Something isn’t right

Anonymous

Today I am a very content woman; even though I am a single mother. It isn’t a stigma for me. It is my strength, because I am able to be me; it feels right.  It took me 25 years to find me but today on wards is what matters.

I was 22 then. I had fallen in love. This young man who had nothing but would do anything to make me happy. The man who rode his cycle like a maniac behind a jeep past midnight only to ensure that my boss is doing what he assured my parents; that he’d drop me back home safely. The man who showed I had the strength to do what I wanted to do in a city, in a time, where women who wanted to have a career other than a teacher wasn’t considered respectable. The love of my life, who had become the son my parents never had, was suddenly the most favorite enemy of their life because he dared to fall in love with their precious and only daughter; me.

“You will never see him again. If you do..” was followed by an endless stream of ifs and thens.  And so I did. I said good bye to him. Not just to him, but to a part of me died that day.

It was a prick in my hand that woke me up briefly. I turned my head and saw her, the nurse. She was standing at my bedside putting a needle through my veins trying to connect mzzgwdyrme2-2e to a bottle of glucose hanging on the stand right next to my head. I looked up at it groggily wondering, what is that going to change for me?  I see my mother sitting in the corner in this dim lit, pale blue walled room in the hospital. My eyes shut again. My body couldn’t stay awake any longer and I fell asleep.

I don’t remember how many days and nights and days and nights had passed I hadn’t eaten or drank water but was force-fed through the gut wrenching nausea. There were curses in the back ground being thrown at where once all I heard was only blessings. How could it have gone so wrong? What was my mistake? Why don’t you understand? Can you even hear what I am saying? All in vain.

I was begged at. I was threatened by cries of sympathy. I was asked. I was told. But I wasn’t heard.

8 months later. Lights are flickering all around. Laughter and chatter everywhere. A house brimming with relatives. A decorated car awaits at the gate. My best friend sits in the car with me. We reach the venue. I am escorted out, being guided up the passage. I can only see my shoes, those shiny gold shoes. I tried to look up but the veil is too thick. “Keep your head down”, I hear this sharp whisper, ‘you’re the bride today”. ‘Qabool hay?’ the clergyman asks. The screams in me are aching to throw themselves out of my throat to say no, no….NOOOO. …. I squeeze my friend’s hand as if she could speak for me. ‘Qabool hay?’ I gulp a lump down my parched throat and utter the word that began a chapter that was already written out for me. “haan qabool hay”.

The morning after, as I packed my bag for the journey into the unknown life with my husband and his family, he lay there and said, “oh, don’t pack your jeans. You’ll never get to wear them in my house.”

2 years have gone by. Hands adorned by bangles, toes clamped with toe-rings, a mangal sootra hanging around my neck, I have learnt the art of cooking curries to roasts to desserts right out of the recipe book as if I grew up doing only this and nothing at all. Wah wah bahu…bohot achha hay. Thank you Pappa, thoda aur lijiye na?!

I was running on a program. A program installed by family, by society. This is how a wife should be.  No one though happened to ever mention how a husband should be. Something just didn’t seem right. I visited my father to seek his advice, to seek solace, “Baba, something isn’t right”. “Don’t worry beta, once you have a child, everything will be alright” he answered. Yet another program was uploaded and I restarted.

My daughter is now 2 years. Something isn’t right. It just isn’t right. And you know what? I don’t care to know what it is. All I know is my daughter is not going to grow up in this environment. I left with my daughter and never looked back.

My days were filled climbing the corporate ladder and evenings with my daughter and parents. They took me back. A failed marriage – they dared not to put that on me. I was not going to take that anymore and they knew it this time.

A year later my lost love walks back into my life like a knight in shining armor. Said he, “I still love you, will you marry me?” “Yes yes yes!” I jumped with excitement, “oh but wait. I have a daughter now”. And he said, “she is a part of you, and so, she is a part of me now.”

5 years later another daughter comes into our lives. Something isn’t right. That comes up again for me. And I tell myself, “no, no, not again. Not this time.  How can it be? This is the man I loved so much. And he loves me. No, I will not let this fall apart. I will make this work”.

5 more years pass. Something isn’t right. This time it was way too strong to ignore. And then it all unraveled. He was seeing someone else. My whole world collapsed in an instant. How could this happen? What went wrong? I must’ve done something wrong? I wasn’t there for him. I was too busy …….

“I am sorry sweetheart, I made a mistake. Can you forgive me please?” he said one day and I responded, “OK, jaan, let’s make this work”.

Another 5 years pass. It continued to go wrong. My attempts to make this go right just didn’t work. I could no longer live a life of lies. The question here is I didn’t even know anymore who was lying to whom. Was he lying to me or was I lying to him or was I lying to myself? Whatever it was, all I knew was that it was over. I took my girls and I left.

It’s been a year now. It was no one’s fault that neither of my marriages worked. Not my exes. Not the families. Not mine even. I didn’t even realize until 6 months after I left that for the first time I felt alive. Not because I was away from a man who cheated on me. Not because I was not in a marriage that wasn’t working. Not because now I was not answerable to anyone and could do anything. It was none of that.

You see, this goes all the way back to my childhood. Something that was going on in me that felt so right. It just came so naturally to me, but, only when I was alone. It wasn’t something I even thought could be spoken about to anyone. It was my secret fantasy about women. They would be damsels in distress and I would be their savior! It didn’t stop at saving them though. My fantasies went way more intense – feeling their body felt just right and I never felt the need to question it.  As time went by, years passed, my fantasies faded but never completely went and I got caught up in society’s norms.
Until that day, sitting in my new house, all by myself I finally realized what it was that I kept getting when it felt like “something isn’t right”. All that was required for me to feel alive was to be OK with myself having all these feelings for women that were locked up inside of me. I just had to acknowledge, no one else but Me.  The only one that had to really know the truth was me. And that’s when I said it to myself, “K, it’s time to step out of the closet.”

Now, everything is right! 

Image credit

We shall fight this out together

Priyank Asha Sukanand

Bangalore

All through school I was attracted to a few boys in my class as I was convinced that it was pretty much the right thing to feel and I ridiculed other boys who hit on girls and actresses and so on. So at the age of thirteen, my best friend, made me understand what being GAY was. So that’s when I realized it was what a lovely term or label to fall under. Then a few months later I joined a lovely theater group that helped me open my eyes to so many possibilities around me. I walked my first Gay Pride March of 2008 in Bangalore. Though I was masked I still came on camera and my mom found out too.
Well I decided to come out to her and as much as I wanted the typical South Indian drama that everyone else got, that turned out to be a positive failure. She accepted me whole heatedly and also vowed to convince my Dad. My mother is one of those broad-minded humans that is very queer friendly and sometimes a little too much. They say “a way to anyone’s heart is through their tummy” but in my case it’s my mother. Though all the boys I’ve dated my mother has always loved them. Our coffee table conversations are certainly way too detailed and expressive. The other day I had a friend drop by my house on Diwali and now she can’t seem to stop talking about him and how I must definitely date him. So this is the woman who gave birth to me and this is the woman who still loves me for who I am. I’m not really that proud of being gay than the fact I’m even more proud of having a mother like her.
I have taken my middle name as her name only because she’s as important as my father is and yes let’s fight patriarchy.
Dad was very hesitant for over 5 years, we hardly brought up the topic and I continued being a gay rights activist nonetheless. Eventually on the date 11.12.13 when the Supreme Court of India re-criminalized homosexuality my father sent me an SMS that read “I’m sorry to hear about today’s judgment. But you must understand no matter what I’m here with you and we shall fight this out together”. Truly made me the happiest gay boy in India when everyone else was in sadness.
Today I have realized the amount of harassment I have overcome but I also understand that it has only made me stronger. I studied at a reputed 0b7fqabvd5w1vvxdiru5us09yrgc_1475762145490hospitality management institution in Maharashtra where I was ragged every night, physically and sexually harassed for being openly gay. But I stand today with pride and as an example to stand up to what you feel is wrong.
I believe there are so many students who need the help and support that I never got. In 2011 along with 2 other queer people I co-founded the Bangalore chapter of Queer Campus that set out to offer a safer space for Queer youth in Bangalore. We organized annual events such carnivals, picnics and movie visits as well. As time passed I moved out of the group handing it over to the next set of young leaders.  At the moment I’m the founder of Queer Collective India, a social movement that aims at bridging the gap between the society and we queer folk, through the medium of art, theatre, dance, media etc.

Dada & I

Aaditya Joshi

Mumbai

(Dada: Elder brother, in Marathi)

Aaditya Joshi.jpg

1999 | Dombivli

I came home from school. The two of us were watching TV. He asked me to pass the remote. I said, “No, I won’t give you! I want to watch this TV serial!” It was a sappy family drama. Irritated, Dada said, “Yuck! You are such a girl! Boys in our society were saying exactly that to me yesterday!”

2002 | Dombivli

“What is this?”, he said, pointing at an email. I was dumbstruck.

“He… he is a school friend.”, I fumbled.

“Do you think I am a fool? Do I look like I don’t understand?”, Dada growled at me.

I went pale.

I read that email from the corner of my eye. The first sentence of the email was, “Dear Sajesh, I would like to meet you.”

2003 | Dombivli

I was talking on the phone in a low voice when Dada entered our room. I disconnected the call abruptly.

“Who was it?”

“Sriharsha!” Sriharsha was the first name I remembered. He was my only friend from school anyway.

“Then why did you hang up? Show me your phone!”

“No, I won’t! Why should I?”, I shot back.

“Then, don’t you dare lie to me!”, Dada’s eyes were red with anger.

2007 | Dombivli

“Why did you share our pictures on yahoo chat?”, Dada asked.

I had become friends with a nice guy on the internet. He was gay. Like me.

We had shown each other pictures of our families. I hadn’t even thought that I was doing anything wrong. Why was Dada scolding me then?

2007-2011

Dada and I had almost stopped talking to each other. We wouldn’t say a word even if we were in the same room. I was meeting gay men via the internet. I was on my way to accept my sexual orientation. I had started to come out to friends at college, mostly girls.

2011 | Dombivli

I was living in Powai then. Dada and Neha were getting engaged that day. I stood behind them with the rest of the family on the stage. They exchanged rings and the hall burst into an applause. I had a tear in my eye. “I’d probably never experience this”, I thought to myself and I felt shattered. I left the engagement ceremony mid-way, took an auto and came to Powai. Aai (Mom) kept wondering what had happened – until 2012.

2012 January | Pune

I was working in Pune then, and Dada-Neha lived in the next building as me. I would get friends (who were gay) home for dinner and hangouts. One day, I was entering the building with a friend – who is very fabulous. Dada saw us. I was slightly taken aback. Dada walked up to the two of us and greeted me. “He’s my friend, Manoj”, I introduced Manoj to him. “Hey, hi”, Dada said, shook hands with Manoj, and walked away. Neha saw us from her balcony in the next building, and waved at me. Manoj was unsure if he should wave as well.

2012 May | Pune

“Aai, Baba …me gay aahe” (Mom, Dad…..I am gay), my voice broke as I said the three golden words I was dying to say to my parents.

They were visiting me in Pune for about a week – and I had made up my mind to come out to them this time.

The hall of my small apartment fell silent.

“Aai, say something please”,  I said. Aai sat on a chair, her hand covering her face. Just the way she was sitting when my uncle had died a couple of years ago.

“Baba, at least you say something please”, I pleaded to my father sitting next to her.

Baba was visibly confused. “All this, is new to us. I knew there are some people like this, but I never thought we would have someone like that in our own family. Had you told us earlier, we could have done something”, Baba’s voice tapered. “What do you think”, he asked Dada who was sitting at the dining table, with Neha.

“Baba, I think we should support him. This is natural, and definitely not anybody’s fault”, Dada said firmly. Neha looked at me with a serene smile on her face. She silently messaged me on whatsapp, “Don’t break down seeing your brother say nice things about you!”

2012 June | Pune

Pune has a LGBTQ support group called ‘Prayatna’. They had organized a family meet where they were interviewing parents and family members of LGBTQ people in a hall in Pune. Two groups were interviewed. The third group was Neha, Dada and me.

We took our seats on the stage and the interview started.

Dada said, “Around 2002, I saw some emails in Aditya’s email account. And then, some Arjun Rampal pictures in his folder. My curiosity grew with tie. I searched the internet history of the computer we shared, and found some gay websites. I was shocked. I did not understand much. That was when I talked to Neha, who was my girlfriend then. She wasn’t very aware of all this either. As time passed, the references grew, and Neha and I grew up as well. We started realizing that it was okay to be gay. Neha and I created a profile on this website called guys4men, and chatted with Aditya once to understand what he was doing on these websites (The audience gasped, at the revelation. I almost shat my pants.). But then, we realized that he knew what he was up to. We remotely saw him become more confident of himself, and then deleted the profile. We kept waiting that Aditya would come out to us one day.”

“When we were kids, I scolded you, teased you, made fun of you. I am sorry” I could see Dada struggling to hold the mic, when he said this last thing. Neha had a serene smile on her face, like the day when I came out to my parents in their presence.

That night, Neha, Dada and I went to ‘Purepur Kolhapur’, an amazing Maharashtrian thali restaurant in Pune.

Go within to come out

Jo, Mumbai

I always wondered all through my school and college that why was I so different. When boys laughed and spoke about girls, I was never interested. What was so interesting in it? And why did I never find it interesting?

It was when I got unusually attached to boys and their thoughts kept running in my mind. I realized, my inclinations were unique. But the acceptance did not come so easily. I had hundred questions about myself. There were times when I use to force myself to think about some girl, thinking maybe this is just a PHASE and I will come out of it. Read many articles online just to be sure if I am born correctly and nothing is wrong with me.

After months or may be years of self-doubt and questioning, I finally came to terms with myself. I wouldn’t say I had anyone that time to look upon to or talk to. It was just my own inner conversations happening. I believe self-acceptance is one major milestone to achieve. Because this gives you immense strength and peace within you.

I think coming out is more of a happening than doing. And finally it happened to me. First I came out to my brother. Having a twin is always different. Its different bond. when he use to freely discuss about his love life with his girlfriend. I was always quiet. Never having the courage to express what I felt for the person I loved. So there was a time when we both were dating (he was dating a girl and I was dating a guy). I knew what we felt and how we expressed were almost the same. So, he would understand my feelings. Eventually I came out to him in a coffee shop. The release of the humongous burden from inside me came out in form of tears. Ad he said, “I always knew it, I was waiting for you to tell me. Nothing changes for me”.

All through my experiences and people I met, I realised the issues I had were more emotional and mental. And all this was going within me. More storms were within me than outside me. I was sure, the solution also had to come out from the same place – WITHIN myself. Anything I tried externally would just make me feel good temporarily. Meditation helped me a lot. It gave me immense faith and self-trust. Nothing shook me easily. I was slowly emotionally and mentally strong. Fear of what people will think, their reactions, acceptance or non-acceptance, nothing really mattered or affected.

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After about 3 years of coming out to my brother – recently, I was out to my parents. When relatives in every wedding event keep saying, “ab tumhaaara number bhi lagao toh hum aayenge” (means get married, you are too old!!)I thought its high time I tell them before it’s too late.

It was a Sunday and I decided that I will tell them in the morning itself so that I have the whole day to answer or ease the situation if something went overboard. But with heartbeats running fast and the fear gripping within, it became 7.00 p.m.
I just spoke to one of my friends and he told me something good. He said, “Coming out is like pulling an old band-aid from your wound. You know it will pull your hair and hurt; but still you have to do it. You do it today or after 5 years, it will still feel the same that you are feeling this moment. So, JUST DO IT”. And my brother from the other room sends me a watsapp message – [when r you going to tell them just tell them]. Finally at 8.30p.m. I told them I want to tell you something. And I handed over a letter. There was silence for 15 minutes. So silent, that I thought I had stopped hearing anything around me. No one said anything. They just said, we will talk about it later.

We have never spoken after that day about this. Everything is as normal as it was. I am seeing that they show me more love in subtle ways. But they have never spoken about this.

Like it has been a journey for me, it is a journey for them too.

For me, the next morning was a new morning. I had never felt the closest to myself I had never seen myself so clearly within me. The sense of peace and lightness I felt was so empowering. 

Coming out is going to be difficult, but its WORTH it.

Life felt like a huge mound on me

Syed Ayaan

Bangalore

Acceptance that supersedes any discrimination, may be it gender and sexuality, or for that matter anything that creates barriers. It used to always haunt me why am I not being accepted, what was that something which was so wrong in me? I love, I eat, I pray, I do my chores, I am responsible, and then what is it that was missing?  The only answer that I always used to get is “NOTHING” or probably my love and affection towards my own gender.  “Yes, I am Syed Ayaan and I am Gay”.

It all started when I was in school. I never doubted my sexuality , but I always doubted whether this is something which I should be proud and vocal about, or is this that secret of me which should be kept always under wraps. And as we all know, there are ample reasons to do it, the most evident being surrounded by homophobes. I was not much into the stereo-type boy thing like playing cricket and basketball. My mind used to tickle at the sound of ghungru, or may be poetry would give me freshness. And guess what, I was bullied for it. And adding more to the agony, it was not only the world outside who is calling me names, but my own family used to harass me physically and emotionally. I used to get dejected and rejected by everyone around. At times I would ask myself whether I have a reason to live in this world where I am only greeted with malice. But then to me, leaving the hope is like losing the battle…and I am no looser.

I always used to face questions of not mingling with boys, questions like why I don’t have a girlfriend, as it was so cool and mandatory to have the teenage fling thing. And questions would not stop in those boundaries. It will extend to verbal abuses being hurled with physical torture. These situations were hampering my academics, I was not sure how to overcome it. I tried to concentrate on my studies by isolating myself from the school crowd, but this added to more loneliness. To make things worse my brother and his friends molested me in the name of me being different. My mother and family members threatened me of life if I don’t mend my ways. But what I failed to understand is that ‘what are the WAYS they are asking me to change?’ Any change to the WAYS, changes my whole identity, makes me someone who is not Ayaan, makes me alien to myself.

I stepped into my new institution after I passed my 10th grade. Thought it will bring to me some fresh air of relief, but bad luck did not leave me there too. Some of my school buddies (I prefer to call them otherwise) joined me there, and it was a repetition of history there. My school days of horror was again staged and I withdrew myself into a cocoon. Somehow this time I managed to pull my mind together and concentrate on my studies. And you know with that much of pressure from everybody around you, concentration is the last thing that comes to you. But I did this mammoth task, and somehow succeeded to crack my boards.

College days promised me some change. I still preferred to be in the closet, as I felt it was the safest corner of the world. I made new friends, but the only thing which came as an ongoing question was…”why don’t I have a girlfriend?” Now a question to you all, “Is it mandatory that one should have a girlfriend, keeping at bay the question of my orientation?” “Is it mandatory that all gays should have a boyfriend?” There is so much more to life apart from partners, matrimony, bearing kids. Why everything has to be typically set in the norms of a social institution? Why can’t it be a free flowing ocean? Why can’t it be a will of an individual to lead his/her life the way he/she wants? Food for thought, isn’t it?

I thought having a girlfriend would make life easier, so I opted for a relationship with a college lassie. But her unwanted moves towards getting close to me were hardly responded. I felt awkward, and instead of making things less tensed, it added to my agony. I started diverting my attention to college events and became an active part of it. I left home and started staying with my grandparents as things went beyond my tolerance level in there. But fate had other plans for me. My intruding mom and bothers used to visit me and torture me in my new abode. The fighter in me started to hiss and at more than one time I felt like a rebel. But I had to cut down my inner call because all I wanted to do is to complete my grads peacefully.

Out from colleague I joined a reputed MNC. Life had to be different there. But still I was not confident of whether this is the correct place or people to reveal my true identity. At times I used to doubt myself whether I am gay or not. Probably because of the non-acceptance of the people around me made me doubt my existence. I started revamping my wardrobe. My attitude towards life changed along with my dressing sense.

While I was in college I was introduced to the world of social media and online dating app for gay men. But to my utter bad luck, the only thing which these virtual medium gave me is rejection. Rejection became a shadow to me, an inseparable one. For the first time I felt all my hopes are blown off by the gush of wild wind of people who are like me, and those who aren’t. I questioned my complete existence. I was torn apart thinking that I harbored my hopes on people from my community, who at the end of the day rejects me. Life felt like a huge mound on me.

With days passing by, I started getting messages from the same people who earlier rejected me. They now wanted to be friends with me. I did not know what made this change happen, but change and that too positive is always accepted by me with open arms. I started meeting people from the community. This boosted my confidence that I am not the only one. Listening to their life stories re-kindled my spirit and wish to live, to fight back for who I am. I walked Bangalore Pride and attended the Pride events. This opened to me a galore of people who are out there, who are like me, who fight their own battles, every day, every single moment. Sigh! I was not alone. I accepted myself with peace. The first stepping stone to my identity is self-acceptance (though it came with long time) is done.

Now I am more confident and I wanted to take a step ahead and come out to my colleagues at work place. My heart sank, sweat started rolling down my face, I gasped for breath and life seemed to leave me the day I planned to come out to my office mates. But I had to do this. It’s my life and I will live it the way I want. Accept it or leave it. I came out to my colleagues and they accepted me. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know how to react and tears rolled down my cheeks. And yes, this time it was tears of joy compared to the unlimited tears of gloom and sadness that I shed earlier. I am a more confident man now. I am Ayaan, who is proud of what he is, who has made a niche for himself with all his effort and will to strive. Now even before my family tries to cross their boundaries of intrusion, I remind them of their mal-deeds that they did to me. I love myself the way I am. I am Ayaan and I am proudly GAY.