‘I Am Gay Just Because I am Gay’

Harish Iyer’s personal account of growing up to realize he is gay and coming out to his family about it

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Harish Iyer is an activist, columnist and blogger from Mumbai

Like most of you, I am from a family of heterosexuals.  When I was young, I never knew the word heterosexuality. But looking back through the lens of that 6 year old child, that I was, with present day wisdom, I can say that everyone in my family is outwardly visible as heterosexual.

When I played with girls in school, my relatives used to tease “look at that girl… she is Harish’s girlfriend”. There was heterosexuality all around me. There was no other alternative I knew to heterosexuality.

After a tumultuous adolescence, I grew into an adult. I understood that I feel different from my peers and family. I thought I was abnormal. I researched, I found the word – GAY.

Harish Iyer (Photo: Judhajit Bagchi)
Harish Iyer (Photo: Judhajit Bagchi)

I grew up looking at Rishi Kapoor , Salman Khan and Aamir Khan. My hot favourite was Hemant Birje as Tarzan, compassionate, yet wild.

I was severely sexually violated in childhood. I would often associate this affection, with that bad phase of my life. But this did not stop me from experimenting. I had a few sexual encounters with urban Tarzans in secluded concrete jungles of my vicinity. I liked it, but was unwilling to accept it. Soon the passion would transform into guilt. The guilt of being different. Because in my world then, different was weird, and weird was unacceptable and insane.

Therefore, on a parallel plane, after a few consensual sexual encounters with woman and a wild sexcapade with a commercial sex worker (who was a woman) on a wild night, I realised that it was a one-night stand when it did not stand. I did get something like “wood”, but guess it was more like a weak stem and that too, thanks to me closing my eyes and thinking of model/actor John Abraham.

That one sexual encounter made me aware of what I was definitely not – a heterosexual. I loved women but I would detest playing with breasts. I loved women and admired them, but I would be cheesed out thinking of them naked. I had spent hours in the bathroom with an issue of debonair magazine in my hand, masturbating to the women living in the magazine, but when I would achieve climax, it was either Tarzan or the friendly neighbourhood devil of a guy with the wicked smile who would be responsible for it.

Harish Iyer with his mother Padma Iyer and British actor, writer and activist Stephen Fry, who was in India to film a documentary on the gay community
Harish Iyer with his mother Padma Iyer and British actor, writer and activist Stephen Fry, who was in India to film a documentary on the gay community

But the discovery of the fact that I was not heterosexual to understanding the fact that I was homosexual took some time. When I did arrive at the understanding of my sexuality though, I grew confident and I stopped confronting the sexual beast within me that didn’t think like the world around me thought. I had made friends with that beast, I had made peace with my sexuality that is an integral part of who I am. I realized and affirmed to myself “that I am gay because I am gay, not because of any reason or for the lack of it, I am just gay because I am gay”

The next major step was to tell my loved ones. I was getting increasingly irritated by my relatives and friends asking me, “so who is your girlfriend?”

I wanted to come out.

I am very close to my mother. The truth I was hiding from her was making me very irritable and snappy. One day, I decided to tell her. My mom Padma, was very hesitant to accept my sexuality when I first told her. I was very upset as she means the world to me.

Memories: Harish Iyer with his mother Padma Iyer
Memories: Harish Iyer with his mother Padma Iyer

The next day, I decided to have a dinner table conversation with her. I told her:

Mom, if you want me to get married to a woman, I will. If you think you want grand children, I really can help producing them, I am not unwell or impotent. But I will not love my wife, she will live a life waiting for me to love her back the way she always imagined she would be loved.

There was pin drop silence, but my mom intonated with her eyes, and signalled me to continue.

I said “Mom, suggest that I get married to a woman, only and only if you had a girl child and you would knowingly get her married to a gay guy.”

At this point, Mom got up from her chair and hugged me. She accepted me the way I was.  Though there are times when she is still worried about companionship for me when I am old, and would suggest that I find a boyfriend or (weirdly and annoyingly) ask me if I would consider entering into a marriage of convenience with a lesbian, she has accepted my sexuality.

Harish Iyer as a baby with mother Padma Iyer
Harish Iyer as a baby with mother Padma Iyer

This gave me confidence, from a shy boy who had a challenging past, I metamorphosed into a voice not just for myself, but many like me.

Whether it was about standing for animals, or standing up as a witness in the Tehelka Rape Case or with my friend Suzette even after her death or screaming aloud in the streets for the rights of children and of the LGBT community, the road of courage, began with self acceptance. Today, I can proudly say that I love the man in my mirror.

I would like to add though, that my mom’s acceptance, and then my assertion of my sexuality is not the only truth.  Not all mothers are like Padma.  Every story of coming out is unique. Not everyone can afford to come out too. There is no compulsion. And there is no one size fits all. Every gay person is as different as peas in the pod.

Not everyone can tell their story. Some are pushed into closets. But what one can choose to do definitely, is to not get a woman into the frame.

Dr. Priya’s death was avoidable. She deserved to be married to someone who loved her, or the life of a happy spinster. She didn’t deserve to be pushed to a point that she would die unhappy leaving behind a suicide Facebook update on how she was harassed by her husband who was gay.

There are some gay men like Dr. Priya’s husband , not all.  The only stereotype I wish was always true for gay people is “A Girl’s Best Friend”. And the only relationships that women have with gay men I wish are that of a sister, mother, aunt or a crazy fag hag.

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