. Yes, that’s right- I was “different” and I sensed it at a very tiny age.
I am guessing that my differences were evident. Thereby started series of bullying, discrimination and rejections. I was differentiated not just by my friends but sometimes their parents and mostly by adults. I was too little to term these feelings, but it made me unhappy. I remember, the small prayers that my mother taught me. I added mine into it and asked God a lot of innocent but tough questions. I prayed to help me become like other boys. There were many nights spent with bad dreams and dry tears when I wake up. Since I didn’t have a friend to share my feelings with, I bottled my thoughts and abhorred myself.
It is said that a child’s good or bad fortune starts from home. For me, it was a bad fortune. It was just after my 8th birthday and end of wintertime. My father was deputed for 15 days to another town by Indian Army, my mom was working her night shifts at the hospital and my sister was away on an outing. We called my cousin and his friend to come over for my well-being. They were 2nd year science students and respectable members in the family. My cousin was our role model and we adored him a lot. This dark night, during their stay at my home I was sexually molested by them. I didn’t know what they were exactly doing or why they were doing so, but I knew it was all wrong. I was shattered, my body was in pain that I had never known and my soul was filled with fear. I didn’t even know that I was raped, I was just eight years old to even articulate the incident. The breach of trust was awful. I couldn’t bear the experience beyond a point and ran to my sister’s room. I sat under her study table, still thinking, scared and shivering. I cried like a small baby, unknown of my next step. I locked the room and sat under the table that whole night. I was awake till the dawn next day. This incident shuddered my life-force, it further swelled my low esteem and it was hard to communicate with people. For days, I didn’t attend school and my sister was a close watcher. She saw me scared out of my wit. Her multiple attempts to get me talking about the incident made her realise that I didn’t know how to explain it. Finally she convinced me to write down my feelings on a piece of sheet and I found that was an easy way. It took me a while to write down my feelings, it was hard to explain in words. I wrote a long letter and gave it to my sister. I remember running out to our garden after handing the letter and waited for her. In about ten minutes she reached out to me in total shock. She didn’t know what to ask me, neither did I know what more to speak. She ran her fingers through my hair and pressed me closer to her. We both wept. My sister was even more hurt because our cousin was involved in the crime. In no time, she decided to confront my cousin. That evening, we both went to his home and she bravely probed him. He reluctantly agreed to the incident and my sister warned him. On our way back home, we didn’t speak a word but our thoughts were deep. My sister was still restless, and she decided to narrate the incident to our parents. We all went to the police station. Upon narrating the whole incident, the police officer said, “How can a male get raped? There is no such law and this is not a strong case- you will all run in circles and waste your money and energy”. They refused to even file a complaint. I believe this incident didn’t allow me to live my childhood, instead I emotionally and spiritually grew beyond my actual age. The questions pertaining to this incident still remains unanswered- “Why was I sexually abused and molested by my own relative at a tender age? “. Like any other vulnerable case, this one went under cover and we all chose not to speak about it. It was easy for us not to speak though, but has never been easy for me to forget that night till date. It is terrible that people don’t believe that even boys and men can get raped. I was and I am not alone in this world.
Moving on from my past and growing up, my sexual orientation became clearer to me.
On one side I was immensely getting attracted to other boys, other side I had conflicts between my Christian values and teachings that prohibits alternate sexuality. The mission to be more closer to God, led me to hate myself for being attracted to other boys.
Therefore I started behaving like other boys. In my early teens, I mixed up with other classmates and participated in all conversations that a regular teenager would do. I laughed and giggled on their jokes, spoke their language and adapted their lifestyle. But the harsh reality was that I was not happy pretending to be someone else. I knew in my bones that I am fitting into something that I am not made for. How much would I act, after all my classmates knew I wasn’t like them. They called me names, bullied, hit me on my head or back and even hid my school bag many times. I was never allowed to play games as none of them wanted me on their team. Mutely I used to sit near the music hall and watch them all playing football and cricket, while my legs swung. I don’t think there was a single grade that I didn’t face mistreatment. Each passing year I met a bunch of new boys who laughed at me and passed comments that I didn’t deserve. I gulped everything and paid less attention and it taught me to become more resilient and patient in life.
It was during recess one day- I saw a guy similar to my age and grade from another division, smiled at me from a distance. I smiled back. We crossed roads during later part of the day. He walked up to me and we spoke a bit. His name is Sanjay*. I realised in no time that Sanjay* is a person with mental disability. We became friends and for the first time in so many years, I found a friend. He had a huge smile on his face every time and held my hand when we ran through the corridor. But Sanjay’s* story was not different from mine. He hates school because of constant bullying faced due to his disability. A few stories that he narrated made me feel that I am listening to my own life episodes. We both were victims of different circumstances, yet so connected. It was our daily routine to share and quickly finish lunch and then play games for some time. One day as usual we both sat down at our regular spot to have lunch. It was different that day and both of us didn’t see it coming. A group of guys from our respective classes walk up to Sanjay* and ploughed their hands into his lunch box. Topping that, they laughed at him and ate his entire food. Sanjay* was ashamed and equally angry. With full strength he kicked one of the boys. Perhaps, this was the first time I saw another side of Sanjay*. This infuriated the gang and they started hitting on his head from all direction. Sanjay* couldn’t balance them all and ran in circles. The sight shook my soul and I ran into the mob to push them away from him. The boys in turn started hitting me and for the first time I got into a fist fight with them. I saw Sanjay* crying and this incident aggravated his ailment. He shouted and threw stones at the boys. I was still hitting a guy rolling on the ground while another guy from behind pulled my hair and swayed my head in the air. The scene turned out violent and the school admins were alerted. None of us were allowed to step back to our classrooms and Sanjay* was taken to the hospital. For the first time in my life, I was loud against mistreatment and injustice. I heard Sanjay’s* situation got worse because of the tremor and since then I never saw my friend. His parents enrolled him into another school. Today, I still wonder from where did I mustered the strength to fight the boys, why was I so furious towards discrimination? Had Sanjay not taken the first step to confront his tormenters, perhaps I wouldn’t have had recognized my inner strength that was hidden all these years. I am not trying to say that a physical fight displays the right manners of strength but it was definitely the first time in my life that I stood up against a wrong practise. I miss Sanjay but he taught me a grave lesson. There is no space for discrimination and no one should to be bullied. Everybody deserves respect and love- irrespective of built, disability, sexual choices, gender, background, caste, colour, ethnicity and creed.
During my college days I was still dealing with my inner conflicts around sexuality. While everybody were living their youth, I was busy learning more about sexualities and different forms of orientation in a human being. Between 19 and 23 years I read a lot of books- both mythology and science, met people from the various spaces of education dealing with sexuality, spoke to counsellors, parents and teachers. It was during this phase that I became knowledgeable about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transwoman, Transman, Intersex, Pansexual, Asexual and other dimensions of sexual identities. On my way I met many survivors who faced immense torture from society because of their sexual identities. I met folks who were disowned by their own families because they belonged to minority group of sexual identity or expression. Each story was unique.
I did a project on Transgender during my third year in graduation. I took up this project because of my growing inquisitiveness about the Trans world. I have only known them as a bunch of tough people who roam around public spaces asking money, sing songs during Indian weddings and pick fights. But I was curious to learn their history, lifestyle and the whole community in itself. The project duration was for three months. I visited them every week at different corners of the city where they lived. I must say this, by the end of three months I just had respect for them. They are ostracized by the main stream society and treated as untouchables. Then, they didn’t have rights to cast vote or have government identity cards. They couldn’t apply for any jobs and lived on mercy of others, begged on streets and earned perks via prostitution. They welcomed me to their small knitted community. I observed that’s a space where nobody would like to go and explore. There was something very startling that I noticed during my research. There were a few children in their homes, ageing 7 months to 13 years. I enquired about the children and they said,
“They are our children and we are parenting them”.
They explained further that these kids were abandoned by the biological parents for various reasons- some were born with visible/invisible disability, mixed gender, out of illegal relationships, while others were abandoned just because they were female babies while the biological parents desired sons. With the help of their network, the Trans gender persons adopted these kids and are bringing them up as their own. The sight moved me within. Two Sundays later, in the church, it was my turn to give the youth message. I couldn’t hold up my emotions and started my speech saying, “I have always been on lookout of Jesus in the churches. I never found him here. For the first time in 23 years of my church life, I found Jesus in the corners of the Trans community. I found peace, true love and service amongst this abandoned section of the society”. By end of my speech, I felt the heat in the church. It was a daring act to pick a subject that main line traditional Christians do not like to touch upon. Many didn’t like the fact that I researched on Trans lives. I got a call from the parish’s office and I knew what was coming my way. In my meeting with the priest, a kind person, I was asked a lot of tough questions around the youth speech I gave. I was able to answer all of that, and none of these answers were fabricated. In our conversation, I came out to the priest about my own sexuality and he seemed to be upset about it. Even before I reached home after the meeting, I got an e-mail from the church requesting to step down from the youth council as I could be a potential bad influence to others and that I need counselling for some time. I was very upset reading that e-mail. I thought church is a place where all are accepted, just like Jesus accepted all. In my reply e-mail to the church, I thanked them for the decision they made and mentioned,
“By removing me from this church, you have done a huge favour. You have distanced me from this church, but pushed me closer to humanity and God”.
The quench for acceptance from others became less relevant, it was rather more significant for me to accept myself at the first place. I agreed that there is nothing greater in life than to be honest to oneself and I will be leading a life full of fabrications, unless I accept myself. It was not the society that hated me, rather it was I who didn’t love myself. I remember sitting down one day, and took a sheet to write down my blessings. I wrote down everything- my talents, achievements, good occasions, happy moments, good decisions, people who mattered to me and luxuries. To my amazement, my list of blessings went from one sheet to another. This activity had a deep impression on my mind and I said to myself, “What am I unhappy for? What am I crying about? Why didn’t I count my blessings? Why did I focus so much over grief?” I accepted myself inside out, including my sexuality. I realised that nobody can understand my body other than me. This led me to come out proudly to my sister and slowly to my friends. Further I grasped that I don’t have to wear my sexuality on my sleeves. I don’t have to explain it to people anymore. How many heterosexuals walk and talk about their sexuality? No sane successful society is made up of only one kind of people. Societies are always open to diversities in religion, language, work, sexualities and ethnicity.
I realised in all its capacity that everybody is as normal as you and me.
I can’t accept others until I forgive all those people who harmed me in my growing years.
After 18 years, I wrote an e-mail to my cousin and his friend who raped me, forgiving them for what they did. I wrote another e-mail to a group of friends who bullied me in college. Life is a circle of deeds and which is why my old church called me early this year to do a talk on Transgenders and alternate sexualities. I accepted the offer and along with another group, panelled an awareness session. Additionally, I got a chance to volunteer for certain LGBT, gender, persons with disabilities and child abuse organizations in India.
Since then, my journey didn’t stop. My inspiration comes from lives of many people who were torn apart by the prejudiced main stream societies, yet they stood up and fought their own battle. Each of us have our own battles to fight. In this judgemental world, we can’t keep all happy. But what we can do is perhaps be true to ourselves and be tolerant to others. It’s always kind to appreciate others and accept them irrespective of their background. We need to be cognizant about the truth that there are people with alternate sexualities all around us- workplace and homes. Some are visible and many are invisible living discreet lives due to fear of discrimination. Do not think it’s a mental disorder or deliberate choices. Homosexuality or any other alternate sexuality is just another form of sexual orientation as Heterosexuality. Medical Science, ancient religion and new age studies have all approved of it. Your children, siblings, friends and neighbours need you to accept them, do not abandon anyone. There is no joy in unscrambling and being judgemental about someone’s body that you don’t own.
The three simple messages that I have for anyone would be:-
Be true to yourself and others. Honesty is a priceless treasure. Do not be afraid to speak the truth
Don’t give space for fear in your life. Be humble when you are wrong and voice out when you are right- both are acts of a fearless person
Love and kindness is more powerful than judgements. You may not know the other side of the story always, so stop discrimination
My all-time favourite is a gospel song that defines “love” so apt. It goes like this…
“Love is patient, caring. Love is kind. Love is felt most when it’s genuine
But I’ve had my share of love abuse, manipulated and its strength misused
And I can’t help but give you glory, when I think about my story
And I know you favoured me, because the world tried but couldn’t triumph over me. Yes they did try but couldn’t triumph over me…”
**All images are representative, original source linked to the images.