I never thought that I would speak up for the sake of those who are like me, but here we are. Considering the recent debate over the decriminalisation of homosexuality stated in section 377, I feel compelled to lend my voice to those who have not yet found theirs or have not come to terms with their identity. I also wish to to provide a personal story that I hope helps people better understand my side of the debate.
I was born and raised in India. My father is a retired Army officer and my mother, a house wife. As a military family, our house was strict and disciplined.
My mother has been fully devoted to raising my little sister and me, like most Indian mothers. I have never had a good relationship with my father, but my mother has always understood my dreams and choices and believed in me.
When I was 13, boys in class would talk about girls – “Hey! I like her”, “Hey, did you see that girl? She is so pretty” or “She has a cute smile”. I was confused why I never felt the same way. I would laugh at my friends and call them silly or stupid and say things like, “We are young, we shouldn’t be talking like that.” They would respond negatively with statements like, “Ladki hai kya? Sharmata rehta hai?” (“Are you a girl? Why are you so shy all the time?”).
A year passed and I was still in the same phase – struggling to understand why I didn’t feel attracted to girls. Meanwhile, almost all my male classmates would flaunt their girlfriends. I had many female friends, but I never felt attracted to them. Several of them were and are my best of friends to this day.
Then one day, I noticed this cute, good-looking boy in my class, who was the centre of attention for all the girls. I would secretly try to see him all the time; he was definitely my first crush. I wondered what was wrong with me for having these thoughts and so I kept these feelings to myself.
I was 14 when, one day, some of my guy friends were watching a romantic Bollywood movie, excited to see the female actor. I, on the other hand, found myself admiring the male actor, my true feelings hidden under proclamations like, “Yeah, she is pretty! I like her so much too!” That was when I started to understand, I am not attracted to girls, but like boys instead.
Thus began my learning to pretend to be normal. I was sure that these feelings of mine were WRONG!
I started searching on the internet what it meant for a guy to be attracted to another guy. Everything became so clear when I was introduced to the word ‘gay’. I remember deleting that search from my mom’s phone browser immediately, as I was terrified she would find out. I started cursing myself, not something I should be proud of.
Whatever happened, I knew I should try to focus on getting attracted to girls.
I had a girlfriend at the age of 16, who liked me a lot. I remember she once wanted to kiss me, but I said no. I was hesitant; I felt weird.
Imagine, you are a straight guy and are another guy wishes to kiss you? Ewww! Right? Same feeling here.
As you would have guessed, the girlfriend charade never worked out. I decided to surround myself with as many female friends as possible to correct myself, but nope, nothing changed me.
I decided to push away the idea of having a partner and focus on studies. I excelled in all my classes. My school principal and teachers loved me. I worked hard and through my academic accomplishments I gained confidence in what I was doing.
I was good at science, especially biology. So my family wanted me to enrol in a medical school, which I prepared myself for. But I also loved painting, designing and cooking. However, I never had the courage to talk about these alternatives with my family. When I finished high school, I decided to stand up for myself and fought with my family to allow me to write the entrance tests for hotel management at the Indian Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM) and interior designing at National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). My mom allowed me to take the tests.
I excelled in all these exams. I ranked 5th in the national level exam for interior design. I was excited! My mom was happy too and she allowed me to pursue interior designing.
On the first day of my class at NIFT, I noticed that there were boys in my batch who liked to put on make-up on. I was scared that if I stayed with them, I would become like them. I chose to drop out of the programme and went ahead and enrolled myself for a bachelor’s in science degree. This was my own decision. This made everyone in the family happy, too.
Despite this new direction, things were not settled. I didn’t turn into a ‘normal’ straight guy. On the contrary, when I was 18, I started getting attracted to more boys. I hated myself for having these thoughts, but I couldn’t stop them. I went on the internet and tried to find a way to interact with people with similar feelings. I stumbled upon this website where there were men looking for men. I found one man who seemed nice and after chatting for a while I ended up planning to meet him.
We met at a book fair in Kolkata. We walked around for almost the entire day checking out just about every book stall.
I was nervous lying to my family about where I was going and what I was doing, but at the same time, I was happy to finally meet someone who was like me.
I was always a shy guy, but on that day, he made me feel free. He showed me that I am not the only one like this!
We secretly started dating. I introduced him to my mom as a friend. I loved him but we had to hide our love from our families; so we would act ‘normal’ in front of everyone. After a while, I had my first sexual experience with him.
After graduation, it was time for me to move to another city to start my master’s programme. I was excited about this next step as I wanted to get away from my family.
It was around this time that I broke up with him as I never saw a future for us. We both respected that and moved on. I made new friends and continued to do well in academics. However, there was still the burden of loneliness inside me. Deep down, I wanted to be with someone since everyone around me had their own significant other. To alleviate the loneliness, I went on an app again and tried to find more people like me. Through the app I made another long-distance friend. I was in Hyderabad and he was in Mumbai, but we talked all the time. After a year of chatting on texts, he started to develop feelings for me and came to Hyderabad to meet me. I was very touched. I told my friends that he was just a friend who had come to visit. That was a lie, of course, but I knew people like us can’t express ourselves.
The relationship went on for two years, but we hardly saw each other.
When things started looking bleak , I was given an offer to do a PhD in the United States. This offer came as a huge sigh of relief. Not only was I going to a very good programme in my field to shape my future, but also, for the first time in my life, I was going to live in a place where homosexuality was legal! I remember what Barack Obama once said on 21 January 2013.
Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.Barack Obama
In fact, just before my arrival in the US, gay marriage was legalised across the country. Luckily for me, I was moving to a place where people like me were not treated as criminals, but as equals.
I have now been in the US for three years. Over this time, I’ve realised how it feels to be free no matter where you are from or how you identify yourself. I’m now surrounded by friends who support me wholeheartedly. I have colleagues who respect me. I am able to live my life with dignity and pride now more than ever.
However, I am still an Indian citizen, so all this freedom here is temporary. I often wonder what would happen once I return home. I do not want to go back and be the man who hides from everyone just because I am not into girls. Why should we be forced to act as if we are straight, as if being gay is abnormality that needs to be corrected?
As a scientist and part of a much larger scientific community, I can proudly say that homosexuality is a variation of human kind and not a disease or a disorder as many non-scientists claim. I don’t blame people who do not understand and choose to express their opposing point of view, but the fact that they disrespect the scientific basis for homosexuality is very unfortunate.
But how is calling homosexuals insignificant and criminal right?
I hope the Supreme Court gives the right judgment and lets me and millions of Indians like me live freely in a progressive India with pride, dignity and love.
I really have hope for a new India!
(This is an anonymous blog. The writer does not wish to reveal his identity.)
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)