In Pics: Journalist Documents Life of a Gay Couple in New York
On 13 June 2016, a man named Omar Mateen opened fire in a gay club in Orlando, Florida and killed 50 people, leaving several others injured. His father has said he may have been motivated by his hatred for the LGBTQ community.
The world rose in solidarity with the victims who were killed because one man could not understand the relation between two human beings. Following is a photo story from The Quint’s archives, originally published on 20 October 2015, depicting the life of a gay couple in New York.
Smita Sharma got to know of Bony Mitra, who moved to New York in 2012, through a common friend while she was in New York three years ago. They became friends through social media and got along really well.
Bony and Smita had lots in common, from their love for travelling to their roots in India. She also wanted to understand how the intricacies of a gay relationship would be different, if at all.
Though a freelance visual journalist, Smita was not planning to start a project on the subject, at first.
Bony was more than interested to welcome her to his home where she was introduced to his partner Mikel Lear.
Bony and Mikel met online and they fell in love even before they met in person. Mikel came down from New York to Kolkata, and met Bony for the first time. The relationship that blossomed thereafter has been documented in this photo feature.
Both Bony and Mikel work in the fashion industry. Bony works at a fashion design firm as a fabric expert with celebrity pop-singers as his clientele. He was working as a designer in India before moving to New York where he graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Over the two years she stayed there, Smita had already become part of their family.
I used to live at their apartment sometimes. We would cook together, watch movies together, laugh together, would go out at night for shopping. We spent time together during Thanksgiving or Christmas. At times I would call them over to my place and they hung out with my other friends.
— Smita Sharma, Visual Journalist
Mikel is a stark contradiction to Bony’s outgoing nature. It almost seems like he still bears the scars from his past. Mikel was brought up in a family which followed orthodox principles.
Mikel was fond of dolls while he was growing up. He had a good collection of dolls - something is father didn’t appreciate. One day he took all of Mikel’s dolls and burned them. He was really hurt but vowed to himself that the day he starts earning, he would buy dolls. Now he has a huge collection of dolls, some even rare, from across the world.
Mikel did not realise that he was a gay till the time he became a teenager. Initially it was difficult for him to accept his identity.
For anyone who is a gay or a lesbian it is very difficult for them to come to terms with themselves, forget the rest of the world.
— Smita Sharma
Bony’s father, a prominent lawyer in Kolkata, had difficulty in accepting the fact that his son was gay. But he overcame it and understood his son’s happiness was more important for him. His mother too has been supportive. Soon after they got married both their mothers called them up to give their blessings.
First, the challenge is to come in to terms with themselves, and then it comes to their friends and family. What would they think? How would they accept? Then it comes to the society and the whole world. These are different levels of challenges that they have to overcome. It’s not easy and that’s why there are many gays who are still closeted.
Smita’s project reflects the relationship between Bony and Mikel beyond the obvious. Her collection of photos might not be showing a couple in love yet but aims to tell the story of their daily lives.
Smita seemed to have found some answers to her inquiry.
Of course there are fights and misunderstandings. There are tears and there is making up. They are just like any other married couple. For me the most unique part of their relationship is that their love has transcended everything, from geographical barriers to religion, just everything... It’s like their love has conquered all. But when they come to India, as a married couple, they are not seen in the same light as they are in the US. And that is not right.
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