I came out when I was in college. Some of my friends said, ‘No, you can’t be gay’, ‘This a mental illness’ or ‘Check with a doctor’. Some even said, ‘Have sex with a girl, you might change’. It took a lot of time for me to convince them or for them to understand that this is natural and there’s nothing wrong with it. With my family, the situation is still difficult because of how our society is. They want to have their child married, have grandchildren etc. So, even today my family asks me to get married. Thus, they haven’t accepted me as I am.
When someone takes the step of coming out, the reactions of the people around them are mostly hard-hitting. Only a few are lucky to have friends and family support them and accept them as they are. But most of the times such is not the case. Friends either try to make that person understand by telling them ‘No this is wrong, you’re going against the nature’ or they abandon him or her completely. Family often try to force them into marriage or blackmail emotionally by saying things like ‘You have to change.’
Homosexuals are often not able to live their life as they would like to. Often, they have to hide their own selves and who they are from the society. This creates a lot of mental trauma and stress. Many suffer from depression due to the constant conflict they are having within themselves about who they are or what the society and family would think about them. They often worry about their future — like how they will manage in the workplace. So, all these things lead to various mental health issues.
Then there’s this general homophobia in and around society. Mostly they are scared that once people get to know they might have to face abuses — especially in schools, colleges and workplaces. Also, they face certain kinds of discrimination. If a gay man behaves in a way which is considered feminine, then they are often laughed at. Comments like ‘He’s not a man’ are being hurled at times. Or if it’s a girl who behaves in a masculine way, then also snide comments are passed.
Sometimes parents and teachers try to ‘correct’ them and are taught ‘How to act like a man’ or ‘How to act like a woman’. Or sometimes violent ways are adopted to ‘correct’ someone’s orientation. Some homosexual kids even drop out from school after facing constant abuses. These people fail to find employment because they fail to continue their education. At times, even the ones who are educated enough, they fail to find a respectable job, which will pay them according to their qualification.
Many a times they are forced into marriages due to social pressure. This leads to living a double life and creates a problematic life for both the homosexual person and the one he or she has been married to. They even take their child to psychiatrists, who often turns out to be homophobic as well. There even have been cases where doctors made them undergo electric shock therapy or other treatments in order to ‘make them normal’.
Moreover, it is pretty difficult to be with your partner and be open about it because homophobia prevails in our society in a big way. Even some have faced physical violence in public places while they were hanging out with their partners like any other couple. Thus, gay people who are in a relationship, they are mostly not open about it. All these things are because of the stigma and taboos prevailing in our society regarding homosexuals.
Sukhdeep Singh, 30, is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the popular LGBT magazine Gaylaxy.
— As told to Shruti Das