The first time I had a dialogue with a gay man was possibly in the mid-90’s. He was quite a celebrity, having written books and been featured frequently on TV. On several occasions, he had more than mildly hinted at his orientation. During our conversation, I, quite naively, asked him why he primarily identified as homosexual, why not his nationality, his gender or even his career. His reply has stayed with me, decades later.
“I want to be known for what I am not allowed to be.”
Being Indian, being male or female, being a bureaucrat or a writer – society really doesn’t care. Try belonging to a minority, just try it for a day, he recommended. Not just any minority, but one that is actively disdained. Put yourself in the shoes of a trans-gender, for example– who is met with hate simply for existing. Where in the main stream do you find them? Do you see them in schools and colleges, getting equal opportunities for education? Do you see them in health care units, being treated for coughs and colds, like anybody else? Are they employed in offices or any jobs, for that matter, where they are treated with dignity? When they are so negatively targeted, there will be push back and they will flaunt what you taunt – that is why their identity will be trans gender first and all else second.
When your family rejects you – for reasons as mundane as “what will people say” or as illogical as “you are going through a phase and want attention” or as isolating as “God will not forgive you and you are going to Hell” – the comfort of staying in the closet is as appealing as it is stultifying.
I am not an unusually sensitive person, nor am I intuitively kind. Practical as the day is long, I have cynically viewed the human condition without syrupy sentiment – deal with it, these are the cards you were handed.
Till I met a fabulous young person.
Intelligent. Wise beyond his years. Hard working. Inspiring. And lonely.
Sociable with a wide circle of friends, he stays firmly in the closet even though his friends love him so dearly. He contemplates a future with no partner, no children and depresses himself further. Isolated by a self- imposed silence, his coming out to me was, I think, more because I confronted him with what I could perceive. Over the decade of our friendship, I have watched him grow increasingly self-sufficient, not because he doesn’t need help, but fears becoming dependent on it. He has introduced me to scores more of similarly closeted individuals – so many young people who should have been able to be cherished by their families, friends, and colleagues but who are bound by their fearful code of silence, to speak only in “safe” places.
I am so grateful for being at the receiving end of so much love and trust. My young friend has, over these years of friendship allowed me the joy of “motherhood”! I have no children of my own, but as I become a confidante and host to these many young souls who can come out to me with no fear and know that they will never be judged, I am now their adopted Mum!
Being there for them, when they need advice, or when they need to rant; to eat a home-cooked meal or to hold a hand, I am privileged to be the one they turn to.
I am not just an ally. I am an out-and -proud Mum!