Still Boxed As 'Sex Deviants': What is it Like to Be a Gay Man in Rural India
'Conflicted and then relieved'; conflicted that I'll have to choose between disappointing my family and disappointing myself, relieved that I finally chose the option that'll make me happy and save a heap of trouble for a lot of people.
Image for representation. (News18 creative)
It's been a year since Section 377 of Indian Penal Code was read down. Yet, life hasn't changed much for me personally. I hope young queer people find it easier.
I remember I was attracted to boys of my age when I was just entering my teenage. Perhaps I was 11-12 year old. But it took me a while to accept it.
First, it was conflict. I felt conflicted because now I knew I had to choose between disappointing my family and disappointing myself. Then, I was relieved that I finally chose the option that'll make me happy and save a heap of trouble for a lot of people. I had first come out to another gay person, who I met during the course of my job.
I come from a rural area, which still harbours archaic notions of how life should be: Marriage to a woman, procreate to keep the bloodline alive, etc.
Most of my family members and people from my neighbourhood are still not aware of my sexuality. I told them I'm not interested in marriage and that I'm not interested in women. They haven't made the connection that I might be into men. I think my siblings know but don't want me to come out formally because it finalizes my decision. They're all still holding out hope for a change of heart.
While they haven't actively asked me to do anything, they think it's ‘changeable’ and are hoping that I'll make an attempt at that. But they've never forced me to do anything. And I'm thankful for that.
Indian society has to move beyond its traditional views of how a family should be and be accepting of differences in society.
It's the mindset primarily. Indian society places immense value on procreation. That essentially puts stop to any consideration to alternative lifestyles. The lack of positive media coverage is another issue.
There is no sympathetic conversation about LGBT people in the local (Tamil in my case) media. They still box us as sex deviants! I'm not even exaggerating, the Tamil media reported about blackmailing that happens via Grindr and ended up giving moral advice to young men that they should stay away from such ‘deviations’ and lead a ‘normal’ life. Initiatives by LGBT organisations to sensitise them has done no good so far. Till the local media changes tune and plays a part in making society accept LGBT people, life isn't going to change for people like me. People from affluent or urban backgrounds might find it easier to navigate their families because of their exposure to international and English media.
Having said so, I've even got friends from the urban setups who haven't been able to come out to their families so far. The ones who came out weren't met with happy reactions. But almost everyone I know who's been out to their families and have had a decent experience is from an urban setting. So, I'd say my chances for acceptance might have been a bit better if I was from an urban set up.
I've also been attending the Chennai pride for 7 years or so. I've been to prides in other cities as well. But most of the LGBT activism in the state is driven by grassroots people, which is a great thing in my opinion. Helps a lot of common LGBT folks reach help when in distress.
I think the reading down of section 377 last year was a significant change for the LGBT movement all over India considering the history of police harassment. It predominantly affected transwomen and cruising gay men. Although I think this repeal will help us fight back against such harassment, this is a small step in a long journey towards human rights. Next step should be an anti-discrimination bill to protect gender and sexual minorities from being discriminated at their workplaces, service providers, house owners, etc. It'll go a long way in allowing people to earn a decent living.
However, on my professional front, most of my colleagues who know about my sexuality have been supportive of me even before the ruling came out.
And to those who're struggling with their sexuality - work on accepting your own self and finding friends who accept you as yourself. Keep working towards building that support system. It does get better.
A Reddit user called Fantastic_Telephone shared this with Shreya Basak
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