I had come out to the world but I hadn’t come out to my family.

Tanzeel Ahmad

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

 

Above all else, to thine own self be true!

Sanjay Kumar

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.

SANJAY KUMAR,

Bsc.M.A.PgDip

Psychotherapist

just a little more courageous!

Ankit Rastogi

Bangalore

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 –
1) Seriously!!!
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

The original poem The Charge of the Light Brigade

 

Narnia

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.

 

The Butterfly Effect

Anonymous

Bangalore

During my childhood, I used to wonder why I was attracted to a few boys in my school but no girls at all. I wouldn’t say that I discovered my sexual orientation at a very young age, but there was something that always bothered me.

As I was growing up I began to realize that I was not alone but it wasn’t considered normal. I too had no desire to explore why I was attracted to boys the way boys were attracted to girls or girls to boys.

Internet had not arrived yet, the only source of information one had were the newspapers and the national TV channel. I guess if I had access to the internet then maybe I had done some search or reading?

Anyways, time passed and I was in college. Till school, either mom or dad was always with me wherever I went. Now I was traveling home-college-home all by myself. Dad didn’t buy me a two-wheeler so it was all public transport. Soon I realized that everything I had heard about women being harassed or molested even in public places wasn’t something limited to the female gender only. Whether it was transport or college, they were everywhere waiting to prey on you. I quickly learned that my safety was in my own hands, from confused to scared to stand up for myself against these predators was my journey till college came to an end. Access to internet played a big role in my life as it was the only source of information that helped me learn about myself. Now I knew that I was gay and I wasn’t ashamed of it.

You must be wondering why I am talking about my college life?

What I saw and learned during those days further pushed me to keep my orientation a secret. I knew better and knew that I had to pretend to be straight. I knew that it would have made me vulnerable and a soft target had anyone figured out that I was gay.

After college, I moved to Bangalore and thus began the Corporate life. Continued to pretend and slowly figured that Bangalore had its very own gay life. I never tried to find more about it but was always curious. I was aging into the life’s phase where my colleagues and friends were getting hitched and the obvious question came to me too.

Dad passed away due to a terminal illness, it was difficult times with my siblings in College. I felt that I had greater responsibilities on my shoulder than worrying about myself. Few more years passed, my siblings had started working and were no longer dependent on me.

Again, I had my life in front of me. I couldn’t take it anymore, I had started to feel guilty that I was lying to my family and friends. I decided that I should tell everyone. I posted it on my Facebook wall and didn’t check my account for the next 24 hours. What I had not realized is that the majority of folks on my friends’ list were from my work. I was nervous and even wanted to delete the post but the cat was out of the bag already! The next day I logged into my Facebook account and witnessed what I could have never imaged in my wildest of dreams. My wall was flooded with appreciation & encouragement. Some even wrote to me privately that they now respected me more for coming out to them. I even got messages from my colleagues in international locations stating how happy they were to learn about me.

But it wasn’t over, I was yet to come out to my family. I wrote an email to my siblings and was surprised that they supported me. It was my mother who took time to come to terms with it. She didn’t speak to anyone for over a week after I had told her that I was gay. She had a lot of questions and didn’t know who to ask. She was confused same as I was once. It took a couple of years but she came along.

And then the ultimate happened, I met the love of my life! I had never thought that I would pursue someone but here I was expressing my love and care for the one and only. He said yes and since then life is beautiful and progressive. It all happened fast, we met with each other’s family soon after we got into the relationship. Yes, our families know about us and our relationship and everyone is happy.

You must be thinking that everything I wrote above is positive so where is the struggle, where is that part that everyone looks for when a gay man tells his story. I want everyone to know ‘what’ creates that positive experience, ‘what’ allows you to be yourself without the fear of being judged and alienated. It’s the ACCEPTANCE of your family, friends, and colleagues.

You can fight the World if you have your close and loved ones who love you back and support you for who you are.

Acceptance from family and friends and acceptance at the workplace have played a crucial role in shaping my life, the life that I live today. I didn’t know anything about the outcome when I made the decision to tell them about my sexual orientation. It’s their love and support that has inspired me to drive inclusion, to provide that positive and encouraging platform for our LGBT friends.

Your acceptance, be it a family member or a friend or someone at your workplace or your neighbor, will go a long way in helping us live a better and happier life!

PC: All images have their source linked.

I care for you a lot

Ajay Redij

It’s a journey about gratitude, love, care, principles, dreams and many more. It’s about my spiritual journey as a human being. I was born in well-educated and culturally sound family. Life has been a roller-coaster ride till date. What makes us lucky to be living beings is that we can know, understand, feel and respond to everything around us, isn’t it?

I came to terms about my sexuality much later, because I always avoided the topic myself. I would attribute my adolescence to “A birth of a river through the glaciers of feelings and emotions, which went deep underground to be discovered later.” I still remember weird dreams that I used to get, where I used to see a world of only men. My logical mind used to poke me about, “How will in this ‘World of Men‘, people will get married to each other?” Since then I have been living two lives. I used to be an ideal kid in family. And the other who was curious about emotional ups and downs happening inside me. I used to avoid the inner voice because, I was afraid of his feelings and I was protecting by hiding him in the deepest parts of my mind. Academically, I was average kid. Music was always my savvier. I am a good singer and used to sing in school programs.

10 years passed by and I was in second year of academic life. Everything was going well with my regular academics and personal life. And then one fine day, I got a huge crush on a guy, those were mixed feelings of joy and fear. I had no option than getting over those feelings. I overcame those situations somehow, but I was hurt. Was totally devastated from inside, was totally heart broken. I was literally ashamed of myself. Time passed and I completed my graduation and opted for Post-Graduation. My post-graduation was more of struggle for everything from my academic, personal and private life. I was in depression. And it was affecting everything around me. My mom used to notice and ask me about “what’s going on?” But I was not able to utter a single word. She already had been through a lot. My depression overtook me so bad that I was on anti-depressant medication for 2 months with counselling sessions. I was not able to tell my problems to my psychiatrist, due to fear of rejection. I used to feel I am only one who is going through this.

And finally I had failed my final exams. That time my situation was like, I had already been placed in a company, I had qualified NET lectureship and I had failed my final exam. I was staying alone in apartment, since I had shifted for job in new city. Those 2 months when I was living on my own and going through all this. I used to keep reading about it. Internet was big help to understand what exactly I was feeling. I came to know that, I was not only one who had been through this. There were many others. I used to see YouTube videos of people expressing their thoughts and that was helpful. I was trying to stay strong, but I was at the verge of going mad. I had read about coming out. How to tell someone about yourself and everything related. One day my elder sister called me and had a nice regular chat. I don’t remember what exactly she said, but that some statement triggered something inside me and I broke into tears. I felt similar feeling as if close beloved one’s death. I was not able to understand, why am I feeling that way? I didn’t eat anything for 2 days. I was having just water to survive and used to cry a lot when alone, which I used to be most of the times. I was realizing that one of my two personalities had died inside me and the one which I used to fake that was the one. I took a decision to commit suicide. 

But before that, I just wanted to give a try: how if I come out to someone so that if I get a support it will be like, “getting a support of stick for a drowning person.” If not than suicide option was already there. I could only think about my best friend in this matter. He told me that he was planning to come for an interview in my city. When we met I got really scared to utter a word about it, I went into complete silence. Then after a deep breath I said, “I wanted to share something with you about me that I have never told to anyone and it’s my big secret.” I just opened website of PFLAG and opened web page of FAQs for the close ones of LGBT. That page has answers to all the questions which come in mind of close ones when someone opens up about sexuality to them. He read it, and looked at me in eyes and asked, “What is it? Why did you give me this?” I said, “I never said about this to anyone, since 12 years. I have been living two lives, one is what you see me as and another is one I am protecting since I realised that I like boys and have no interest in girls. I feel very ashamed of myself and feel very depressing about it. I had taken decision of committing suicide. But to give a last chance I just wanted to tell and see the response about it.” He listened to what I said carefully and said, “See Ajay, why you are ashamed of yourself when you have made your family and every one of us proud by your achievements? Look at your achievements, you are so passionate about your research and you also have qualified NET lectureship. Doesn’t that makes you feel good? I don’t care about whom you like or what you are! You are good human being and that is what matters to me.” I broke into tears and couldn’t believe my ears for some time about what he just said. That moment was first moment of joy I had after so long-time. I felt like I saw a ray of light just passed through some hole in the dark room where I was trapped since many years. Some barrier had been broken and had made water of the river to gush towards its destiny. I did reveal to him that at some point of time I had crush on him and we chuckled and laughed it off.

It was time for my re appearing for my October attempt and I had taken exam leave for a month from my company. I went home and was preparing for my exams. One night during dinner, there was a news about Lady Gaga visiting India for her show in New Delhi around 30th October 2011. In an interview she was talking about her album “Born this way” and about LGBT rights. I just casually asked mom, “What do you think about these people?” She was watching this interview and she looked at me in analytical way and said, “What we can say about them? They are also humans like us.” I was bewildered and surprised about her response.

A day went by, I was preparing for my exams, and my sister came to see if I needed any help in preparations. She is my sweetheart. She has always been with me no matter what. She asked is there anything she can do for me. I was at the edge of breaking down, my eyes were red, throat completely dried. I looked in to her eyes and said, “I wanted to tell you something. “She became very concerned about me. I broke into tears and she got emotional and said, “Tell me whatever it is, no matter what I have been and will be there for you.” I said, “Since 12 years I have been hiding half of my identity, I have been living dual lives.” I couldn’t speak any more & gave her my diary. She went through and after few lines and said, “Ajay, I am not able to understand what this is all about. Please, tell me clearly”. I said, ” I am in depression Tai, I was ashamed of myself for being gay. I had decided to commit suicide”.She interrupted me in anger and said,” Why do you want to even think about suicide? Whenever such thoughts come to your mind remember how much efforts and sacrifices Mom and Dad have taken so that you become a better person in this world? How will we siblings feel devastated if such things happen? Ajay, right now I am shocked and not able to understand how to respond. This all thing is new to me and I need time. But you need to focus on studies now.” And we started studying.

Day of exam approached and she came to drop me. As quite obvious, I couldn’t perform well in exam. In between when I was in exams, my sister told mom about me. I came out of exam hall. She had already come to pick me up. She asked me about how was it? I said that I attempted it. Then, she told me that she had told about it to mom. My hands froze, I was numb. I had to encounter her someday. I entered home. She had just finished her bath, hair covered with towel and was doing Pooja. She saw me coming, I was completely tensed. I saw her eyes red. She was reciting some stotra. She didn’t say anything, just went inside in kitchen. After completing her Pooja rituals, she made lunch ready to serve on dining table. I was sitting in hall. She called sister and informed to tell me to come for lunch. While having lunch, I was looking at her she was making sure I am having proper food, but not talking to me. I was calm as I knew she might be shocked and sad. So I decided let that phase pass away. Days went by in similar way. I used to show my sister examples of people like Ricky Martin, who are living a great life in spite of being homosexual. I used to show her video of people who have suffered because of rejections, confessions, how families of some people support their homosexual kids. She used to ask me all sorts of questions that used to bug her. I was open to everything she asked. She once asked me whether if I feel like a girl or transgender. I said I inclined towards being masculine with feminine touch. She took time to understand that. I used to give her to read all FAQs provided on support websites. I used to feel that it would have been better if those articles would have been also published in regional languages. I wanted mom also to go through those.

Two weeks passed by in similar way. Mom still not talking to me but taking care of me. She used to ask my sister all questions that came to her mind. She ask what wrong they as humans had done that they got kid like me? Maybe because of having 2 elder sisters this might have happened.  She was in a situation where she couldn’t even consult anyone about this. One of my uncles is psychologist, she insisted my sister to take me to him. One evening, I was preparing for my last paper of my exam and I wanted to break ice. So usually I and mom share one cute moment together when I do her oil massage on head. She was watching some programme on television. I took oil bottle and started my conversation, first she hesitated. I was just controlling myself from breaking down to cry.  I said, Mom, why aren’t you talking to me? I know you are holding something inside you. I care about you, I don’t want your blood pressure to shoot high. I want you to express what you have in your mind. You want to scold me do it? You want to beat me do it? I would be really happy if you kill me also, anyways I am part of you. I owe my life to you. This is true that I have not talked about it to you. But mom, there was a time when I was ashamed of myself and wanted to leave this world. She just said, “I am not angry upon you. I want you to meet Psychiatrist uncle and get guidance upon this. I would like to know his opinion in this matter. Look, Ajay I care for you a lot. More than you imagine. And I am worried about how will you lead your life with all this without acceptance in our society? As of now, focus on your studies and build you position so strong that no one dare to think of judging you. Become a strong personality and inspiration to many by your good deeds. That’s what I am expecting from you“. I met uncle and as excepted he was supportive and conveyed this to mom.

Days passed and one day I took her for “Ek Madhav Baug” play by Humsafer Trust. That’s when she fully accepted me.

PC: All images linked to their original sources.

Bhai Dooj

Unmesh Potdar

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then there was silence.

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

I am gifted with homosexuality

Rajesh Tiwary

Pune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was not ready to accept myself

 

When I was seven years old I realized that I’m different from everyone around me. I used to play with my cousins and my sister most of the time at home, I was never interested to play cricket with my classmates the reason being I couldn’t mingle with any of them. I used to like a TV actor and would dream that someday he will come and marry me, then I realized that it will never became a reality because I was told only a man and woman can get married but not two men.

I buried all my thoughts and concentrated on my studies, I used to spend my time reading my books and watching TV soaps with my mom. The confusion again triggered when I started getting attracted to a cousin of mine. In the mean time I got to know one of my close friend since childhood is also different like me but I was not ready to come out to myself, I guess that was the most difficult for me more than to coming out to my parents. I was not ready to accept myself because I’ve never seen anyone like me in my family. I didn’t know whom to talk to, I was scared if my parents would disown me. Having all these thoughts & fears in my mind I used to sleep crying; almost every day.

Few years later when I came to Hyderabad I heard the term GAY for the first time and I started searching for like-minded people. Search started from Orkut and PlanetRomeo (a dating site for men) I thought my dream of getting married to a guy might now be possible. But I never knew it’ll be so very difficult. I was not a conventionally good looking guy and most of the guys I used to talk to were after these so called good looking guys. I felt out of place in my own community where I thought I would find someone who will be with me forever but I was criticized for my dressing, hair and my physique. As I always wanted someone to love me the way I’m, I never gave importance to my looks. I’ve made few best friends (I thought they’re). Later I met few other guys but never got that spark until I met this man who swept me off my feet. I thought he is the man I was waiting for and started dating him. It didn’t last for long, I found that he was cheating on me and I was left heart broken. I spent around a month crying for him and then my mum found out me crying one night and asked me the reason, and then I told her “I had a breakup“. She asked who that girl is and then I said it’s not a girl it’s a boy and told her “I’m Gay”. My mum didn’t understand for few minutes and then my dad came in and I told him as well. The next reaction was “We are with you, don’t worry about it, we will go to a doctor and everything would be fine“.

I really wanted to change I thought I would give my 100% to change. I’ve visited many psychiatrist and psychologist but my problem was not solved. I realized that it can’t be changed and I was depressed. My dad told my uncle about my sexuality and they came to my home and beat me, locked me in a room and called all the people in my phone book and threatened them not to talk to me. I then realized I never made true friends, none of them were there to support me, and none of them tried talking to me. After a month of torture I left home with a person who claimed to love me but my parents traced me and took me back home..

I made it clear to my parents that I will never stay with them if they don’t accept me the way I am. From that day my dad never spoke about my sexuality till now. My mom is pretty much okay with it but never speaks about it and I really want to give them time as I think it’s very difficult for them as well to understand all this. I started concentrating on my career, I started working part time job at Tata services and continued my studies I completed my studies and got placed in a nice company. I started concentrating on my looks, I tried working on myself. People who earlier criticized me for my clothes, now take fashion advice from me. People who said I was not good looking want to sleep with me now. All these things apart my parents are proud of me, my dad says that I made my own career without anyone’s help. My mom is a strong support for me; she was there for me whenever I need her. She always say not to trust anyone and she is scared that I’ll be all alone in my life.

I’ve never lost any of my friends because of my sexuality, I’ve never been discriminated by any of them. I’m 25 years old I’ve made my own decisions how my life should be and I don’t regret any of them. It’s been difficult journey but it made me the person who I’m today. I realized that when you be yourself and love yourself, whole world will love you!

 

shouldn’t the world fear a man who has nothing to lose?

Saiganesh Krishnamoorthy

Amsterdam

I hate the word ‘Lucky’. Especially when someone uses that word to define anything that has happened to me. I believe in destiny of course. But luck? Not a chance!  Despite all the curve-balls that life threw at me, if I’ve managed to sustain so far, it’s because of the faith I have in myself, the people around me and the one above. Do not defile hard work & skill with a word that denotes probability.

It is my journey and the situations that have prompted me to accept who I am and signaled me to be the change I wanted to see.

Childhood days: A phase of apathy

I was a good student (I hope). Math, languages and science fascinated me. Favorite of the teachers and unsurprisingly, good at creative stuff. Sketching, dancing, theater and what not! Anything but sports. I was passionate about dancing (Bharatanatyam) and saw that as a way of meditation even. Kids at school used to make fun of that, although it never bothered me. Somehow I found ways to avoid bullying at school, thanks to my quarrelsome nature. I knew how to bicker well and since I was good at a lot of other things, I used them as a shield against any sort of bullying. Silly, yes, but it worked brilliantly.

My family

Coming to my family, destiny did a number on me. Being the youngest child, I had to witness my parents succumb to illnesses. A mentally challenged brother and sick parents would not be an ideal combination for anyone. However, the love we had for one another seemed to help. And their only pleasure seemed to be hearing good things about me from their kith and kin. That was the little gift I could give them for all that they did despite their shortcomings. And so, I carried on, falling in love with girls (And no, they were not my ‘beards’), focusing on studies and extracurricular activities. I did idolize a few senior guys but assumed that to be similar to fans glorifying their heroes. Growing up in an orthodox neighborhood, it never hit me to even imagine otherwise.

College days: When the world comes crashing down

I lost my brother and father even before I could complete school and became the sole responsibility for looking after my (bed-ridden) mother. Naturally, I had to toughen up and handle it. But I couldn’t do it all alone. Regardless of all the tough act that I was displaying to others, I started aching from within. And I could no more hide the fact that I liked men. It was all new to me. I had an on-off thing with a guy then but it was a confused phase in my life. Growing up in a culture where heterosexual couples are the only things you see, hear and talk about, an alternate reality seemed improbable for me. Moreover, I was the only solace for my mother then. How crushing it’d be for her to deal with something that even I couldn’t understand.

Mom & me 🙂

But she disproved that idea by her sudden demise. My world officially crumbled. My life seemed to have lost its purpose. And simultaneously, a new life began to evolve in the garden city of India, with my paternal aunt (whom I greatly admired) and her family. It was all very confusing, to say the least, to lose everything at 22 and move to a new city, hoping to find peace. Bangalore understood my needs and seemed to wash away my sorrows. My family, consisting of my aunt, uncle and my (cousin) brother started cherishing me as their own and so was I. I also made lovely friends. Friends whom I could call at midnight and ask to meet without asking why. Bangalore understood my quirks and I didn’t feel odd for the first time in my life.

For some time, my relationship also went smooth. What started as a simple Facebook chat with this guy went on to become a lovely 3.5 years of companionship. We had our own idiosyncrasies, but our understanding of one another helped us work it out. But he wasn’t sure of whether he can be in it for a lifetime and soon made it clear that he’d have to marry a girl in the future. I hadn’t come out until then because of all this uncertainty and now it looked like that time may never come. I was sick of living dual lives, of constantly lying to my close ones, of having to portray someone I was not. Although theater is my passion, this drama seemed to be going on for ages now. I needed a breather.

It was then that my family decided to go on a 21-day long trip to Europe. What a way to change my mood from this break-up, I thought. Little did I know that I’d meet my soulmate there!

2014: The time has come

He was a part of the trip. Quiet, attentive, neatly dressed, well-spoken and extremely kind to everyone (even the most annoying aunties). There was this air of sophistication, humility and kindness about him. We were both with our families, closeted and had no idea that the other person was gay. Yet we ended up spending our nights talking about mysteries of the world, of ‘detached attachment’, of ‘Maya’. Little did we know that we were getting sucked into it as well.

He went back to Canada after the trip (where he lived) and we started having email conversations. It started very formal initially (‘Hope you landed safely! ‘Twas great meeting you!’), and soon reached a phase of signing the email with our names together. We even expressed our love for one another by email! ‘For heaven’s sake, this should be the next Nicholas Sparks’ novel’, my friends said. We had the same set of interests, finished one another’s sentences and literally completed each other. I began to finally believe that life will be happy after all since I’ve found the missing piece of the puzzle, the ‘One’. Months later, he decided to come out to his family and he did. My prior relationship, however, made me tread the path of caution. So I decided to come out when I go to study in Canada and after moving in with him. Life would have been so different had that happened. If only!

A week after his coming out, he suffered a fatal rupture of tumor in his lungs and passed away.

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That describes my state! I went blank. Everything went black. All the bold acting I had until then wore off. I cried day and night. I took his death as my liability. That I had lost my family too made me think that anyone I would ever love would face the same destiny. That I was cursed and damned for perpetuity.

I could have taken the extreme step. Pills, plastic bag – I could have come up with innovative ways to end my life in a painless fashion. But, I didn’t. I had promised my (late) mother that I would never succumb to suicidal thoughts and realized that I have to survive this. There’s nothing more to lose anyway. After all, shouldn’t the world fear a man who has nothing to lose?

So I decided to open about myself. Accept that this is who I am and only have those people in my life who’d accept me as such. I called everyone. My brother, close friends, colleagues. And I told them finally what I have been meaning to tell them for years – that I’m gay. People went through a wave of shock but they loved me no less than before. It also did take some time. It is not one of those coming out stories that can lead to a discussion. They could see that I was hurting. That it was true love for another soul, regardless of defined societal constructs. And they conceded that love is love after all.

Right now I’m in one the world’s most liberal cities, Amsterdam. In a company that lets me create inclusive programs for everyone. What a roller coaster ride has it been! Life will never be a bed of roses. But it’s not going to be all thorns either. A happy ending just needs a lot of hard work, both mentally and emotionally.

 

 

Image credits:

Heart band aid

Queer Canada Flag