Aniket, in his own words: “The time was magical when I had started unknowingly noticing the beautiful men around me, they were always there but something good had changed in me. It was neither a secret nor something I wanted to share with everyone; the experience was too personal for me. Probably it is the same for all the teenagers.
Eventually when my friends started to share similar experiences, I could not completely relate to them. I started slowly unfolding the fact that I was not attracted to women but I was too young and naïve to speculate the ongoing experiences.
I can say today that I was always different while growing up than most of the kids; but it was the time I had started feeling the difference.
Around the same time, I had to go away from home for studying in another city. It was challenging to juggle life without family and the unarticulated secret; I could clearly see the projection of it on my academic performance.
The chaos around my sexuality and poor academic performance were pushing me into my hardest years, I was diagnosed with depression. Nothing seemed so blurred and heavy before, I thought I would be sucked into it. Pretending that the cause of the misery was not the unarticulated sexual attraction but the poor academic performance, I confessed about the depression to my parents. With family and medical support, I could get out of the depression to an extent. I had completely locked the doors of my sexual dilemma and I had focused on my academic performance, fortunately I could make it to the desired university that year.
I never could articulate my own sexual behavior as I had never seen or read anyone like me when I was growing up so ‘coming out’ was never into the picture for me. Apart from chaos around my sexual behavior, I knew that I was different (in a shameful way) so I was scared even thinking about it. Watching gay porn for twenty minutes in a day was the only time; I had to confront the truth.
In the first semester at the university, an article written by a student talking about his homosexuality went viral. It was first time someone had spoken so loudly about his/her sexuality, everyone did not seem very receptive at once but this event was going to change the lives of many like me. I sneaked the newsletter in my room and read it making sure that no one caught me reading it. This was the first time someone had told me that I was okay and there were people like me in the world. I was thrilled to read it but afraid to face it. The same guy who had written the article had founded an LGBTQ resource group in the university campus with the help of a few professors and students. (It was one of the first LGBTQ resource groups in any Indian universities). The resource group was creating a positive space in the university and I was accepting myself bit by bit every day.
Almost after two years in the university, I met a fellow student on Facebook and we started dating. When we kissed for the very first time (yes, my first one!! ;)), I confronted the truth nakedly and told myself that there was no way to go back from the truth. It was just a month after that I had told my parents, my friends and the life seemed much lighter after taking it off my shoulders. (And I also volunteer for the LGBTQ resource group in the university from last two years!! yay!)
Mumbai is the most cosmopolitan city in India and yet most of the people in Mumbai do not even acknowledge the fact that homosexuality is part of the society around them. Homosexuality is not very visible in the crowded city; everything is behind the curtains here. Before the internet era, secret cruising spaces were the only way to meet other guys. Currently, Internet is providing safe space for all queer people to explore the possibilities.
The exposure to the liberal western policies regarding queer issues through social media is helping the younger generation of India to acknowledge and accept the queers around them.
Despite the fact that the post-colonial law against homosexuality still exists in India, there are a few organizations which are working hard to address the queer issues in Mumbai/India to normalize the stigma related to homosexuality. In response to it, Mumbai has the largest gay community in India which indulges in different events like yearly LGBTQ pride, queer film festival, protests and obviously parties.
I am very lucky that I am one of the very few people who have got the opportunity to be open about their sexuality in India. In a country like India where homosexuality was de-criminalized in 2013, merely living here openly as a queer person is considered to be heroic. With this privilege, I feel the responsibility to help the younger generation to be comfortable with them.
I have gone through the phase where I used to hate being gay but today, I say that it is one of the best things that happened to me. It was not the easiest time while dealing with sexuality but the time has shaped the way I think today. Most of the beliefs, I had been raised with were challenged and reformed on the way. I think my sexuality has been a spiritual accelerator which has helped me to understand my own depths.
As I said earlier, sexuality was one of the pioneering things which taught me to challenge my unjust beliefs, I am continuing on the path of restructuring my beliefs to make myself more comfortable in my own skin and in the world around.
And advice to my younger self: Be authentic to yourself. ”