I am just the way he made me

 

My name is Ankit. I am a gay man, 25 years old living in Mumbai. I work for an educational institute “VIDYA” which works for under privileged children in urban slum communities.

I realized I was attracted to the same gender in my early teens but did not know what it actually meant or that it is actually a sexual orientation or that there is a community of LGBT people. As a fact I did not even know the difference between the male and female anatomy until I was in my 10th Grade.

During my summer holidays post 10th grade a few of my cousins were visiting us and one fine evening we were hanging out and I noticed a girl child peeing. I was confused and I questioned my cousin, why is it that she is squatting while peeing? We boys do it differently. Laughing out loud my cousins remarked that you are so silly and explained the difference to me. They also teased me that now that I know I would be more inclined to know a girl better perhaps start having attraction towards them.

The very next day I went back to my cousin and said whatever you explained to me yesterday is so true but somehow am not attracted to girls. I find myself attracted to boys. My cousins failed to understand me and mocked that I would always be a kid. I guess that was my very first coming out.

Years passed and it was in college when internet came to my rescue and gave me access to the information I needed. I googled about being gay and that there are others like me. I started searching for ways to find other people like me and chanced upon gaydia.com and it was such an overwhelming discovery. All this while I was caught up with various emotions and found it challenging to come to terms with my sexuality. I was even suicidal under depression as I kept worrying that there is something wrong with me that may be I am a eunuch (Hijra) and what a stigma this news would be to my parents and they may not accept me.

When I found gaydia.com my life changed. I came across so many other queer folks and through them I learnt a lot about LGBT community, our community! I got to know about Pride March in our country, through an organization named GayBombay.

In 2008 I attended my first GayBombay event which was a parent’s meet. The experience of this event was quite liberating. I got to know and meet parents/family of other queer folks and it gave me hope and confidence. The Pride March also liberated me in many ways, most importantly self-acceptance and that there is nothing wrong in being gay and that Pride March is a way we come out and celebrate being Queer. It has been quite a journey since then and today I am one of the organizers of Mumbai Gay Pride. I continued my journey with queer groups like GayBombay, Humsafar Trust etc. and actively engaged into activism and so far it’s been a great journey.

While at home my family knows about me being queer but I have never had the chance to sit down with them and come out to them in person. For my parents ignorance is bliss for now.

In 2013 when Supreme Court re-criminalized homosexuality as per section 377, I was interviewed by Zee news and was part of a debate. I guess that was my official coming out to the whole world through the medium of a television interview.

Later that evening I was in a discussion with Mr. Pallav Patankar (Program Head – Humsafar Trust) about how can we bring in the change in society. He said the interviews that you gave throughout the day is one way but is not the absolute or accurate way. If we want to bring change in the society we need to reach out to masses directly.

This triggered a new emotion in my and when I was returning home with a friend of mine that evening I felt the urge to at least take one step in the direction to bring that change. I stood up in a local train coach full of every day commuters and started a dialogue in Hindi – “Main ek samalaingik hu! Aaj Supreme court ne mere adhikar cheen liye hai” (I am a homosexual man and today my rights have been taken away from me). I got mixed responses, some people ignored me, some argued and questioned and some nodded in acceptance. While I realized it was a risk taken the greater learning was that when a group of people notice/experience something they talk/share the news. I realized that within that moment I was spreading the information to people from different walks of life, I was indirectly educating them that homosexuality is not an American concept and that even in that very coach in which so many Indians commute every day, anybody could a homosexual. That evening I mustered the courage to speak publicly and learnt that people need to learn more about us before they accept us.

I had found my inner calling and my purpose. I resigned from my job and visited Valsad in the state of Gujrat and held my very first public talk about homosexuality and LGBT people and my journey continues till today with over 500 public talks.

To talk more about my experience giving these talks I learnt tier 3 cities/smaller towns are more receptive to such talks/discussions than tier 2 & 1. I have had both good and bad experiences. I was also jailed when I boarded a passenger train from Jhunagargh to Somnath to hold one such talk. I was released with a warning to not repeat the act in passenger trains without permissions; that too speaking against Supreme Court. Being bullied was also part of this journey and one such incident to recall was when I was visiting a small town a little further from Bikaner and was staying in a budget guesthouse. I was bullied by a few men there who somehow noticed that I am gay and was eve teased by a group of men. The came down to the guesthouse & started making vulgar comments “aajao teri pyaas bujhata hun, mard chahiye tujhe” [You like men, come let us quench your thirst]. I was scared to death, I sat in the farthest corner of the room praying for this to pass away.  I was petrified to even move & somehow dozed off sitting there. This incident did scare me but I never gave up, I believed in my role as an activist and that people in India must be educated about our community and rights.

Personally, I am quite rooted to my culture and my religion. I believe in Hinduism and especially in Vaishnavism. I also read a lot but somehow I could never find any story speak of homosexuality but what I noticed is Hinduism never discriminated against anything or anybody in particularly. I find my strength is Krishna, I am just the way he made me!

 

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