I am just the way he made me

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

They are parents to a daughter too!

Anonymous

Bangalore

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Source

My sister had apparently known it for long, by reading through my diaries. She never told me anything though. Perhaps she was trying to find a right opportunity to speak about it. Re-criminalization just helped her out. On the 13th of December 2013 when 377 was reinstated it was a big headline on the newspaper. She brought the paper to me and asked, hey brother what do you think about this? I said, what would I think, it’s a news that’s all. Then she said, you know what, I already know, so you can just say what you think. I was kind of shocked and surprised and rather flabbergasted thinking what the hell she is talking about and how in hell it’s possible that she would know anything! Coz I had never dated anyone openly before. Then she told she went through my diaries. How dare she! I took a few days to digest the anger that she went through my diaries without my knowledge. Then I kind of understood the maturity she had. Coz the reading incident apparently had happened almost 2-3 years ago, she didn’t tell my parents ANYTHING about it ever. Rather she was trying to counsel me in a funny manner, saying you know perhaps it’s a passing phase, perhaps you haven’t met the right girl yet and so on… I heard her out, calmly, realized that she is just trying to empathize with me and nothing else. Then I opened up to her and gradually told her about all my romantic trials with strangers, told her about the failed adventures too. 🙂

I told her, now that you know, perhaps it’s time you should tell mom and dad as well because they have already started looking out for my wedding. I am elder, so they wanted me to get married first. She said it’s not her job to tell them, it’s me who had to do it.

I took another year almost to gather courage and find the right opportunity to speak with my parents about this. It was my cousin sister’s wedding where all went, a lot of distant relatives came too, and a LOT of proposals came for me. I told my parents not to make any promises to anyone because I simply cannot marry a girl. I took reference of my own sister, I said the would-be bride also is someone’s sister or daughter. I do not want to spoil the life of an innocent girl just to do a trial with my own life. They understood, coz they are parents to a daughter too. Later I showed them videos like Satyamev Jayate episode, and a few other educative videos etc. My mom digested it in her own imaginative way. Dad kept quiet, didn’t say anything much about it.

 A few months later, one lazy Sunday afternoon, we all had lunch and watching TV, mother asks me casually, ‘So, all these religious babas who never marry could they be gay too?’

I had no answer to that.