Abhijit, in his own words: “To me being gay means just another trait about me. But being gay in today’s society has forced me to question myself and the social conventions and a sense of morality that people take for granted. I am grateful to be gay because, the process of coming to terms with my sexuality and then consecutively coming out to a repressed society has given me an unique unbiased perspective of society and human nature and forced me to have an open mind for everything else as well. I don’t know whether if I had not had the challenges in my life, would I have been the same person I am now.
To me the greatest challenges were not just coming to terms with my sexuality, but to coming to terms with having my own identity. I have always been the one in the shadows, the underdog. I never liked being in the spotlight. But anonymity was a privilege I could no longer afford when I decided to be honest about my sexuality. To be identified and talked about was something I was not used to. Neither was I used to taking decisions on my own. Choosing to come out in my college was the first decision I took on my own against the disapproval of everyone important in my life. And sticking to that decision took every ounce of my will power and the support of a few good friends. I have not regretted that decision even once and am grateful for the support that I got from people, even when they disapproved of my choice to come out. Other than my sexuality, coming to terms with losing two family members impacted a lot on my life and my outlook. The fact that lives are so fragile has made me more grateful for the things I have and encouraged me to make the most of my life with what I have and not compromise on the values I believe in.
I had spent most of my life in denial of my sexuality. I had concocted some of the most creative reasons to explain my ‘abnormality’ and had believed I would eventually grow out of it. But things changed when in college I fell in love with a straight guy. I tried my best to keep my feelings to myself and fooled myself into believing that I just loved his friendship. But I couldn’t hold the charade for long. Eventually I broke down and came out of denial. Once I had accepted who I was I knew staying in the closet was no longer an option. My father had brought me up to believe in myself and be an honest person. That day itself I first came out to my best friend. He was shocked at first but then he effortlessly accepted the fact and just started teasing me. I credit him for giving me the courage to come out to the rest of the people. When I decided to come out to my roommate, I was a nervous wreck. I was scared that he would freak out and tell on me or even throw me out of the room, that other boys in my hostel would come to know about it and maybe I would be beaten up or maybe the college authorities would come to know and I could get thrown out of college and then would probably get thrown out of home as well. Despite my fears I came out to him….the result was quite amusing.
He was laughing in shock, and I was laughing in nervousness. At the very moment one other friend came in and my roommate asked me to tell him the same thing which I did, and that guy ran away. He just ran away!! My roommate went up to him and confronted him, he explained that this was not an abnormality and that they needed to trust me and believe what I told them because I was not an idiot and we had been friends for so long. I was ashamed for thinking that he could ever have hurt me when he had been the most supportive guy. I came out on Facebook a few months after that. Partly I did it because I was tired of having to pointedly avoid conversations about girls and relationships. I didn’t want to lie to people and avoiding seemed like running away. I also wanted people to stop assuming stupid misconceptions about homosexuality and they could see a gay person amongst themselves and realize I was just as normal as anyone. And one other reason was that I knew I had to come out to my family one day and there was a chance that I would be emotionally blackmailed to go back into the closet. This was a way to make sure that would no longer be an option. After coming out I was pleasantly surprised when almost all the boys of my batch living in the hostel came to me one by one and told me they supported me no matter what my sexuality was and that they would back me up if ever I had to face aggressive people. I had few homophobic experiences but they were outnumbered by the instances of acceptance and faith I had.
Coming out to my dad was also nerve wrecking, but that’s a long story. In short he thinks its a perversion and believes I will change one day, but he didn’t change his behavior towards me even slightly. I still remain the apple of his eye and that’s more than I can ask for. Coming out is a lengthy process and continues throughout life, I still have to keep coming out to people as I go on with my life. But gradually it becomes easier.
I don’t think I have enough authority to comment on the entire LGBT scene in India. But basically there are two kinds of people, one who attend Pride marches and fight for LGBT rights and another that can only be seen on Grindr and other such apps. A majority of the community still believe in having a straight marriage to save their family’s image in society and they treat their own sexuality like a bad habit similar to drinking and smoking. But there are also many who are fighting the odds and trying to make the world a safer place for the community. The third gender or hijras as they are called constitute a completely separate community of their own in India and is as old as the ancient times. They have been key members in fighting for the social good, but they also have some issues regarding freedom in their own community which has developed a culture of their own separate from the rest of the society.
If I had to say anything to say to someone facing the same issues I did once I would say, ‘Don’t stop questioning. If you don’t find the answers keep looking for them. But never accept anything just at face value. No matter how many hardships you face don’t stop thinking rationally. And don’t deny yourself from having fun when you have the chance.'”