Open secret

Eight months after Section 377 was axed, a look back at how liberating the Supreme Court judgement was, and how much better life is now

IN THE 1992 film Aladdin, the three golden wishes — to become a prince, to be saved from drowning, to free Genie, is a memory for every child who loved the Disney movie. If Genie had come to me before 2018, I would’ve asked him for one wish — to make my existence lawful.

We all remember September 6, 2018 — the date when the highest court of the land decriminalised gay sex. For many it was just news, but for those of us living day after day in secrecy, it was not just another piece of news. A community oppressed so much by the society, bullied, told that its existence is unnatural, freed suddenly.

That community getting some bit of freedom and being supported by the law — I bet the heterosexual won’t understand the true sense of that feeling. Though support is always appreciated.

Today, after eight months, how do I feel as an openly gay person? I feel powerful. Powerful enough to kiss, to roam around, to gesticulate as and however I want to, to listen to the gayest songs, to talk about myself freely in front of a group.

I would be lying if I say that I didn’t do some of those things, way before gay sex became legal. However, there was a sense of fear, of someone knowing. I remember how I used to go for dates with the feeling I am taking a huge risk. That I have to be secretive about it, and only tell a few people. I have always been a person who likes discussing sex as openly as I discuss my food. There’s no discrimination.

Some people may confuse the judgment and think that it’s just related to sex between two consensual adults of the same sex. However, it’s beyond that for most gay men. It gives them the power to feel as freely as possible in their own land. To be able to do that Beyonce walk, or show that Cardi B sass more freely.

Not just that, it raises aspirations of living a quality life. To aspire to get married someday, have one or two children, have a family. Earlier, this wasn’t the case. You had two passages before, either you get a chance to work in some foreign land (where homo- sexuality is legal) or you stay in the country. And by 30, be ready to have a strong reason for not getting married. A convincing lie.

That’s not the case now: you have an option to come out because the law supports you. Giving people the benefit of doubt about your sexuality doesn’t hurt but owning it while also saying that it’s legal feels marvellous.

Even after years of knowing about my sexuality, I haven’t come out to my parents. There is a lurking fear of losing them and the freedom I attained after years of personal struggle.

If today, they get to know, I am armed with the privilege to say that the highest judicial court in the country supports me. Had I come out to them pre-2018, their reaction would have been different. Because they fear society which is fuelled by prejudice. It was to kill that prejudice that gay sex was made a lawful act.

I feel parents love us unconditionally and with additional support of the law, the coming out process would be slightly easy, more than it seemed before 2018.

The changes I experienced after I came out is the biggest transformation I’ve seen in me. I am more free now, the way I walk at the Metro station, the way I hold the handle, while I rest on the pole. Earlier I used to get conscious about people finding about me. I was never ashamed of it.

But when a gay teenager in his formative years gets bullied, he will do every bit he can to keep himself safe. From the heteronormative lenses to relatives who judge a lot, and who may influence the parents too.

Today, I don’t care who is looking and who is not. The decriminalisation of gay sex also gave us a privilege to say that it’s okay and `legal’ to be different, to feel ourselves.

It’s not a dream we’re living, but a right we deserved as human beings.Was it too much to ask for? Some (or most) heterosexual think it’s a privilege we were asking for — it’s not. Today, someone has come up with the demand that there should be a `straight pride month’. I don’t oppose that. Did they measure the collective struggle of our community as compared to theirs? I doubt it. The struggle where each individual, went through the same pain, same struggle, every day.

The way my friends relate to my struggle, my inhibitions as a gay man, is much more clear than it was before. Because they see the confidence in me the way it’s meant to be seen, with no judgements.

They feel I’m living as an unapologetic gay man who is confident and hard working. I feel these particular traits got polished ever since I started opening up about my sexuality.

When I came out last year, it wasn’t precisely because of the judgment, I had thought about it before the judgment came out, but was apprehensive of the next step after that. How to safeguard myself? By passing the judgment, the Supreme Court safeguarded me.

Hence the judgement came as a call to take the plunge. It felt right at that moment. However, I admire the people who were living together openly when gay sex was still a criminal offence.

I feel my sexuality is my identity today more than before.When I exercise it, I feel dynamic. People tell me they love when I act like a diva. A diva who is meant to shine. There’s no stopping now..

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