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‘I first came out to myself’

A first person account by a professional whose happy childhood turned into a nightmare adolescence till he found acceptance among college friends

What is being gay? How do gay men live? How do they perform the sexual act? Is that even natural? These were some of the questions that started crossing my mind when I came out to myself. Yes, as a proud homosexual man today I truly believe that before coming out to others, one has to come out to oneself, to say to oneself that it is okay to be gay.

From my childhood I was a very feminine person. When my brother used to tie up his laces to go out and play volleyball, I used to tie the knots of my Barbie doll’s hair. As a child that made me the happiest the most — although my relatives found it obnoxious at times, my parents, especially my mother, never judged me for asking for a new doll.

Our shopkeeper understood my preferences so well that the moment we entered the shop he used to display his new collection of dolls. I had only female friends in my childhood, and there have been times when their mother used to judge me because they took me for a heterosexual male person who when playing with their daughters was being “touchy-feely.”

But every good thing in life has a timeline, and mine reached a brisk end— I entered adolescence. My parents wanted me to change my school for quality education. The school at first was a breath of fresh air, but soon the air became downright toxic.

Because I was never given a reality check before coming to this school, I had no idea how to adjust to the prevalent norms. I was told the way I walk, sit, talk and gesticulate is unnatural and similar to eunuchs. Soon one of the boys I became friends with started calling me “kinnar”. The hostile nature of the society made me hate the term eunuch. Although there’s a lot of difference between eunuchs and transgender people, due to lack of exposure, the difference was blurred and so became my thoughts.

As soon as I started realising that I like boys, I started hating myself more and more. My mind was blanking out most of the time and I was looking for answers. Soon a time came when the phenomenon of Internet came up and one fine day I actually searched the term — Gay.

I still recall my heart was beating like how they beat drums in Ganesh Visarjan. Right after I typed in the term, the screen displayed hundreds of pictures of shirtless gay men, and somehow I liked them. But in my mind I was still grappling with the question as to how it could happen to me. I thought I was the only one and some posts also proclaimed that it’s a disease. I then searched for the cure.

Hundreds of websites I visited showed me cures and all them in such bombastic fashion that I believed them. Stop looking at men, stop watching gay porn, see a counsellor, get electrocuted: these were some of the cures listed on the website. After a few days, I was laughing while reading them, and that was the moment I came to terms with my sexuality. In a flash, I became comfortable with me liking boys, looking at them and dreaming about them.

Soon I started behaving more like myself, and some of the boys in class didn’t like it. One day when I was walking towards the school bus, two boys came from the back and started groping me. This was happening in the middle of the school ground, nobody looked, and they continued. I didn’t know how to react and whom to reach out to. Instantly, my body became numb and so did I.

This became an everyday routine, there were times when I used to look for different routes to reach the bus, but I was unlucky most of the time and those two boys used to find me. Again they would try to grope, touch my crotch, tousle my hair, remove my tie and leave me feeling violated.

I never talked about this to my parents. I should have. I never complained about those boys. I should have. This made an longlasting dent on my confidence and after a point led me to depression. Because most teenagers stop listening to their parents during the teenage years, I did too, but my reason was different. I didn’t know how to tell them about the things happening in school.

The day before the commencement of the final exams, I remember I was sitting and one of my classmates came and said “I will make him suck my cock,” and laughter erupted as if he had announced some achievement. He held my hand, and started pulling it towards his crotch. I cried so much that the whole crotch became wet, but those were my tears while everyone thought that he reached orgasm and made fun of it.

After this incident I started loathing school, I started failing and somehow that became a saving grace. Although I scored high in other subjects, I failed in maths and the school refused to promote me to Class 10.

By this time I was so numb and sad that I wasn’t aware of the reality that my obstinate behaviour bothered my parents. They tried to send me to a new school, I refused. I told them I would like to be home schooled. Although they didn’t like the idea, today I feel that they knew something was wrong with me, and it had to do with school. But it’s a generalised reality that Indian parents don’t talk about these things with their children, so they never asked me what was wrong.

During the time I was being home-schooled, while studying general subjects, I started educating myself. I became familiar with pop culture shows like Modern Family, wherein two gay men have an adopted Asian daughter. I started aspiring for such possibilities and it made me feel good.

My college life was totally different. I never was bullied for being me, except the one time when someone said, “I will commit suicide if you are gay because I hugged you.” I was shocked and started “acting straight” in front of my friends. I wouldn’t have done that if the law and society supported me. But since this way I could avoid difficult situations, I continued. But in the 2nd year of college, I thought I should stop it, and gradually came out to two of my friends and later to my brother and my cousins.

All of them supported me and I feel they always had an idea. But when the Supreme Court overturned the 2009 judgment of the Delhi High Court in 2013, like for many others my idea too of living a free life as a homosexual man was shattered.

When I was doing post-graduation studies in my new college, I met a lot of liberal and conservative people. There were people from some of the most eminent institutions, yet in their minds there was some form of homophobia. I feel that’s lack of exposure, but I never sympathised with them.

I remember one time somebody told me that they identified me as the ‘gay one’ in their conversation. I realised how important my identity is to them, more than it is to me. As much as I found it ludicrous, it made me aware of how even some liberal people could make a big deal about somebody being gay.

Today those same people are congratulating each other because of the SC judgment of decriminalising consensual acts between two adults of the same gender. I abhor the fact that they are acting liberal. But as John Lennon concluded in the song ‘Imagine’ :

I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one.