This piece is part four of a series (Read Part I, Part II and Part III) we’re hoping to run regularly. The objective? To sustain the conversation about LGBTQ rights and equality, while simultaneously giving India’s LGBTQ youth a platform to make their voices heard.
Coming out and identifying as anything other than heterosexual is always a challenge, no matter where you live. But it’s also something that needs to happen. Diversity is a beautiful thing, and to make people feel excluded for something they have no control over is not only wrong, but also ignorant—it speaks volumes about us as a society. In these times of rising intolerance across various aspects of life in India, it’s important that we sustain the dialogue around diversity, and the spectrum of sexuality needs to be included in it regardless of how uncomfortable it makes some feel.
Globally, eight out of ten teenage suicides are LGBTQ youth: we’re at risk of losing an entire generation of beautiful, talented, individuals who feel alienated because they’re taught that being different is wrong. But it’s not—and it shouldn’t be. Most people are unaware that it’s not only external homophobia that keeps many LGBTQ individuals in the closet, but a deep sense of internal homophobia too.
As you read this, there are probably hundreds (maybe even thousands) of LGBTQ individuals in India sitting at their computers, Googling everything from ‘is it wrong to be gay’ to ‘how do I come out to my parents’. They’re searching for answers, answers to questions they’re too afraid to ask out loud.
But before we can have people coming out of the closet, it’s important to realise that we have to first bring the conversation out of the closet. And the best way to do it is to talk about it. So, we got 12 brave LGBTQ Indians to share their coming out stories in the hope that somehow, somewhere, that one young LGBTQ kid contemplating suicide sits up and realises that he (or she) is not alone and finds the courage to stand up and live life the only way it should be lived: out and proud.
If you’d like to share your coming out story for the next installment, scroll down to the bottom of the article for details.
I. Harleen | 22, Artist and Designer
I think for any queer teen in India, coming out seems like the biggest hurdle. I can’t say I’ve made it to the other side entirely yet, but I know I’ve jumped for sure.
In high school, I began to feel the need to start being honest with people about my sexuality. I tried telling a few close friends and my sister, but strangely enough, they just laughed. All of them had the same reaction: “No way. You’re just experimental, that’s all. Don’t just say you’re bisexual because it’s cool.”
Every single time, I was dumbstruck. In my head, this was not a ‘fun’ situation and it sure as hell wasn’t ‘cool’. There was nothing convenient about this. But they didn’t believe me. Till then, I’d only dated boys, and me saying, “I’m bisexual” sounded like something I was doing to just get some attention. So for a while, I dropped it. It was a subject only suitable for heavy inebriation and late-night conversations.
Then about four years ago, I finally started seeing a woman. It wasn’t public, but I had to tell someone. Again, I started with my sister. Only this time, I couldn’t actually spit it out. A few minutes, lots of pacing, one large cup of coffee, and a million stutters later, I managed to frame a sentence—and of course this time she knew I wasn’t kidding. And then she didn’t say anything. No expression, just a frown on her face. And after what I think was the longest pause she’s ever taken, she said, “So you really do like boobs, huh?” I laughed my heart out with relief, and honestly, if not for her, and how amazing and accepting she was then, I don’t think I would’ve ever reached this stage of self-acceptance.
Shortly after that, I started telling all my friends. Most of them were pretty chill about it. Some of them even said they’d guessed this about me a long time ago. There have been awkward questions, but I’ve always told them it’s better to ask honestly than to make strange assumptions.
But I’ve had the pleasure of hearing some rather strange reactions too:
“Huh. Tell me when you’re done with THAT.”
”Oh maybe you girls just need a real man.”
”I’ve always wanted to meet lesbians in real life.”
”Who hurt you? Why would you waste a pretty face like that?”
”Oh. Maybe we can ALL get a drink sometime, and see where it goes?”
I think the only negative reaction that really hit me hard came from one of my closest friends at the time:
“But she’s a girl. And you’re a girl. And that isn’t okay. It isn’t acceptable. How will you ever tell anybody? Okay, I don’t want to be a part of any of your ‘dyke stuff’ anymore. Yes, we can be friends, of course. Just don’t tell me about your ‘girlfriend’. Or how ‘dyke-ish’ you are now. And please don’t tell me you’re going to be a man-hater now. You know, I think you should stop this stupidity with girls, and go back to boys and be normal, like the rest of us.”
Goes without saying, they did not see much of me after these conversations.
II. Arjun | 24, Software Engineer
I’ve come out to almost all of my friends and a few family members over the years. The most important one was coming out to my sister. But here I’m going to talk about a different coming out story. I had to come out to the same person twice, once before I accepted myself, and once after. And this showed me just how important it is for everyone to understand and fully accept who they are before they can expect anyone else to do it for them.
I think almost every gay soul in an unfavourable society goes through at least one nervous breakdown in their lives. Mine was in the second year of college. Depression, my long-term companion, took full control over my mind back then. I wanted to end my life. It was horrible. And people around me noticed. So when one of them kept asking me what’s wrong, I had a moment of clarity and realised I needed help. So for the first time in my life, I came out to someone—my elder brother (from another mother, but brother nonetheless). It wasn’t a coming out as much as it was a cry for help, but he was as clueless as me at the time and it was kind of a disaster. Although, looking back, it was a necessary disaster for both of us.
He told me that maybe I should see a psychiatrist and I might be able to ‘get rid of it’. Honestly, I didn’t know what kind of reaction I was expecting when I came out to him, but what I got wasn’t it. He tried his best to stay calm and be there for me and act like nothing’s wrong, which he thought would help me. But it didn’t. Nothing did. I couldn’t face him or talk to him for weeks.
Soon after that I came out to another friend, a girl, and got a completely different response. She kept telling me how brave I was and that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me. I realised that maybe, deep down, that was the reaction I was hoping for. That kind of helped me start looking at my sexuality and who I am from a whole new perspective. Maybe life isn’t that bad, people around me aren’t that bad, I don’t need to be so scared. My brother and I didn’t talk about it at all for two years. Even when it was just us, and no one was around, we pretended I was straight.
Over the course of those two years, I began accepting myself and became more and more comfortable with the person I was. I graduated and got a job. One day, I met a guy and fell in love. It was amazing, and like every idiot who falls in love for the first time, I wanted to yell it out from the top of a mountain. So I decided it was time I started telling people. I started with a new friend, from work, who later became my best friend. Her reaction wasn’t really ideal and she kept asking me if I was kidding.
Two years ago, that kind of a reaction could have been another disaster, but now that I know (and love) who I am, I didn’t care at all. And instead of running away, or hiding and pretending everything’s fine, we talked about it. She asked questions and I answered. We became closer than ever.
Before the huge task of coming out to my sister, I decided to come out to my brother again. I didn’t know how he would react this time, but I was ready. And he took it really well. To my surprise, he told me those two years gave him time to learn more about it too, and a part of the conversation went something like this:
”What you are doing right now is called ‘coming out of the closet’, right?”
”Yes, how do you know?”
”I did some research.”
That conversation made me really happy. It proved how important it is to come out to the people in your life. If it wasn’t for me, to my friends, ‘gay’ would be something embarrassing that happens to someone somewhere that has nothing to do with them. More importantly, it showed me the power of self-acceptance.
Coming out is the most beautiful and liberating thing in the world.
III. Indraja | 20, Law student
I think I realised at quite an early stage that I wasn’t necessarily ‘straight’. The idea of being with a girl was something I’d toyed with casually since my early teens, but it wasn’t until I was 16 that I truly experienced attraction to someone of the same gender.
I’d always found myself extremely fascinated by femininity and beauty—I would get fixated trying to sketch the things that captivated me, usually striking facial features of some of my female friends.
When I was in high school, I met the most impressive human being I’d ever come across. She was devastatingly beautiful and deeply intelligent. We clicked instantly and went on to become inseparable. At some point during the mess that was 12th grade, we spent our (shared) birthday pampering each other and she gave me a promise ring. During the holidays before our board examinations, between the endless hours of studying and taking much-too-long breaks talking to each other on the phone, we realised that we grew much closer than typical platonic best friends would. It flowed naturally from there and we confessed that we both loved each other. We didn’t have to think about it or question it.
It was because of her that I first experienced what I always knew about myself: attraction for me is not necessarily based on gender, and many other factors can play a bigger role in determining it. So I decided not to ascribe to any labels. I’m simply attracted to whomsoever I find myself attracted to. The complexities of human emotions cannot, and should not, be boxed into rigid definitions.
Coming out is an on-going process, they say. Even more so for someone who passes for ‘straight’ and so is presumed as such by default. I am blessed with amazingly understanding and supportive friends who were more than happy for me. Outside of that limited circle though, I was faced with mixed reactions every time someone happened to find out—even though it was never a secret—ranging from surprise, to shock, disgust, trivialisation, and even creepy gleefulness at times. A lot of the reactions initially made me angry, like every entitled guy who asked “Can I watch?” but I learned to respond over time and also use it to filter out certain people, finally only surrounding myself with those who share the same values.
IV. Anonymous | 21, Undergraduate Student
I believe that coming out, often persecuted by social norms, is an on-going journey. Having rehearsed my speech several times in front of the mirror, I was prepared during the summer of 2012 to finally say the words. In the few years before coming out, I had successfully come out to myself. In the few months after that, I thought I was confident to reveal myself to the family. However, I had failed to correctly estimate the subsequent response. The result was terrible. It gives me shivers when I recall how insufficient my strength was in the face of the hatred my parents spewed at me. My last year in school after that summer, I was pulled out of boarding school to live with my mother in a city that I knew and she did not. I withstood beatings, scolding, kicks, punches, and even attempts at being brainwashed. My last year of high school was little about board exams and more about ‘being cured’. With time, I became silent, and my mother accepted my silence, but she never gave up her efforts to ‘change’ me.
By the time I was in college, the first coming out had been forgotten and I noticed a forced acceptance of fiction. After two years, and a life-changing semester abroad, I felt empowered to expose myself again first and then endure what came after. It was the same drill: outright rejection, emotional blackmail, and attempts at brainwashing. However, I was stronger this time. My father had silenced himself in acceptance/abstention whereas my mother was convinced that her maternal instincts, prayers, and a forceful affiliation with her distorted version of The Art of Living would cure me.
Today, I ensure short conversations with my mother to avoid discussing my sexuality. Conversations with her earlier were what I would look forward to everyday—talking about things for hours on end. I hope she will soon understand that my sexuality is not a social construct wherein she can bargain by offering to accept the breaking of casteist norms, should I choose to marry a woman out of the caste, race, religion—a privilege that my brother does not enjoy. Home has become the place that I work everyday to eventually disconnect from. Looking back has become painful and looking forward has become dreadful.
However, there are also those memories that made me into who I am today: a strong, confident and cheerful person. My decision to share an apartment with a gay friend had initially frightened me. But slowly, the LGBTQ community took me in. I had found the opportunity that I had longed for forever: to be myself. Having friends from the community enabled me to see that it was a struggle for everyone, and not just me. I was not alone. Soon after, I found myself at gay pride parades in different cities, celebrating the beauty of being a part of a group of people regardless of their gender or sexuality.
At the Mumbai Gay pride in the month of February I observed a grandmother chanting slogans and spreading the message of love—expression was no longer a disease. There were dogs draped in rainbow flags being walked and Mumbaikars stepping out in support love. It was then that I knew I was strong and capable to practice freedom and fight for what was promised. Just a few days ago, a photo appeared on my screen of people wrapped in rainbow flags kissing each other in Bogota, Colombia, with the title “Colombia’s highest court paves way for marriage quality in surprise ruling”. I was reassured then that the universe will work its way to live by the promise it had made when I took my first breath.
V. Rohit | 23, Junior Graphic Designer
It’s funny that I feel far more nervous writing this piece then I have ever felt (save perhaps once) coming out to anybody. I guess it’s because coming out seemed to always be a given; a matter-of-fact experience like declaring that I like certain TV shows or movies.
I am out to all my friends and my immediate family so coming out is a thing in the distant past. Trying to remember how it felt before I came out is a little hard. I have vague recollections of the anxiety I felt for being different; of the need to hide things from people, and perhaps worst of all, the endless lying. I remember telling so many fictitious accounts of flirtations with girls, describing imaginary crushes to my guy friends, some of whom were the real objects of my adolescent affections. But I have been lucky that the people I came out to, when I was at my most vulnerable, stood by me. The one I remember with the greatest clarity is when I came out to one of my closest friends, Isha.
Isha and I became close over a very short span of time, and although she was not the first person I came out to, she is perhaps one of the most important because she made me realise that my sexuality is only one of the many aspects that make up my being, and not the defining one. Up to that point I had been so consumed with simply being different from everyone else that I had pushed aside all the ways I was similar to others too. Of all the things we talked of back then, to all the things we talk about now, my sexuality is only discussed as and when things relating to it come about—first flings, first kisses, and the many Grindr dates.
Having now established my sexual orientation, I began to talk to her about all the other things that were crammed into my head that I had not been able to express earlier. In my case, the real relief of coming out was that I no longer had to pretend to be straight, and having said “I am gay” aloud also gave me license to say: no I don’t think its queer or feminine to dislike sports; to say no that neither cricket nor football make me jizz my pants (disclaimer: some footballers do); to say yes I like reading thank-you-very-much-now-please-leave-me-alone; yes I like playing The Sims, and so on.
Of course nowadays I don’t really come out. I just talk about whatever and whoever happens to take my fancy. Just the other day in office I started singing something by either Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga and my friend and colleague turned to me and said, “Can you please stop that?” I turned around in mock indignation and said, “Why? I’m just expressing myself” She said, “Well just don’t do it off-key.” I guess there are some things that not even coming out can fix.
VI. Nainika | 22, Writer
I don’t have a marvellous, heart-rending coming out story, but I do have a story.
All of my friends whom I’ve told about my sexuality treated it like the most normal thing in the world when I told them that I’m bisexual. Also, I’ve heard many stories of people being rejected by their partners when they find out they’re bisexual, but my boyfriend is 100 percent accepting of the fact that I’m attracted to girls too. I feel like a tremendously lucky girl for this.
However, there have been times when I’ve been made to feel like I’m not ‘really’ bisexual, simply because I’ve never seriously dated a girl. Flirted and matched with girls on dating sites, and messed around, sure. But never seriously dated one. For a long time, it made me question if I was ‘faking it’ for some reason.
It took me a while to get to this point, but I’ve finally accepted it deep down inside, and I know that it doesn’t take away from my sexuality. If I feel I’m bisexual, I am. Experience doesn’t define my sexuality. So what if I’ve never had a serious relationship with a girl? That doesn’t make me ‘a straight girl pretending to be bi because it’s cool’ (yes, I’ve been told this). What person would want to ‘fake’ being bi in the openly homophobic country we live in?
There have been times that I’ve considered coming out to my family, but I don’t know if I will in the near future. Ever since I realised my sexuality when I was around 20, the thinly veiled homophobia I’ve seen in family members I previously thought were accepting has been astounding.
Any inclination I had to come out to my family was erased when I saw what happened when my 15-year-old bisexual cousin came out to her mother (my aunt). My aunt made her break up with her girlfriend under the pretext of “I don’t have an issue with her dating a girl, I just think she’s too young to date,” and yet, bam, when she was dating a boy two months later, everything was hunky dory.
When I questioned my aunt about how my cousin was suddenly old enough to date a mere eight weeks later, her retort was, “She’s not old enough to know all this. This ‘bisexual’ business is a phase.” I wonder how she’d have reacted if I’d told her that her favourite niece is bi too.
Another incident was when I found out that my dad, whom I thought had no idea about my current boyfriend, actually knew. Since I’d always thought that he wouldn’t be cool with me dating since he’s pretty old-fashioned about this stuff, I asked him in a surprised voice how come he was fine with me having a boyfriend. His answer? “Well, at least it’s a boy. Nowadays you have to be thankful when your child doesn’t come home and say they want to marry someone of the same sex.”
So, yeah, coming out to my family? Not happening anytime soon. For now, I’m happy with being accepted by my friends and peers.
VII. Anonymous | 21, Works in the music industry
I’ve always had a certain attraction towards women. Ever since I can remember, I was always attracted to how effortlessly elegant most of them are and how beautiful their hands are. I’ve always been very open about it to my friends. Initially, they all thought it was just for attention. But soon, people grew to understand that it was just…me. Having said this, I was rather boy-crazy through my teens and never really saw the possibility of being in a physical and emotional relationship with a woman.
My father is, or at least used to be, quite homophobic. Obviously, I found that to be offensive and I’d have countless arguments with him saying, “One day, I will come to you and I will tell you that I’m gay. What will you do then?” We’d always laugh it off because neither of us thought it would actually happen.
Then, the best thing that could ever happen to me happened. Shortly before I turned 20, I met the most stunning woman I’d ever seen. One thing led to another, and now I’m 21-going-on-22, and I’m in a long-term, same-sex relationship.
When I first came out to my mother, it was kind of like a drunken confession. In between bursts of giggles, I told my mother that I had feelings for a woman and that I intended on being in a relationship with her. My mother was horrified. But, she didn’t shun me. She didn’t tell me I was possessed or that I was mentally ill and that I should be fixed. Instead, she accepted me. My sister knew all along. At first, she thought it was a joke or that I was experimenting. But later, she came to terms with the fact that I am in love with a woman. My father pretty much just guessed, and now just awkwardly skips past the topic. But all in all, my family was very supportive. They always tell me to be myself, and that no matter what I do or who I am, they will always support me.
When I told my friends that I have a girlfriend, they weren’t fazed at all. Most of them said something along the lines of, “We always knew you were bisexual!” And others just thought it was cool and accepted me anyway.
I work in the music industry, where everything is pretty cut throat. You either make it or you don’t. Much like any other artistic field, it’s very competitive. Simply because of this reason, I choose to stay private about my relationship. I have a few friends in the industry that I do trust, and have opened up to, but, other than that, I stay pretty private.
I would say that I am one of the lucky ones with an incredibly positive coming out story. I’ve never been afraid to be myself, or to express myself. Which is why when it came to telling people, I wasn’t nervous at all. I’m quite stubborn that way. You either accept me, or you leave.
VIII. Priyank | 22, Chef
I’ve been out and proud for over eight years now. But let me tell you where and how it all started.
All through school, I was attracted to a few boys in my class and was convinced that it was pretty much the right thing to feel. I even ridiculed other boys who hit on girls. It was only when I was 13 that my best friend at the time helped me understand what the term ‘gay’ meant. A few months later, I joined a theatre group, which helped me open my eyes to many possibilities around me. I walked my first gay pride in Bangalore in 2008, and though I was masked, I still came on camera and my mom found out too.
I decided to come out to her, and as much as I wanted the typical South Indian drama that everyone else got, it didn’t work out that way. Instead, she accepted me wholeheartedly and also vowed to convince my dad. Dad was very hesitant and for over five years we hardly brought up the topic, but I continued being a gay rights activist nonetheless. Eventually on 11.12.13, when the Supreme Court of India re-criminalised homosexuality, my father sent me an SMS that read, “I’m sorry to hear about today’s judgement. But you must understand no matter what I’m here with you and we shall fight this out together”. It made me the happiest gay boy in India when everyone else was sad.
Today I look back on the amount of harassment I have overcome and understand that it has only made me stronger. I studied at a reputed hospitality management institution in Maharashtra where I was ragged every night; physically and sexually harassed for being openly gay. But today, I stand with pride 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 two 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 organised annual events such carnivals, picnics and movie visits as well. As time passed I moved out of the group and handed it over to the next set of young ones. At the moment I’m the founder of queer Collective India, a social movement that aims at bridging the gap between society and queer folk through the medium of art, theatre, dance and media.
I’m happy, proud and gay, and I hope to spread my story to help inspire many more queer individuals to come out and join me in making a difference by standing up for what’s right.
IX. Rupa | 28, Accessories Designer/Buyer
I was a tomboy all through my childhood. I didn’t own Barbies and I didn’t have tea parties. Most of my time was spent outside: running, playing basketball, and riding bikes, all with the neighbourhood boys and my elder brother.
When middle school came around, my ambitions had not changed much. I still wanted to play sports and wrestle with the guys, but for some strange reason, I felt that the social dynamics had changed. All of a sudden people stopped using recess for physical activity and instead began writing the rules of exclusion. Most conversations began shifting towards the notions of dating and the opposite sex, and I never found myself being engaged by them.
This boredom that surrounded dating was the backdrop for most of my school experience. I didn’t really care about being with anybody. I did find some boys attractive, but I only found myself wanting to hang out, laugh, and participate in outdoor activities. I frequently recall interactions with guys to be much easier than interactions with girls, which, upon looking back, might have been an indicator of my queer sexuality.
It wasn’t till my mid-20s that I realised I was definitely attracted to women while watching I Can’t Think Straight. I came out to myself (at 24). I crawled into my bed, cried for an hour, and then went out to party with my friends—a reaction so decidedly representative of who I am as a person.
Of course, there were other steps involved as well in those hellish six days during which my identity was stripped, renegotiated, and reconfigured. The next day I found myself Googling ‘how do you know if you’re a lesbian?’ The answer, which should have been shocking to no one, least of all me, came as not only a revelation, but as liberation. Most importantly, it brought my head out of the sea of denial in which I’d been swimming for over a decade. I felt like I could finally breathe. For me, the actual coming out process was not merely about acknowledging the person I was, but also the one I had never allowed myself to be.
After coming to terms with my sexuality, coming out to my friends was the easiest thing, and it was the same with my brother and my mum. I know that I’m very fortunate that my coming out story is seemingly an easy one. I was preparing for the worst and got the best. But there’s still that little bit of fear every time: that ‘they’ won’t be okay with it. But you know what? I’m okay with it. Better than okay. And so are the people that I hold most dear. I know I am loved for who I am, and that is something that will always be true. I don’t look at coming out as a single moment in time. Coming out for me is a journey, and it is one I still make.
X. Kaustav | 24, Architecture student
I always used to think that my friends would say, “That is cool man! It doesn’t matter.” But, in reality, it was different. The first time I told my friends at the age of 18, they made it quite clear that even though they support me, societal acceptance would be difficult. It took me another few days to realise that not everybody was cool with it—some of them started avoiding me. For a schoolboy, this is a difficult moment. Either you embrace your truth, no matter what happens, or you just give up and go back inside your shell. That was the first time I decided to stand up for my identity. I had to make a point that I am not wrong.
The challenge continued when I joined university. This time, I was faced with questions like “How are you so sure? How do you know it’s not a phase? How can you justify that homosexuality is not wrong?” At first, I didn’t have satisfactory answers. I just knew I was right, but I couldn’t justify how. I never ran away from the truth of my life, I believed that someday I’d have all the answers. The boys would never discuss it at first, but the girls were always eager to talk about it. The more I spoke, the more confident I grew. I started reading articles, historical accounts, religious texts and even mythology. Soon enough, I had answers to all those questions.
Gradually, even the boys started talking about it. One thing that I learned in due course is that if I can logically justify my sexuality, people have no option but to accept me the way I am. And it really worked. My friends no longer look at my like ‘that gay guy’, just as one of them.
Things at home are not exactly the same as college. Coming from a conservative, Bengali middle-class family, I have always faced the question of “What others will say?” My answer has always been “Why will others say anything? What gives them the right to say something? It’s my choice when it comes to loving a person.” Well, that amount of aggression doesn’t always work. Every time I have a word with my mom about homosexuality, I have to bring in references in order to break her preconceived notions. She is not always satisfied with my answers but she has no option but to digest facts.
However, my parents are gradually opening up to the idea that love knows no boundaries. Parents don’t necessarily accept homosexual kids overnight, but they mellow down. And that is a sign of hope.
XI. Vinodh | 39, Works in Corporate Communications
My coming out was done in stages. The first stage was when I began coming out to friends who used to ask me if I was gay, and my natural response to that was in the affirmative. It was more of a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ sort of deal. I did the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Speakers Adults) at the British Council in 2010 and that was when I felt completely free as a gay man and felt totally safe not to hide my identity. It’s strange how a safe environment of supportive and non-judgmental colleagues automatically makes you feel like there is no necessity to stay closeted.
With friends, it seemed a lot easier, and with colleagues too, over time. The most difficult is probably coming out to your family. Which happened around the time of the SC verdict on Section 377.
Since I was pretty much open to all my friends and colleagues by then, Gaysi asked me to write a piece on what it was like to be a gay man in corporate India, so I obliged. I also commented on the church and religion and how it doesn’t favour an LGBTQ person coming out. Just after the Gaysi interview, the Hindustan Times, Delhi, published a similar interview of mine post the SC verdict. At that time, I had still not openly come out to my folks and family. And then there was this thought that crept in: Now that I’m pretty much ‘out’ to the whole nation, what if my parents or some cousins lay hands on that article?
Should I just let them find out from the newspapers, or should I tell them? This period was quite stressful and it took three close friends, Kushal, Beth, and Anuja, to give me that extra push come out to my folks.
For the longest time, they kept telling me that the only natural thing would be for me to come out to my folks. The HT article was even more of a reason for me to tell them, rather than letting them find out on their own. So while I was reeling under the thought of how to approach this topic with my parents, my mum kept asking me about my singing and if I had joined a choir in Mumbai. I had, at that time, moved to Mumbai about a year before and hadn’t joined a choir or started singing, which I was doing in Madras. Also, around the same time, my neighbours used to keep asking me when I was going to get married, not just because it was an Indian thing to do, but because my mother had set them on a mission to find me a girl to marry. And while I was wondering how to start this topic with my parents, my neighbour asked me again for the umpteenth time, when I was going to get married. This was my conversation starter.
I picked up the phone and asked my mother (who had just returned to Chennai after a short stay with me in Mumbai) if she had been talking to the neighbours about my marriage. Mum ignored that question and kept asking me if I had started singing again to which I said, “No, but, I’d like to tell you why I don’t want to marry a girl.” I think my mum sensed what was coming. She kept saying, “You should start singing. You shouldn’t neglect that talent.” So, when I sensed she was avoiding the question, I said, “I’m going to send you and dad an email and explain to you why I don’t wish to marry a girl. Please read it.” And then we hung up.
So, I wrote them an email telling them that I like men and that I am gay. I told them that many of my friends (whom they also know) know that I am gay. And, that felt like a big load off my shoulder. After two days of strained conversation and no mention of the email, I couldn’t bear it. When my mother called again, I asked her if she had read my email. She said, “Yes, we both (mum and dad) did and we deleted it. Don’t worry, everything will be all right, you have good friends around you and that’s what’s important.” That was a huge relief. I felt so free.
I know that my dad, being a religious Christian, thinks that this is the ‘work of the devil to thwart God’s purpose in my life’. But, he has never uttered a word of hate or disgust and has always said he loves me and that I am his son.
Eventually, I started Rainbow Voices Mumbai with a friend and The Humsafar Trust, and started singing. My parents were most pleased to hear about the choir. They came for our debut at Dirty Talk organised by Gaysi in Sep 2014 and hosted the choir one evening at home for dinner.
Now my parents know that I’m gay. All my cousins also do, as I came out to them in our family WhatsApp group. I came out to my old college classmates from Loyola and the Madras School of Social Work on our respective WhatsApp groups and found them very supportive, and it feels great.
I owe it to those three friends who were persistent in pushing me to come out—and to other supportive friends who, without asking me to, encouraged me to be myself.
XII. Geetartha | 23, Psychology student
I don’t look at coming out as a process of arrival—I was always there. I use to flirt a lot when in school. Most of the girls use to be very annoyed with me. It was in secondary school when I had this feeling for my physics teacher. I turned to a girl friend and wondered if I could marry him. She asked me, “Are you gay?” It was 2005 when I first came across that word. I answered, “I don’t know what it means, but I love his bum.” Then of course with the help of the internet, I became more comfortable. It was 2010, standard 12, when I started flirting with boys. And I started attracting more people. No one ever bullied me and I never faced homophobia. My first gay kiss was a challenge and the kiss ended up in sex later.
For my graduation, I opted for Mumbai. It’s great city. I made lots of friends and here it seemed to be normal. I use to kiss my straight guy friends, pat on their lips. They were quiet fine with it. Cosmopolitan was the word used.
In 2013 one of my friends from Guwahati got married to his boyfriend. That was a turning point for me. I asked him how it was easy for him to take such a big step, it’s so hard to be gay in India. He replied, and his reply is a line I’ll remember for the rest of my life: “’it’s hard to be a woman in India. So what? Should women give up their rights? Don’t blame India, blame yourself because you are India, India without you is nothing but soil and water, it’s you who describe what’s hard, what’s wrong and what to be in India, so wake up and stand for it, be what you want.”
I asked another friend, a bisexual girl, for advice on what do about my parents. She said, “You never know how parents amaze you. Geetarth, goddammit she is your mother, she is your sister, he is your father. They have grown with you and they know you in and out. Probably they know it well and are just waiting for you to accept yourself first. At least try it once so that 15 years later when you suffering in your so-called marriage, and there’s a headline on TV saying, ‘India welcomes marriage equality’ and hundreds of same sex couples get married, you won’t have to look back with regret.”
I was in a relationship in 2015 and my partner was out to everyone. He made sure that I at least told my sister. My sister is in Australia, so I called her and asked her if she could FaceTime with me. First, a whole lot of small talk ensued, and then she was speaking about her boyfriend and out of nowhere I said, “Sis, I am gay.” She was like “Huh, really?” and the conversation went for an hour and then there was no looking back.
I am still not out to mom and dad, just waiting for the day when I am independent and have the right person by my side, but I am sure they will be happy.
Being gay doesn’t make me any less of a person. I want to have a loving husband, four beautiful, biological children, and lots of dogs. As a son, till my last breath I will look after my mom and dad, and make them as proud of me as any normal parents should be.